6 Names Every Knitter Should Know

“This is turning out to be much harder than I thought it would be.”

I didn’t make this statement about my first attempt at intarsia or knitting fitted socks. This statement was part of my own internal dialogue as I set out to write about the most influential knitters of all time. Do I include the obvious luminaries such as Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara Walker? Do I stick to bestselling authors such as Nicky Epstein and Debbie Stoller, or do I also include present day icons such as Jared Flood and Norah Gaughan?

Call me a coward, but there are just too many important people to list the most important, so I’m punting and presenting you with a list of 6 Names Every Knitter Should Know.

Here we go, in alphabetical order.

Ann Budd

If you’ve been in a yarn shop at any point in the last 15 years, you’ve encountered knitting instruction from Ann Budd. Ann is an instructor, designer, blogger, and overall positive force in the knitting universe. With more than 16 books to her name including Getting Started Knitting Socks and The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, Ann has formed the foundation of many a knitter’s library.

Full disclosure: Ann is also the first person who tried to teach me to knit and, as such, holds a special place in my heart. Discover more about Ann at AnnBuddKnits.com.

Nancy Bush

A historian and folk knitting icon, Nancy has written some of the bestselling craft books ever published, including Knitted Lace of Estonia. Based in Salt Lake City, she teaches workshops throughout the year and is a frequent contributor for PieceWork Magazine. Read more about her passion for Estonian Lace here.

Jessica Forbes

You may not have heard of Jessica Forbes or her husband, Casey, but these two talented souls are the brains, sweat, and tears behind Ravelry, the largest online fiber community in the world. Their website has not only provided a new, focused platform for us to connect with each other and get inspired, it’s also created the infrastructure for designers to distribute their own patterns and connect with their tribe.

Clara Parkes

Here’s what Kathy Blumenstock said in the Washingon Post when Clara released her book Knitlandia in 2017:

“Long before social media cluttered every corner of our existence, Parkes’s conversational 411 about new yarns and interesting pattern designs forged connections among far-flung knitters, who discovered they were a global community rather than lone practitioners of a cozy hobby they’d learned from Mom.”

Kathy was right. When Clara founded Knitter’s Review in 2000, there was nothing else like it, and she has been a steady, encouraging and influential voice ever since. Learn more about Clara’s remarkable story here.

Alice Starmore

Born and raised in a Scottish fishing community, Starmore’s deep connection to nature is reflected within her work (fiber, art & photography) and has become a hallmark of her iconic aesthetic. An expert in so many ways, Starmore is perhaps best known for colorwork and her bestselling book, Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. You can also find Alice’s pattern for her Wee Baby Bonnet in this classic issue of PieceWork magazine.

Elizabeth Zimmermann (1910-1999)

Photo by Tom Zimmermann,
courtesy of Meg Swansen and Schoolhouse Press

Credited with introducing America to Aran knitting in 1958, Zimmermann influenced many more knitters with her bestselling book, Knitting Without Tears. She is also the founder of Schoolhouse Press, now run by her daughter, Meg Swansen. One of the most popular Zimmermann patterns is the Pi Shawl, a circular knit shawl that is worked from the center out and based on the geometry of pi, which shows us the relationship between a circle’s radius and its circumference.

All of us are influenced by the knitting titans of the past and present, and it’s our collective responsibility to make sure that there are knitters of the future that continue to move our craft forward. We’d love to hear from you about the knitters you think are breaking new ground and inspiring others. Tell us in the comments below!



P.S. The truth is, there IS actually a singular most influential knitter in the world: the one who first taught you to knit. When’s the last time you told them thank you?

P.P.S. Thanks, Ann Budd.

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  1. Anonymous at 9:48 am June 28, 2018

    Patty Lyons, Barbara Walker, June Hiatt

  2. Anonymous at 2:01 pm June 28, 2018

    I totally agree with that. I would put Patty Lyons on that list for sure. I consider teachers like Patty and Lucy Neatby to have taken up the torch for EZ. And yes, yes, yes to Barbara Walker!!!!

  3. Anonymous at 3:29 pm June 28, 2018

    This is a great list! I absolutely would add Patty Lyons to that list.
    How about Arenda Holiday from TKGA?

    I would love to see a list like this for influential Spinners?

    Your Spinning Buddy,

  4. Anonymous at 9:02 am June 29, 2018

    I am very familiar with all 6 of these wonderful ‘influencers’ and I agree wholeheartedly with your choices!

  5. Anonymous at 12:00 pm June 29, 2018

    Just 6 is too short of a list. Amy Herzog has helped me to take my sweater knitting to the next level where all my sweaters are wearable!

  6. Judith C at 12:10 pm June 29, 2018

    Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, who taught me not to be afraid of messing up–she does–and to laugh while knitting. Her life is in knitting, but she reminds us that her life, and ours, are in so much more than knitting.

  7. Anonymous at 11:21 am July 1, 2018

    Mari Lynn Patrick may not be considered influential to the wider community, but I adore her designs and a desire to make them has gotten me out of my comfort zone and into learning new techniques. Through her patterns I’ve gotten past the basic knits, purls, ribbing, and garter stitch and into cables, colorwork, and different construction.

    As for my personal knitting heroes: My great grandmother taught me the initial basics at age 8, but I didn’t really pick it up until after she’d passed. Fortunately it turns out my grandmother had been the one to teach HER! Both have passed, but I recently found a UFO in a box of my grandmother’s things and was able to finish it 🙂

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