Here is the third installment of the essay on Elizabeth Zimmermann.

“When her first pattern appeared in Woman’s Day magazine [in the mid-1950s], Zimmermann didn’t receive a dime. Instead, the magazine published her name and address as the source for the yarn and patterns. The arrangement was a fair bargain for the time, when a woman’s work was undervalued at best and trivialized at worst. Still, it illustrated a law of capitalism that gave rise to the women’s movement in the 1970s: payment equals value. […]
Zimmermann didn’t get paid, but she got an opportunity. [Alane’s comment: and very importantly, she retained control of her intellectual property…] And she used it. The readers responded to her invitation to create patterns to please themselves, not a distant designer. Torrents of letters arrived. Four years later, she launched her own publication.
[…] She opened the door for other women simply by using her strengths and speaking her mind. Most importantly, Zimmermann made the craft of knitting respectable, while keeping it firmly in the hands of its creators. Quilting, embroidery, and weaving have been elevated from craft to art–the result of the women’s movement insisting that traditional women’s crafts be taken seriously. Society responded, but, ironically, by taking them out of the home, these crafts lost their purpose. Art school quilts hang on the walls of museums rather than lying on the beds of their creators.
But shawls and sweaters don’t hang on the walls of galleries and museums. Art schools don’t offer majors in knitting. Knitting remains the Cinderella of the crafts movement. A beautifully knitted hat warms its owner’s head and brings joy to all who admire it. And the best part is that anyone can learn to create such loveliness–all one needs is a ball of yarn, a pair of needles, a teacher, and some time. Anyone can knit and more and more people continue to do so.” 

One more part to go!