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Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously

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3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  950 Ratings  ·  246 Reviews
"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
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Atria Books (first published March 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,834)
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Vy
Apr 25, 2010 Vy rated it it was ok
I really do like books about people immersing themselves in a project for a period of time, and I really do like knitting, but this particular book was only just okay.

The author decides that she wants to make a complicated Fair Isle sweater and gives herself a year to do so. Along the way, she explores topics such as the history of Fair Isle knitting, the pattern's controversial designer Alice Starmore, copyright issues, the yarn she chooses, and the pattern's namesake Mary Tudor. There are some
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Gretchen
Jun 22, 2010 Gretchen rated it it was ok
Adrienne Martini's knitting assignment to herself--knit a sweater designed by noted Fair Isle color genius Alice Starmore--is my own greatest knitting ambition, so I was curious to read about her experience. Unfortunately, the book doesn't quite hang together. Unsure of its audience, it alternates between explaining basic knitting concepts for the uninitiated and assuming knowledge of techniques, popular patterns, and insider jargon. Trying to avoid an overly narrow focus on the process of makin ...more
Scarlet
Aug 30, 2010 Scarlet rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not really enjoying this so far. The author is trying way too hard to be funny. I have my own Alice Starmore pattern obsession (St. Brigid), and I've been following the Starmore saga on the Girl from Auntie's blog for a while, but this book is not grabbing me. Still, it will do for the 10 minutes of reading before I fall asleep.

Okay, now I'm finished. Wow, that was not a good book. It didn't know what it was trying to be: a memoir, a series of interviews with the knitterati, a series of essays.
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Tracy
Aug 05, 2010 Tracy rated it it was ok
I'm going to write a book, "My Year of Reading Books about People Spending a Year Doing Something." Catchy title, right?

Update: if I write that book I probably won't include this one. It didn't quite work. The writer couldn't decide if she was writing purely for an audience of knitters (the only people who would be remotely interested in this book) or if she was trying to explain knitters to non-knitters. So there were lots of knitterly references interspersed with detailed descriptions of knitt
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Belinda
Jul 14, 2015 Belinda rated it it was ok
Shelves: knitting
"Had I not discovered knitting, I would not be the paragon of sanity that I am today."

So begins Adrienne Martini's Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously. She tells us that after the birth of her first child, she experienced postnatal depression so severely she needed to be hospitalised. During that time, she discovered knitting and, long after she stopped taking the drugs she needed to get well, knitting stuck with her. She had a second child - less eventfully this time - and kept knitt
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Rljulie
Mar 02, 2014 Rljulie rated it it was ok
The "cult of personality" in the knitting community since the early 2000's is one I've long had a hard time understanding. Mainly for the reasons that I am old, and also that I came to knitting through the portal of sewing, a clothing construction craft that does not rely on such a microcosm of celebrity personalities. As seamstresses, we work to make clothes that please, fit, and satisfy us or those we sew for. Period. I have never needed or desired a name-brand designer behind a pattern to enj ...more
Beth G.
It seems like such a silly idea: A memoir about knitting a sweater? But like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (who makes an appearance), Martini isn't really writing about knitting. She's writing about knitters. Mostly, just one knitter.

Over the course a year, Martini sets out to complete a sweater known as "Mary Tudor". As she tackles the challenges of acquiring an out-of-print pattern and substituting for out-of-production yarns (no small feat for a project in which color is key) as well as stranded col
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Katrine Judd
Apr 28, 2011 Katrine Judd rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mollie *scoutrmom*
Feb 05, 2014 Mollie *scoutrmom* rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: crafters
An accomplished writer who knits, rather than a knitter who tries to write. The quality of this work is excellent. I liked it a lot better than the last book of this type that I tried, Julie and Julia : 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen.

Who we have here is a free-lance writer who wanted to write a book around the same time that she wanted to take on a particularly difficult knitting project. She sold the idea of combining these two yens to her agent. A star is born.

The theme of the
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Rachel
Apr 03, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
So this gets 4 stars mostly because it exceeded my relatively low expectations. Alice Starmore is a sweater designer who creates very complicated color patterns. Martini gives herself a year to knit one. Along the way, she talks about the formation of the online knit-blog community and Starmore's bizarre intellectual copyright fights, and interviews some of the current stars of the knitting world. I'm not sure that non-knitters would enjoy it, but it is informative and funny, and I'd recommend i ...more
Mandy
Sep 03, 2011 Mandy rated it liked it
Not bad...not a lot about the actual knitting of the sweater, more like an excuse to interview some of the most well-known knitters of today. It wasn't the most wonderful book on knitting I've read, but I certainly enjoyed it and passed it on to another knitter I know. I enjoyed especially the bits about the writer's "process" of learning to knit fair isle, and I was fascinated by the entire Starmore controversy--I'd NO IDEA what a complicated person she is. A good read, if only for the culture ...more
Jen
Jan 20, 2016 Jen rated it liked it
You know you're a knitter when you will actually willingly read a book about someone else knitting something else that you're not even remotely interested in knitting.

