A Fiddling With Fiber Post: Knit, Purl and Prison Reform

Hi F&F,

The late Elizabeth Zimmerman (EZ) is revered among knitters. I think of her as the Julia Child of knitting. Elizabeth Zimmerman did for knitting what Julia Child did for French cooking.  EZ modernized and demystified the art of knitting for the inexpert yet enthusiastic masses. Her knit designs are beautiful to look at; they feel intuitive and are adaptable when executing. For earnest amateur knitters and professional designers, her mathematical formula for figuring the proportions of sweaters and other garments; as well as her promotion of knitting in the round, using circular needles, streamlined the creative process and freed the creativity of many.

I own a well-worn copy of her book Knitting without Tears (KWT) and I have borrowed a few of her other books from my local library (hint to family: I’d be grateful to receive a copy of Knit One Knit All as a Christmas gift). When I started to teach myself to knit I became overwhelmed and quickly put the needles aside. After reading the first chapter of KWT I was inspired to try again.  Her straight forward writing style and her practical knitting advice has gotten me out of a great many crafting difficulties.  I have a lot of respect for what she did for the craft of knitting and my enjoyment of it.

Now I think I will have to give her kudos for her potential influence and impact on prison reform.  Recently, The Baltimore Sun ran an article about a knitting program for prison inmates at Jessup’s Pre-Release Unit, an all-male, minimum-security penitentiary in Howard County.  The program is called Knitting Behind Bars.

Lynn Zwerling helps an inmate during her weekly "Knitting Behind Bars" program at the Maryland prison system's Pre-Release Unit in Jessup. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / October 27, 2011)

The initiative was organized by knitter Lynn Zwerling. Ms. Zwerling knows firsthand how the handicraft of knitting can have a meditative and calming effect; and thought to bring it to inmates.

“I just knew it would work,” she says. “I thought I could give a calming influence to people who really need this. I’m not a social worker. I’m not an educator. But I thought what it takes to do knitting are skills vital to human existence — setting goals, completing a project, giving to somebody else…  “And I thought, maybe when they get back in the world, these men might choose to be calm and do something worthwhile. But I’m a dreamer, you know.”  (Rosen, Jill. “Knitting Behind Bars weaves an unlikely partnership.” The Baltimore Sun 21 Nov 2011. 5 Dec 2011 http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-11-21/features/bs-ae-knitting-behind-bars-20111111_1_assistant-warden-needles-wool

I know from my own experience, knitting a project can be very relaxing while doing it; rewarding when done; and gratifying to “gift”. When I read the article it reminded me of the Elizabeth Zimmerman quote I prize and is posted on my Words Gathered While Wandering page; of this blog.

 Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit, either.   — Elizabeth Zimmerman

Once again, EZ makes it seem so easy.




About atreegrowsinbklyn

I’m an analog girl living in a digital world. I’m happy except when I’m sad. I’m serious, smart and sophisticated except when I’m silly, obtuse and crude. I’m ambitious and disciplined; except when I’m apathetic and self indulgent. I‘m thoughtful, generous and honest; except when I’m insensitive, cheap and lying. I’m grateful; I’m grateful; I am grateful.
This entry was posted in Art, arts and crafts, crafts, crochet, Culture, fiber arts, knitting, Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to A Fiddling With Fiber Post: Knit, Purl and Prison Reform

  1. Northern Narratives says:

    Yes, Elizabeth Zimmerman did a lot for kntting. Great post 🙂

  2. Touch2Touch says:

    Really interesting post — another “noodge” toward getting some needles and beginning to knit again after a hundred years. Calm — meditative — and you end up with something soft and warm — sounds like win-win to me!

  3. Knitting soothes a troubled spirit….like the idea a lot! Wonderful post with lots of heart. I hope this season would bring a changed of heart not just for the inmates but for all of us. Happy Holidays and God bless you and your family always.

  4. ElizOF says:

    Beautiful post… Knitting has really taken off over the last several years and it is a good thing. I might pick it up one day. 😉
    TY for your patience as I have been adjusting to a changed schedule in my life … Glad to comment again. 🙂

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