Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sweater Quest: The Interview

Today's the day! At last, the blog hop stops here. Adrienne Martini answers a few questions about her new book, Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously. "Year in the life" books may be all the rage right now, but this one speaks to us as crafters. Adrienne decided to knit an Alice Starmore Fair Isle sweater. As you know, it took her seven years to knit that beautiful purple sweater. Before she sat down with her Starmore, she needed to learn a thing or two, like knitting with two hands. She took a big bite, and um...I don't think I can go anywhere good with that metaphor. I sat down and read it in a moment, and I loved it.

I loved it because it's about crafting and explores the tangential themes that run through this thing we do. You know how I like that. And it's funny. Take for instance that counting problem I've mentioned before:
Needles in hand, I cast on 357 stitches. I count again--359. No problem. I rip two stitches out. Count again--356. Cast on another--356. Again. Crap. Pull needle out of work and unravel all of it, because my counting mojo is not on my side. Steps must be taken.

Cast on 100 stitches and place marker. Cast on 100 more and place marker. Ditto 100 more. Count stitches--302. Roll eyes up to heavens. Pull needle out of work and unravel.

Cast on 50 stitches and place marker. Count those stitches again to make sure there are still just 50. Cast on 50 more and place marker. Count all of them to make sure the total's still 100. Do this until you reach 350. Count again and get 349.

Mutter impolite words under your breath. Think about taking up different hobby. Skeet shooting's fun, I hear.
The good news is that, like all of us, Adrienne perseveres, knits a gorgeous sweater, and we get to go along for the ride.

Anna van Schurman: As you know, most of my readers come here for the counted cross-stitch. What does your book offer them besides proving that someone who can knit Fair Isle with two hands can't count either?

Adrienne Martini: My hope with Sweater Quest was to talk about not only the compulsion of knitting but of the attraction of craft in general. I cross-stitch as well and know how you can find yourself fixated on a project that you just have to buy, stitch and frame--and that you can't really rest until its done. My cross stitch equivalent of my Mary Tudor sweater is Long Dog's Opus 2. It mocks me right now, since I only have the patterns and haven't found the perfect floss and fabric yet.

AvS: I've heard there are cross-stitch designers who, like Starmore, don't like mere stitchers making changes to their designs. Do you think that crafters have responsibilities to consider the intentions of the designer? This is a hard question for me to formulate because I was trained in English when "the author [was] dead." But as an author yourself, maybe you have some feelings about intention?

AM: I think that any sensible author learns to let the work go; otherwise, you'd spend all of your time explaining, "that's not what I meant!" Anne Rice has done this a few times and gotten herself into ass-deep boiling water. Design is a little different, I think - but I really can't speak from a designer's place since I'm not one. I have enough trouble figuring out what color to paint my walls, much less a canvas. I've gotten off track, haven't I? Crafters have a responsibility to respect what draws them to the design in the first place. For a Starmore sweater, the draw is the color. For Opus 2, the draw is the geometry.

AvS: How scary was it to cut the steeks?

AM: Horrifying. I kept trying to convince other people to cut them - but Anj held firm that I had to be the one to wield the scissors. After that first one, tho, I was a steek-cutting fool. I no longer shudder and whimper when I have to cut my knitting.

AvS: I know you were ill during the retreat, but I'm hoping you still enjoyed it. Tell us a little more about the retreat. I know you had a specific goal in mind (steek cutting assistance) but did you learn anything new or make some friends or meet some blog fans? Do you often get opportunities to be in groups of many women "and one man" and how did it feel?

AM: Other than finding some moral support with steek cutting, I don't know that I had a specific goal in mind. The Retreat offered three classes - I took one on making hand coverings (like mittens and gloves and those weird fingerless mitts) whose formulas I've dug out on more than one occasion. It was a little like summer camp without tents. I made some new friends and can't wait to go back again. Plus, as grown ups, you don't often get the chance to have all mundane responsibilities like cooking and cleaning completely taken care of by professionals for a weekend. It was awesome to focus all of that time on knitting and laughing.

AvS: When are you writing the book about cross-stitch? Okay, that's a selfish way to put it. What plans do you have for the next big projects, in terms of crafting or writing?

AM: Right now, there are two book proposals hopping around different editors' desk. We'll see which one gets reeling in first. And, yes, the publishing industry is a lot like fishing.

Thanks so much, Adrienne! Adrienne's book is available in the usual outlets; here's one.


Anonymous said...

I love this. Thanks for pursuing this project.


Donna said...

Thanks! And now, thanks to Wiki, I know what a steek is!

Nic said...

Great interview!

And yes, of course "death of the author" can apply to cross stitch design as well as literature ...I hadn't thought of it like that before, despite being an inveterate "personaliser" (and literature student). Thanks for pointing this out :o)

(Barthes and intention is one of the few things The Hermit and I argue about. Pretentious much?)

gio. said...

fun post!

Margaret said...

Wow - this is interesting and like Donna I went searching for a definition of steek. Can't wait for that one to come up in a crossword now! Also can't wait for this book to arrive in New Zealand

Jenna said...

My copy arrived today and I can't wait to dig into it this weekend! I loved just the snippet that I read on Amazon. She has a great "voice."

SF said...

Wonderful interview! I'm a stitcher rather than a knitter, but read Martinmade's blog as compulsively I read as yours. Possibly because you both talk about books et al as much as you do crafts. Anyway, thank you both very much for being writers. SF

Redwitch said...

Great interview both! I'm off to follow the links and also to find out what a 'skeet' is. Thank you for teaching me something today :)

doris said...

Steek? The fact that I didn't know that word until today tells just how new a knitter I am. I feel enlightened, and I already know I don't want to cut them. Just imagine the horror of a mis-sewn and then mis-cut steek!

Regarding your fabulous interview: I have to get my hands on this book!