My Year of Knitting Dangerously
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.
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I knit so I don’t kill people. —bumper sticker spotted at Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival
Had I not discovered knitting, I would not be the paragon of sanity that I am today.
When I had my first baby in 2002, I lost my mind. And by “lost my mind,” I don’t intend to imply minor weepiness or fleeting unhappiness. Two weeks into my maternity leave, I checked myself into my local psych ward because I’d become a danger to myself. At the time, it seemed that reclaiming even a shred of my former aplomb would be impossible. Now the whole event...see more
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Reading Group Guide
Some climb mountains when they are looking for a life challenge. Others, like Adrienne Martini, knit a complicated cardigan designed by a reclusive Scot named Alice Starmore. In Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Martini takes on Mary Tudor, a Fair Isle garment whose pattern is inspired by a lesser known sister of Henry VIII.
The challenge of Mary Tudor begins with sourcing an out-of-production yarn and out-of-print pattern book. Once she solves the acquisition hurdles, Martini settles down for some endless knitting, which leads to discussions with experts about everything from copyright in the Internet age to the healing properties of craft. Martini visits Toronto, the knitting capital of the Americas in order to talk to the Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee who has the #1 blog in Canada. She also makes a pilgrimage to a yoga guru and a textile scholar.
Along the quest, Martini tries to uncover the heart of why knitters knit and what makes a Starmore sweater a Starmo see more