Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adrienne Martini

I'm a fan of the nonfiction narrative quest, whether it's to cook all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, retrace the steps of a Viking woman, or eat only food that you or a neighbor grew. Especially if there is a one year time limit. Therefore Sweater Quest was irresistible to me once I read the back of the jacket, even though I am not much of a knitter. Well, I know the knit stitch, but I don't know how to purl. Yet.

In Sweater Quest, Adrienne Martini decides to make a Fair Isle sweater designed by the famous Scottish designer Alice Starmore, in a year, despite being a working mother. However, this particular Alice Starmore sweater is from one of Starmore's early books, before her split with her publishers and yarn manufacturers. So the book is rare and out-of-print, and the yarn impossible to buy at all. In fact, Martini's brave to refer to Starmore in print, as her book says that Starmore's nicknames in the knitting blogosphere are She Who Must Not Be Named or Litigious Scottish Designer.

Martini uses this incredibly complicated, knitted-in-the-round Fair Isle sweater as a jumping off point for other topics, like color theory, the Shetland Islands, or her conversations with other knitters, like the Mason Dixon Knitters Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner. Where do you draw the line between a traditional knitting pattern handed down the generations, and a designer's pattern? Why do women knit, and why is it considered weird when golfing (practiced by almost half fewer people) is not? Is the sweater Martini knitting really an Alice Starmore if she is using yarn substitutions?

Mostly, I liked this book because it's hilarious. Also, Martini's pointed me to some knitting blogs that are fun to read, like Yarn Harlot, which is the most popular blog (of any type) in Canada, according to Sweater Quest, or Susette Newberry's amazing, interdisciplinary blog about a knitted abecedarium, Knitting Letters: A to Z.

Watch Adrienne Martini talk about her quest here. You get to see the sweater, too.


Anonymous said...

I just finished this book. I am an avid knitter and usually love this type of book. I found it somewhat interesting, but not as exciting as the book cover blurb led me to expect. A bit of a slog, actually. I was also very disappointed that after all that, she didn't even show us the finished work. (there is a small photo of her in black and white, which I assume is the one, but not even in color).It really irked me, as she got me so curious.

Ellen said...

Yes, I wanted to see the sweater too! That's how I ended up watching the YouTube video. But even watching that you have to be patient.