Knitting the Internet Way

Jeanne Sager

Photo from Free Press
Technically, Adrienne Martini learned to knit when she was a kid, but the author of the new memoir Sweater Quest, My Year of Knitting Dangerously devotes chunks of her story to the web's kniterati for a reason.

Without them, there would be no knitting -- dangerous or otherwise.

Martini spoke with The Stir about the revival of handicraft via the Internet and her year spent trying to knit one of famous knitwear designer Alice Starmore's sweaters -- the Mary Tudor.

Sweater Quest wasn't just an "I took a year and I did something books." You really talked about how the Internet has changed crafting.

That's kind of how I learned to knit, I mean really learned to knit. I learned as a kid and then proceeded to forget all about it. I found a lot of it online, because they have the video demonstrations where you can watch somebody actually doing it and rewind it as many times as you want without feeling like a fool!

Not like when you go to a knitting store to take a class?

Yes, and they show you once and you're supposed to get it and you're like, no, I'm just not getting it! laugh

What is the knitting community like online?

Mostly very supportive, but like anything else online if you're looking for a fight you can probably find one. Mostly people are broadly supportive of knitting in general just because it's such a strange thing to be doing.

How so?

There's solidarity in the fact that yes, we're weird, we knit. There's always dissention within any community that's more than three people. Actually I think even in a community of three people there's always someone who doesn't agree.

I love how you correlated it to trying to talk about breastfeeding online.

Right! Yeah, if you want a fight, you'll have no problem finding one about breastfeeding!

If someone wants to pick up knitting, where should they go first?

That's a good question. I know has a bunch of videos online. There's also the About Knitting sites. That's a good basic place.

Crazy people obviously are the ones who would take on a sweater like the Mary Tudor. What about going online and having all these crazy people you met helped you tackle this huge undertaking?

Adrienne Martini in her Mary Tudor.
Photo from MartiniMade
You feel you're not alone! You're not the only crazy person who thinks this is just a good way to spend time. And you have the support of people who have been there before. It's like anything else; it's really helpful to have the support of somebody has been down this path. While you may not have the same stumbling blocks as they do, they can say, "Well, I haven't done that, but I have done this." They'll say, "Well, yes, I can count to 357, but I made three sleeve holes or something stupid like that." You can just compare your really chowderheaded mistakes.

You live in Oneonta, NY, a big small town. Are there a lot of knitters there?

There are; we actually have one yarn shop. That's kind of been a focal point. When I moved here, because I wanted more knitters and I had a very small child -- when you have a very small child you're always looking for reasons to get out of the house -- so I convinced all of my other friends with very small children that one night a week or every other week we'd go meet at a coffee shop that had really good cookies and pastries without kids. The excuse was I would teach them to knit, but it was really for the coffee and pastries.

That was sort of the start of a knitting group, and it's since grown into oh, I don't know. At any given meeting we probably have a dozen people, but there are 30 to 40 on the mailing list.

What's the age range?

It's actually fairly vast. We have a 16-year-old who thinks we're all old, and we have oh, upwards into retirement and post-retirement age.

Between Friday Night Knitting Club and the stitch and bitch movement, handicrafts are becoming more mainstream. What's the response been in trying to share this with the different generations?

It seems to work fairly well because frequently it's the one thing we have in common. A 16-year-old doesn't think about the same things a 70-year-old does, and you have different takes on the world. The only time I've found when knitting wasn't enough was during the last presidential election. There were some words said that I don't think any of us could walk back at this point.

But usually handicrafts and the fact that you do handicrafts, you take them relatively seriously. It's not the cure for cancer, but you take it seriously enough. It's usually enough to overcome any age and cultural differences.

Want the book? Free Press is holding a Sweater Quest sweepstakes through April 30. The grand prize winner gets a book and a $250 gift certificate to their favorite knitting store; three finalists get $100 gift certificates and a book, and 20 people get a free book.

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