It's not a bad book. Parts were really really good.

Parts were extremely good.

But at the end of the day, it's a book about knitting a really big sweater and wondering repeatedly if she's knitting "a Starmore" sweater--which is a question I have no interest in. I love patterns. I love knitting. However, part of the fun is taking some
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Sarah
May 27, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
I was sadly underwhelmed by this book. There were some cute parts, and funny parts, but by the end the book seemed far less about knitting and more about knitterly name-dropping. It seemed that she lost stride with the book when she lost stride with the project - and, frankly, finishing the book was a bit of a slog for me, too. Positive: it made me want to knit. But it felt like this, too, was an assignment for her, and one that she felt more dutiful than passionate about.
Jenn
Sep 06, 2010 Jenn rated it liked it
Recommended to Jenn by: zooropa93@hotmail.com
Shelves: 2010
What I thought was going to be a book about knitting the Holy Grail of sweaters was more of a look into knitting history, copyright law, intellectual property and conversations with the current "big names" of knitting.

Once I forced myself to realize this was not a book about knitting a sweater, it was interesting to a point(I gave it an extra star for the "learning about knitting history" factor) but by the end, I wanted it to be over.
Cheryl
Mar 04, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: knitters
Shelves: knitting, quest
It's been some months since I read this book, so my impressions are more about what I remember from the book at a distance. It was a fun, fast read about an interesting knitting quest: how the author knitted one of the most tortuously difficult sweater patterns as closely to the designer's instructions as possible. There were lots of good meditations about "at what point does the knitter's input into a project transform it into their own creation instead of the pattern designer's vision." I love ...more
Laura
Sep 11, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
I picked up Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini a while ago. It languished on my bookshelf until a couple of weeks ago when it caught my eye. How can you not love a book with "my year of knitting dangerously" added under the title curving over a colorful pyramid of wool?

If you are a knitter, you will find yourself nodding and smiling at the things Adrienne does and says about our craft/art. I connected with her immediately.

The slang knitters use may seem foreign to non-knitters, but even if you do
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Anastacia
This is a wonderful book about Adrienne's tale in knitting an Alice Starmore sweater, the holy grail of knitting. Though Adrienne does try to explain some knitting things to the muggles, aka non-knitters, it's obvious that only other crafters will really understand what it takes, and why, we would undertake a project such as this. She does a great job of explaining everything that goes into making a project of this size - from the little things like getting an audible subscription so she has som ...more
Courtney
May 28, 2010 Courtney rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. I usually don't read anything written about knitting unless it is a pattern, or instructions on technique. I did read one Yarn Harlot book once, but that was a fluke (I did actually like it).

This book did a lot of things that suprised me, one thing that really annoyed me (though this is through my own OCD), and at least two things that should have annoyed me, but didn't. Let me elaborate...

First, the thing that really annoyed me. Here, I should say th
...more
yoli
Oct 27, 2010 yoli rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Knitters
Shelves: knitting, 2010
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen
Dec 29, 2010 Karen rated it it was ok
This book is about the author's quest to knit an Alice Starmore fair-isle sweater in the course of a year. She chronicles her progress, interspersed with some knitting humor, interviews with various knitting "celebrities" such as Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot) Kay Gardiner, and Ann Shayne (both of Mason-Dixon Knitting). She also gives a lot of the history of Starmore's rise and subsequent distancing of herself from the knitting world, over arguments of copyright, etc. I found the explanati ...more
Melissa
Jul 07, 2010 Melissa rated it it was ok
I liked this book better than Julie & Julia, but that's not saying much, because that book really ticked me off. There is a style of humor and a level of whining in these books that annoys me but also makes me feel like part of the "older generation". But I simply don't accept that humor must be so derisive and pathetic to be entertaining.

Pathetic. I felt Ms. Martini was rather pathetic in her approach to her challenging knitting project. It was so anticlimactic to discover that the sweater
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Sara
May 30, 2010 Sara rated it it was ok
I think my main problem with this book is that it didn't feel like a *quest*. The author had some difficulties getting the right yarn (and this did include an interesting look at Starmore's expertise with color) but then the knitting itself was apparently mostly uneventful. Instead the focus is on the author's discussions with some other knitting bloggers and authors. I would have been interested in reading more about some issues that she barely mentioned, like sizing/fit.

