It seems to me that the book isn't a really a Sweater
Quest - your motivations for knitting are something you seem quite at peace
with - but it is possibly a quest for understanding – Alice Starmore in
particular, your community in general, self-knowledge as well, maybe.
I hadn't viewed the idea of the "quest" that way, as a "quest for understanding." The title initially came about because the original title I wanted was deemed legally actionable and so we had to come up with something else. And, no, I can't tell you what the first title was, at least not in a public forum. Ask me in person and I'll whisper it to you under penalty of a closet full of Red Heart yarn.
The quest was really about trying to get to the crux of why knitters knit.
There are so many other ways to spend time. Very, very few people knit because
they don't have access to places that sell clothes. The craft itself is slow -
both in terms of mastery and production. So why do we do it? My hope was that
the narrative could fill in some of those gaps.
Why do people golf? Or collect dolls? Or model
trains? Knitting to me makes more innate sense than golf, for example, because it has
the maker's spirit in it; I think human beings have an innate need to make
things - one that is impoverished in 21st century life. Unless you like to
cook. And even then it not really something that leaves you with a thing you can
hang on the wall or from your shoulders. We like to line our dens?
I think the reason knitting makes more innate sense to you
and I than golf or dolls or trains do is that we are knitters. My husband, a
golfer, doesn't get the appeal of knitting. He's a collector of experiences, of
time spent playing, rather than of tangible things. His job, however, does
involve the making of things - so that might be where the analogy breaks
I still don't know why people collect dolls. I find them
creepy and useless. But to each his or her own.
I'm not sure the desire to knit springs from needing to make
things. How many times have you sat down with the end goal of making a scarf
rather than the urge to simply put your hands through the knitting motions just
to have done so? And why do we knit rather than sew or crochet? Both of those
will get you to a finished product much faster than knitting will.
I used to collect dolls, ha! But I know why people
find them creepy. There was a creative aspect to it, but it was mostly a
grief thing for me - occupying a very precise space between my father's death
and the day we invaded Afghanistan. I think for me FIBER is a collection of experiences (particularly communal
ones) but knitting is more end resultish. If I just want to feel up the wool, I'd spin
or knit with handspun, which is far more tactile-y satisfying. I like swatching
if I like knitting with the yarn - I'm having a terrible time right now getting
through a felted tweed swatch, it's breaking my heart that I hate to knit with
it. I love textiles and clothing and always have, but a good part of it for me
is ending up with something useful and beautiful.
Fiber as a collection of experiences works for me. I have a
tendency to buy souvenir yarn. I know I'm not alone. :)
I loved the bit about Om Yoga and Cindy - one of my yoga
teachers trained there and there was such resonance in what she said about
learning the form and surrendering to it first, before it becomes a part of
your practice. That's creativity right there - mastering form so that you can
transform it later. Be transformed by it. Did you ever make up your mind if
what you were doing was art or craft, or if it really WAS a Starmore once it
had been meddled with?
I still haven't figured if it was art or craft or a
Starmore. I lean toward craft, frankly, since I didn't put much of me into it
and stayed fairly close to her original specs. I'm not sure it's a Starmore,
tho, since I didn't use her yarn. I could easily be talked out of either
The thing that struck me when you talk about Alice Starmore is that I have never heard one person say that she has a right to protect her name as it related to her creativity and livelihood. She may have gone too far or been irrational, I don't really have a perspective on those knitting days, it was before my time on the kniternet. But she is a compelling figure - both for her exceptional skill with color and design and for her sheer obstinacy. I think I want to ask you if you think this is because it's such a female community and she was female but playing by other rules?
As for Alice S. and her need to protect her name - I don't know that many
folks argued that she didn't have a right to it in certain circumstances. She
(and her name) did get taken advantage of, in my opinion, by at least one
business partner who saw what he had and tried to cut her out. But, again, my
opinion, the whole protection idea got a little out of control and alienated a
lot of knitters who were on her side, which doesn't seem like a great idea when
you're running a business. It also all gets tied up in the growth of blogs and
eBay. The boundaries were pretty fuzzy during the frontier days and there were
Still, I love what she has come to represent in my mind,
which is all I have to go on. She stuck to her guns, in a way that a lot of
other women would not have. She has designed some amazing sweaters that, yes,
exploded what we thought about Fair Isle rather than copying what had come
before. And the Hebridean yarn is beyond compare. We should thank her for it
alone, if nothing else.
I find it fascinating that you say you didn't put much of
yourself into it - do you mean just in terms of design and color input, or
Maybe the fact that your position on whether it meets the criteria to be a starmore isn't fixed means that's not the right question to ask? How do you feel about the FO now that some time has passed? Do you LIKE it?
I didn't put much of myself into the sweater in terms of design and color. My goal was to follow where ever Alice went. Emotionally, there is a lot of me in the sweater, I think. It was a solace and source of irritation by turns. Mostly, tho, I was simply amused by watching the design unfold. It's interesting that you should ask about how I feel about the FO now that time has passed. I don't feel compelled to keep it or display it or wear it. And on that last one - I can't wear it as it stands now without losing 40 pounds and shrinking 4 inches, both of which seem unlikely. Or, if I were more sensible about it, doing the math and reknitting it, which is also unlikely because other designers keep coming up with other items that I want to make. I'm am proud of having knitted it and having written about having knitted it but don't need the sweater itself to remind me of the journey. Does that make sense?