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Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously Paperback – March 23, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Martini decided to knit the extraordinarily complicated Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater pattern, known as Mary Tudor, and now chronicles her 12 months’ experience. Shades of Julie and Julia? Well, yes, but Martini offers a deeper, more reflective narrative, one that showcases her interactions with other well-known stitchers; her book features family snippets and personal philosophies and her travels to places where knitters congregate, such as Toronto and Rhinebeck, New York. We meet Ann Shayne, coauthor of Mason-Dixon Knitting (2006), as well as Amy R. Singer, “Master of the Knitting Universe.” We learn a lot about the craft (or is it an art?) from statistics and these profiles of major figures as well as achieve an understanding of the community that binds knitters together. Marvel—even if you’re a nonknitter—at Martini’s way with words: “Scissors and knitting go together like mashed potatoes and chocolate syrup.” Purling through life was never so fascinating. --Barbara Jacobs


“To answer the seemingly innocent question, 'What makes knitters knit?" Martini visits knitterly landmarks, chats with influential figures, and ponders our peculiar habits and traditions—all the while marking her journey’s progress through an exquisite Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater. All roads ultimately lead back to one simple universal truth: It’s not about the wearing, it’s about the making.”
—Clara Parkes, publisher of Knitter’s Review and author of The Knitter’s Book of Wool

"I could NOT put Sweater Quest down! I felt as though I was knitting the sweater along with Adrienne, felt her pain and her joy. Once I even thought, as I was packing the car, 'Now WHERE is that Alice Starmore sweater I was working on?' The book became that insinuated into my psyche. I love this book."
—Annie Modesitt, author of Confessions of a Knitting Heretic

“Adrienne Martini combines her passion for knitting with her astonishing ambition, bringing to her lovely new memoir an enthusiasm which is infectious. Sweater Quest will have you reaching for your needles to knit your own dream sweater, and it belongs on every knitter's bookshelf.”
—Rachael Herron, How to Knit a Love Song

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416597646
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416597643
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,117,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By D. Matlack VINE VOICE on April 9, 2010
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was so looking forward to this which makes my disappointment that much more painful.

Martini starts out with a bang. The history of the legal bits on Starmore are interesting - However if you want the real scoop in more riveting detail check out the girlfromauntie[...] blog. Martini describes herself as knitter ready to move beyond intermediate to advanced projects and instantly identifiable to a lot of us. She blows this by chapter 4 and lost us all completely by chapter 7 when she hits the sheep & wool festival. How?

First of all, Martini is an English/Creative writing professor first and a knitter in the very least/last. In the forefront she is primarily seeking to get published. She has chosen her topic: a Starmore, Mary Tudor sweater and proceeds to dissect, analyze and deconstruct Alice Starmore until she ultimately declares the sweater itself "easier than it looks" and Starmore is regarded in a rather insultingly dismissive attitude. When it is apparent that the sweater will not entirely be a Starmore due to a few yarn switches Martini than loses steam and lobs off in a different direction. Traveling all over the South to North of the Eastern U.S. Martini ingratiates herself to every big name Knitting Blog-stars beginning with Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner (the Masondixon knitters[...]) to Canada's Amy R. Singer ( knitty [...]) to the Knit-blog Queen herself, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (yarnharlot.ca/blog), with a slew of knitters in between.

Martini uses this time spent with other knitters to mostly discuss why people (specifically women, she's a feminist after all.) knit. Despite the responses collected, I felt that she was not only missing the point but merely using the words of The Greats as filler for her own book.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The concept is cuter than the execution in this book: a real Mount Everest of a project replete with legal woes, acquisition issues, and of course, the actual knitting. Sounds fun, right?

Two things prevent me from truly appreciating this: first off, her wit isn't all that witty. She keeps giving us these 'ya know, right' sort of nudges for things that aren't very funny and actually, if you think about it, are pretty horrible. For example, page 25, she's talking about the Sweater Curse and speculating on causes thereof:
"deciding to knit a sweater for a significant other costs less than having a baby when it feels like the relationship is already in trouble." Ummmm, rimshot?

She also presumes that every knitter is exactly like her, which is...weird, considering her other choices. Like her, I teach college and knit. Unlike her, I do not have a husband or child, and thus, the entire first chapter is really offputting--basically, I 'don't get it'. Knitting in her mind seems absolutely tied to wife/mother. If that's her imagined ideal audience, of course that's fine: I am not her ideal audience and I found it a bit...presumptuous.

But the real thing that made me wrestle with this book is precisely that: her understanding of her audience and their knowledge base. She presumes absolutely zero knowledge of knitting and explains everything in excruciating detail. For a book that's labeled 'crafts/hobbies' I'd imagine she wouldn't have to explain 'knit' for heaven's sake. If the explanation was absolutely relevant (and sometimes it is, for example, English vs Continental knitting) it works, but some other places it seems hamfisted and just...paddy.

Each chapter, as well, lurches from topic to topic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I didn't love it to pieces,and I agree with some of the criticisms here, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it. You can read this in a day or two, and it's not laugh-out-loud funny. But it had enough snark,and enough actual information, to make it worth my while. The writing IS a little choppy and disjointed in places. The visits with other more well-known knitting writers DOES feel a bit like name-dropping and trading off of other people's skill. And there really isn't as much to say about the actual knitting as you might think. So in all honesty, this would probably have made a better magazine article than actual book.

The most interesting part, to me, was the telling of the Starmore drama. I had only heard whispers and hints, and Martini explains the story in pretty much detail.

What I concluded about knitting a Starmore pattern is that it really doesn't make sense. The reason Martini's sweater didn't fit in the end is that the pattern comes in only one size, and there is no practical way to change it. Most of Starmore's designs were created 20 or more years ago, when oversized, baggy knitwear was in style. The drop shoulders are almost essential, but they look bad on almost everyone except maybe an actual burly fisherman.

I did find the whole "is it really a Starmore, if I change one of the colors" tedious. Really, what these amazing Starmore designs should do is motivate contemporary designers to get busy creating something equally fabulous in today's styles with currently available yarns.

In the end, I have to say that Martini's quest seemed self-indulgent to me. Did she really have any good reason to spend almost $80 on a wooden blocking frame? Did she have to travel to Toronto to get her knitting mojo back? I think a quest should involve self-discovery, and if there was self-discovery here, I didn't see it.

But I enjoyed going along for the ride with her. And I loved the interview with the Yarn Harlot.
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