I'm also not sure who t
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Josiphine
I'm really confused as to who she thought her audience was. The only people who are going to read a book about sweater knitting are knitters, yet she stops to define EVERY. SINGLE. KNITTING. TERM. Thanks, I already know that, that's why I'm reading this book.

Beyond that, even the idea of the book is a little eh. I don't consider her sweater to really be that big of a deal--people make fair isle sweaters all the time. It certainly is not as big of a deal as she makes it. Though some of the histo
...more
Vera Hannaford
Jul 15, 2010 Vera Hannaford rated it it was ok
Shelves: could-not-finish
As someone who adores books about the creative process and a knitter as well, I wanted to read "Sweater Quest" as soon as I heard about it on a knitting podcast. I spotted one of my friends with the book, and asked to borrow it.

I had problems with it from the start. The author's attempts at Stephanie Pearl-McPhee-esque humor fell flat or she just sounded whiny. A brutal editing would help since it jumps willy-nilly from subject to subject and isn't quite sure whether to target knitter or non kni
...more
Amanda
Feb 21, 2011 Amanda rated it did not like it
This book pulled me in because it is about knitting. I did enjoy reading about Alice Starmore, whom I had never heard of before and I enjoyed some of the bits about why knitters knit. However, it was pretty boring at times and the only thing that got me through was wondering more about Alice. This would have at least gotten two stars if it weren't for the ending. I was extremely disappointed that in the last few pages of the book she threw in a big nasty word and then started raving about her ra ...more
Jeanne
Adrienne Martini is on a quest: a quest to knit a complex sweater. The pattern is called Mary Tudor, and it is designed by Alice Starmore. With an out of print pattern to procure, numerous skeins of unique yarn to purchase, and a not-so-firm grasp of Fair Isle knitting techniques, Martini seems almost doomed to fail.

And to make things worse, I just looked for the Mary Tudor sweater online. It is ugly.

So, in the process of knitting this sweater, our knitter talks to tons of fellow knitters (some
...more
Susan
Sep 05, 2010 Susan rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was a disappointment. The author combined her project of knitting a difficult Fair Isle sweater pattern with interviews/visits with various knitting gurus; somehow the project gets lost with all the back and forth from this interview to that visit to a knitting retreat to that visit to a sheep and wool festival, and it is not altogether a surprise to find out toward the end of the book that the author really was not working on the sweater for the whole year. From pictures online the sw ...more
Jennifer
Aug 27, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
This was one of those books that I think every woman needs to read at some point in their life, and I don't necessarily mean this specific one. The type of books I mean are "light-hearted", "funny", "woman-oriented", and "serious, but not too serious". You know, the type of book that you read because you don't want to read about drama, or mysteries, or thrillers. You don't want to sit on the edge of your seat. You don't really want anything to happen. You just want to read for the pure enjoyment ...more
Elizabeth
Oct 04, 2014 Elizabeth rated it liked it
I was amused by the author's experience counting stitches (getting different numbers each time - that's happened to me) and deciding to place many markers (me too - works for me).

I agree with her observations about knitters being a community - that's been my experience since moving to Colorado Springs, and I'm grateful for it.

I like the author's breezy prose style.

I think she stresses too much about whether an "Alice Starmore sweater" is an "Alice Starmore sweater" if a knitter doesn't make it
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Kristine
Aug 03, 2010 Kristine rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Eileen Dent
Shelves: knitting
this was quite delightful. I anticipates it to be more about various sweater patterns but it was really the holy-grail it's kinda like following a year long blog where the author discusses her giant challenge and intermixed interviews. one thing that was a joy for me - I read a lot of knitting blogs andso most of the people mentioned were familiar. made me feel a little part of the story personally.
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“I am a writer who does not enjoy writing. I can find innumerable ways to avoid it. But, to rip off Dorothy Parker, nothing else—nothing—gives me the same thrill as having written. I’m the same way with knitting. The process is fine, mind you, and keeps my hands busy. But nothing else—nothing—gives me the rush that I get from finishing something.

"The parallels between writing and knitting go even further. Like writing, knitting has a finite number of raw ingredients. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet. Those letters can combine to give you David Foster Wallace or freshman composition papers. There are only two basic stitches: the knit and the purl. Those stitches can add up to a gorgeously complicated sweater or a pastel pink toilet paper cozy. The difference is in the mind that shapes them.”
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