by Adrienne Martini
This book is being referred to as “Julie and Julia” for knitters, and I can see that point. Here, the author decides to challenge herself to knit Alice Starmore’s “Mary Tudor” pattern in one year, even though she’s never done fair isle knitting before, never tackled a project this big before. The book then follows her struggles at finding the pattern, the right yarns, and her effort to find the time and the stamina as a mother of two young children and a full-time freelance writer.
All of which is very interesting–especially to another knitter. Most of us do have jobs of some kind or another, and very few of us are sitting around all day with bon bons. Finding the time to knit can be a struggle. Finding the time to knit something of this complexity AND write a book about it, all within 12 months while handling all the other necessities of daily life? Definitely intimidating.
It’s not just for knitters, though. The author takes the time as she goes along to explain some basic knitting techniques (like steeking, or how a fair isle chart is read and recreated in knitting, using a printer color cartridge as an example). The actual sweater isn’t even the ultimate point, either, as the entire quest evolves into a knitter’s existential question of “If I change the designer’s instructions, is it still the designer’s sweater?”
Mostly, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed following the author’s journey not only to her finished sweater, but her question about what makes a Starmore sweater a Starmore sweater, and not just something she inspired. It was all about her personal journey, and I enjoyed that–following her on her travels as she talked to other knitters.
There were some times when she made side comments that I found jarring, that pulled me out of the narrative. For example: “With all that excitement, you’d think I’d rip into the package once I got it home from the post office. Yet the box is still here, unopened. Acting very 2001 monolith-like but more nonchalant. It makes me wonder if I should throw a monkey into it. Or was that a bone? I never did get the point of that movie.” I love a good aside as much as the next person, but there are times when they get in the way, and this book had a few too many.
Did that make me dislike the book, though? No, not at all. There’s nothing more enjoyable than reading a good quest story with personal growth and and goal, and if it involves knitting? That much better.
Reviewed by Deb Boyken
Deb has been knitting since 1987 and has accumulated quite a collection of knitting books over the years. Her website, Knitting Scholar, can be found at http://knittingscholar.com.