Sweater Quest

My Year of Knitting Dangerously

Sweater Quest

"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 so complicated to knit that its mere mention can hush a roomful of experienced knitters. Created by reclusive designer Alice Starmore, the Mary Tudor can be found only in a rare, out-of-print book of Fair Isle–style patterns, Tudor Roses, and requires a discontinued, irreplaceable yarn. The sweater, Martini explains, "is a knitter’s Mount Everest, our curse, and our compulsion. I want one more than I can begin to tell you."

And so she took on the challenge: one year, two needles, and countless knits and purls to conquer Mary Tudor while also taking care of her two kids, two cats, two jobs, and (thankfully) one husband—without unraveling in the process. Along the way, Adrienne investigates the tangled origins of the coveted pattern, inquires into the nature of artistic creation, and details her quest to buy supplies on the knitting black market. As she tries not to pull out her hair along with rows gone wrong, Martini gets guidance from some knitterati, who offer invaluable inspiration as she conquers her fear of Fair Isle. A wooly Julie and Julia, this epic yarn celebrates the profound joys of creating—and aspiring to—remarkable achievements.
  • Atria Books | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416597643 | 
  • March 2010
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Read an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Sweater Quest includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Adrienne Martini. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 



Some climb mountains when they are looking for a life challenge. Others, like Adrienne Martini, knit a complicated cardigan designed by a reclusive Scot named Alice Starmore. In Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously, Martini takes on Mary Tudor, a Fair Isle garment whose pattern is inspired by a lesser known sister of Henry VIII.

The challenge of Mary Tudor begins with sourcing an out-of-production yarn and out-of-print pattern book. Once she solves the acquisition hurdles, Martini settles down for some endless knitting, which leads to discussions with experts about everything from copyright in the Internet age to the healing properties of craft. Martini visits Toronto, the knitting capital of the Americas in order to talk to the Yarn Harlot Stephanie Pearl-McPhee who has the #1 blog in Canada. She also makes a pilgrimage to a yoga guru and a textile scholar.

Along the quest, Martini tries to uncover the heart of why knitters knit and what makes a Starmore sweate see more

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About the Author

Adrienne Martini
Photo Credit:

Adrienne Martini

Adrienne Martini, a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse, is an award-winning freelance writer and college teacher.  Author of Hillbilly Gothic, she lives in Oneonta, New York, with her husband, Scott, and children, Maddy and Cory.