Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini (2010)

"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 knitting, using knitting to help her get through the long nights and sleep-deprived days.

However, after raising her kids for a few years, Adrienne gets bored. The tedium of everyday life means an entire year has passed her by without anything interesting happening. This (for obvious reasons) sucks, so Adrienne decides to set herself a goal of knitting an Alice Starmore sweater in one year and chronicling her journey in what became this book.

I was quite disappointed with this book. Martini has a really engaging tone and at time her discursive excursions into parts of knitting history, like the history of fair isle, were really engaging. However, the book just didn't know what it wanted to be. It wasn't really a knitting book, because there's very little about the actual knitting of the sweater. There are also these really odd quite patronising sections in which basic knitting concepts are explained in detail ("remember, circular knitting makes a tube") but an understanding of the online knitting community is expected. It was a project that Martini obviously needed because some sense of excitement or purpose was missing from her life but it's not a memoir, because Martini never tells us much about her everyday life. What we're left with is a journal of Martini's travels to visit famous knitters and basically transcripts of the conversations she had with them, which I'm sure was super interesting for her but, for the reader, not so much. There's so much missing information in the storyline - why Alice Starmore? Why this particular Alice Starmore sweater? In one bit, she gets most of her wool in one brand but one colour only comes in a different base, which is a disaster...that is never mentioned again. Why did the editor not bring this to Martini's attention? Not good enough, team Sweater Quest.

The end of the book is really rushed - the last three months take up only 14 pages - and there is a sense that Martini is really bored with the whole thing. Most bewildering for me, is that *spoiler alert* the whole time she has been knitting a sweater that is not her size. She's spent hundreds,  maybe thousands, of dollars on a project that will not fit. WHY?!?!? Look, I think Martini sounds like someone who would be fun to have a coffee and a chat with, but this book needed a lot more work on it before going to print. Two stars.

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