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Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously Paperback – March 23, 2010
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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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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.
If you enjoy knitting, particularly if anyone has ever called you out on why you knit despite your local discount store carrying plenty of cheap, adequate knit-goods, you will likely enjoy this book.
1) A really good book about knitting will make you want to knit - I picked up a pair of needles for the first time in 25 years.
2) The knitting community has some dangerous characters.
Before writing my own review, I generally do look at the other reviews. Often it helps crystallize some vaguely formed opinion I already had, and sometimes it's just darned entertaining. Several reviewers were critical of Martini because she does not "know her audience." I'm not exactly sure what they were getting at. I am a member of Martini's audience, and I'm sure she doesn't know me. Furthermore, I don't hold that against her.
I found this book to be intoxicating. I am seriously knitting a scarf. And in my visit to the yarn store, I met a few characters. I doubt that I will ever attempt to integrate myself solidly into the knitting community but I do enjoy reading about it. And I enjoy shopping in their stores.
More about the book. I know the subject was knitting, but I did find myself wondering if her family wasn't suffering just a tad from neglect. Personally I would have appreciated reading more about the logistics that allowed her to traipse around the continent while simultaneously parenting a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old. But that's just me. Alice Starmore seems to be a fascinating character, and the stuff about her intellectual property protection was riveting. Also, the strong message that knitting is good for the soul is what convinced me I absolutely need to be knitting right now. So I do understand the obsessiveness of it. I did not think this was in any way a Julie and Julia ripoff. To me, it was basically the story of a love affair between one woman and her knitting project. A bit kinky, perhaps. But I enjoyed it.
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