MARSHFIELD, Wis. — For 40 years, Marshfield has hosted one of the most prestigious knitting camps in the country.

When Knitting Camp — founded by internationally renowned master knitter Elizabeth Zimmermann and continued by her daughter, Meg Swansen, of Pittsville — returned again this month, more than 50 people were immersed in the world of yarn and technique.

Zimmermann developed an international following with her approach to seamless garment construction, a technique that allowed knitters to apply their own ideas to their work. After Zimmermann died in 1999, her obituary covered half of a page in the New York Times, Swansen said, while she talked about continuing her mother's legacy.

The popularity of the camp comes from the professional master-level classes taught in a manner accessible to any person with a working knowledge of knitting, many campers told Marshfield News-Herald Media (

"This has been on my bucket list for years. Finally I am here, and this is awesome," said Heather Vance, 44, of Asheville, N.C.

While participants learn master techniques, instructors teach the classes in an informal manner that seeks input and feedback from students, Vance said.

"There are so many things about knitting, and Meg and Amy (Detjen, an assistant camp instructor) are so approachable and they encourage sharing, learning from one another," Vance said.

During one of the sessions, a video camera focused on the hands of Swanson and displayed on four large television screens her fingers intertwined with two colors of yarn while they grasped knitting needles encased with loops of red and white wool. While knitting, Swanson was methodically explaining different techniques to knit a pattern with two colors of yarn.

"What I like about this is that you don't learn just one way to do something. Sometimes, there can be six different techniques that achieve the same thing," said Cynthia Copas, 58, of Plainfield, Ill., who is a clothing designer.

Different approaches to solving a problem or creating a finished product expand the understanding about knitting, which fosters creativity, Copas said.

"This is like a pilgrimage to Mecca," said Patti Link, 53, of Orange Beach, Ala., who had watched Zimmermann during some of her public television station knitting shows in the 1970s and later purchased books she published and eventually a series of instructional DVDs.

"Everything I know about knitting, I learned from her and now her daughter Meg," Link said.

Zimmermann brought passion and enthusiasm to knitting while urging people to be creative. That tradition is continued by her daughter, Link said.

"This is my first time, and I am having so much fun," Link said. "And, of course, I am learning so much."

While Swansen is following in her mother's footsteps, she also has become a legendary figure in the knitting world, said Detjen, also a professional knitter who teaches throughout the nation.

"Meg's a famous knitting designer and has quite a following," Detjen said. Swansen's designs are a regular feature of knitting magazines, and she travels throughout the world teaching.

"She is the expert's expert," Detjen said about Swansen.

Under Swansen's leadership, Schoolhouse Press, a Pittsville-based business her mother founded to publish knitting patterns, has flourished. Schoolhouse Press expanded to publish hardcover books of other designers' patterns and is a source for wool yarn imported from Canada and Europe, among other knitting supplies.

"She's a remarkable lady, and I am the envy of many other knitters because this is where I spend a month every summer — assisting Meg Swansen at camp in Marshfield," Detjen said.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by News-Herald Media