Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

by Adrienne Martini

Paperback, 2010






"I knit so I don't kill people" --bumper sticker spotted at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival For Adrienne Martini, and countless others, knitting is the linchpin of sanity. As a working mother of two, Martini wanted a challenge that would make her feel in charge. So she decided to make the Holy Grail of sweaters--her own Mary Tudor, whose mind-numbingly gorgeous pattern is so complicated to knit that its mere mention can hush a roomful of experienced knitters. Created by reclusive designer Alice Starmore, the Mary Tudor can be found only in a rare, out-of-print book of Fair Isle-style patterns, Tudor Roses, and requires a discontinued, irreplaceable yarn. The sweater, Martini explains, "is a knitter's Mount Everest, our curse, and our compulsion. I want one more than I can begin to tell you." And so she took on the challenge: one year, two needles, and countless knits and purls to conquer Mary Tudor while also taking care of her two kids, two cats, two jobs, and (thankfully) one husband--without unraveling in the process. Along the way, Adrienne investigates the tangled origins of the coveted pattern, inquires into the nature of artistic creation, and details her quest to buy supplies on the knitting black market. As she tries not to pull out her hair along with rows gone wrong, Martini gets guidance from some knitterati, who offer invaluable inspiration as she conquers her fear of Fair Isle. A wooly Julie and Julia, this epic yarn celebrates the profound joys of creating--and aspiring to--remarkable achievements.… (more)


Atria Books (2010), 240 pages

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1416597646 / 9781416597643

User reviews

LibraryThing member whitreidtan
I tend to enjoy "stunt memoirs" where an author chooses to indulge in a passion (or something just eccentric) for a year and chronicles the journey for those of us not inclined to devote a year of our lives to whatever task they have chosen. So I thought I would simply adore Adrienne Marini's
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Sweater Quest about her desire to knit the Fair Isle Mary Tudor sweater designed by Alice Starmore, a famously talented designer and something of an enfant terrible in the knitting world. I really, really wanted to love the book. I mean, I learned to knit many years ago when my grandmother sat patiently with me, picking up my myriad dropped stitches and generally trying to help me create a reasonable fascimile of a scarf. (Note that the scarf was never finished and I do not remember much at all about knitting, to the point that when two of my children took a knitting class this summer, I was at a loss to help them and their own unfinished scarf renditions can be stashed next to mine in the basement forever.) But much as I wanted to love this book, I didn't. And I found myself just a little bored by it.

Very little of the book is actually about knitting the pattern that makes experienced knitters sit up and say "Wow." Instead, the book wanders from the mechanics of knitting (and really, even a non-knitter like me doesn't need a description of the knit and purl stitches) to the controversy of Alice Starmore to yarn to why knitting as an art was dying to the thoughts of other famous knitters. While all of these are or could be interesting, they don't hold together here. Bouncing from topic to topic, this lacks the cohesiveness and sense of the project that should pervade a book of this type. Like many of the stunt memoirs, this started as a blog project and that shows in the writing here. It is casual, full of slang, and a little overly precious at times. I would have like more on her struggles with the actual project and less about whether or not her changing the yarns made her sweater not what she set out to knit. Perhaps this question is of great importance to serious knitters but to casual hobbyists or non-knitters, the repetition is too much. And in surfing around I see that serious knitters seem to like this a lot more than I did. It's too bad it didn't live up to its potential for me but the knitting community is large so fitting into that niche market rather than a generalist market wouldn't be terrible. Meanwhile, I might dig out that old mangled scarf and ask my grandmother to show me how to knit one more time.
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LibraryThing member solslett
If you knit - if you love reading Yarn Harlot - if you enjoy listening to the musing and angst of another knitter - you should read this book. I felt Adrienne's pain, knew the trials and tribulations that she was going through. Even after finishing the book and knowing in my heart that the project
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sitting in the closet these last 6 years should, by all rights, sit there for 6 more, thanks to Adrienne I'm going to drag it out and get it done. We all need that "legacy" project, if only to teach us some humility.
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LibraryThing member LCrinion
Interesting story of a persons year long journey of knitting a sweater. I enjoyed her discussion of the kinship of knitting, her trip to Rhinebeck and to Toronto more then the description of the kntting of the sweater. I did not realize that Toronto was such a haven for knitters - I have now put a
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visit to Toronto to my Bucket List.
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LibraryThing member WomblingStar
A really fascinating description of knitting a masterpiece, with lots of interesting references to modern knitters who are leading the way.
LibraryThing member EvelynBernard
I found this to be an enjoyable, easy read. As a lifelong knitter, I too have been intrigued by the Alice Starmore sweaters - more so now that it is difficult to obtain the book and yarns.

When I picked the book up, I thought I would be reading about knitting the Mary Tudor sweater - instead I read
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about knitters. Familiar names and locations were peppered throughout the book. The author planned to knit this beautiful sweater over the course of a year and we followed her progress and her quest for the identification of an authentic Starmore sweater.

My favourite part? Adrienne Martini's acknowledgment of my home town (Toronto) as a knitting mecca! Thanks Ms. Martini - next time you're in town let's have a coffee and a yarn crawl!
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LibraryThing member Deesirings
As mentioned by previous reviewers, this book really isn't about knitting a difficult sweater, as its premise indicates it will be about. Rather, it's about a knitter's musings about knitting and the knitting community during the year in which she knits a famously difficult sweater. I'm a beginning
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knitter so a lot of what she said was new and interesting to me and I really enjoyed the book, but I certainly do agree that the book wasn't about what it purported it would be about.
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LibraryThing member sumik
Started this book this morning - it was leant to me by a friend. Love it already. Horrible thought that it may engender a desire to attempt Fair Isle. Now v. curious about Alice Starmore, surely her books are in libraries, right?
LibraryThing member elsiereads
As a knitter I was interested in this book's knitting minutiae and minor celebs, but the author rambled a lot. Regardless of the fact that she knitted a sweater with a Tudor-related name, the Tudor history lesson seemed pretty tangential. It seemed like she was trying to fill space. Ultimately, the
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book came off as an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of knitting and "Julie and Julia."
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LibraryThing member cygnet81
I didn't think anyone could compete with the Yarn Harlot books but this one is almost there.

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