Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini

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 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.

Thanks to Caitlin at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of the book to review.

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