The Enduring Brilliance of Elizabeth’s Percentage System
I have been catching up on some small projects recently, things that I promised my family some time ago…a jumper darn, a uniform repair and a wee jumper for a beloved doll.
Winter is coming and even plastic bodies feel the cold apparently. Our Dear Girl really really wanted a jumper for her doll companion. It was to be a jumper not a cardigan, snuggly and big enough to go over her other clothes. These were my instructions.
With approval, I picked out a lime coloured merino sportsweight in left over from a Ferris cardigan for Our Dear Girl. Whilst I have no doubt, that there are many patterns out there for 19 inch doll sweaters, I didn’t fancy trawling through Ravelry or Pinterest to find them. Instead I turned to Elizabeth Zimmerman’s extraordinary gift to knitters: her EPS (Elizabeth’s Percentage System). If you don’t know about the EPS, it is a simple system that allows you to create a sweater to fit any sized person based on a series of percentages relating to the chest measurement. The system is fully documented in her books Knitting without Tears (1973) and The Opinionated Knitter (2005).
It is a system that frees the knitter from reliance on patterns, making us autonomous makers (should we wish to be so). It was a revolutionary unvention when it was conceived of in the early seventies and remains a truly radical concept now amidst the current culture of hyper-consumption of knitting designs.
Based on the chest measurement and my gauge, I calculated that I needed 80 stitches for the body. From then on, the EPS is able to provide me with the number of stitches I need to cast on the sleeves, the stitches I need to increase to for the forearm and how many stitches to cast off for the underarms and all sorts of other useful bits of information. The sweater is knit in the round, bottom up, the sleeves are united with the body at the under arms and decreases every other round form the raglan shaping.
The EPS continues to delight and thrill me. There is nothing quite like a bit of DIY in the knitting department.