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A Day With Alice Starmore

Jan 12, 2009

Note from Sandi: First of all, I didn't spend a day with Alice Starmore--but Jeane Hutchins, the editor of PieceWork magazine, did! And since the new January/February 2009 issue of PieceWork contains a lovely new pattern by this legendary designer, I asked Jeane to tell us all about the day she spent interviewing her. Heeeeeeeerrrrree's Jeane!


Imagine: It’s a lovely mild evening, you are in a really swell house perched on a hilltop in Sonoma, California, the comet Hale-Bopp is literally visible outside the windows, and you’re talking to…(drum roll, please!)…Alice Starmore. Well, that was me in 1997, and I have to say that the event ranks at the top of my “I Am So Lucky” list.

The occasion was in a previous life before I landed my dream job as editor of PieceWork, and I was on assignment for Interweave Knits. When the editor contacted me to ask if I would interview Alice while she was on a cross-country tour, I said, “Are you kidding me? Of course I will!” I fell in love with the first Alice Starmore sweater I saw and have been a fan of hers since.

So, the setting was amazing, the conversation was amazing, and a planned one-hour interview morphed into three-plus hours.
Of course we talked about Alice’s knitting—her mother, who was a dressmaker and knitter, taught her to knit by the age of three. In response to a question about the sources for her designs, she said, “I find inspiration in the most unlikely places; I don’t have a favorite, but my most-often-used resource is the sea.” Not surprising, since Alice was born and raised in a Scottish fishing community. Much of our conversation centered on the traditions behind Aran knitting: “Despite the fact that the Aran sweater was not seen until the twentieth century, there has been no shortage of writers claiming that it dates back to ‘the Deluge’.” Alice spent time in the Aran Islands trying to unravel the conflicting stories about the origins of Aran knitting, and she also studied the collection of Aran garments in the National Museum in Dublin in detail.

Alice and I also discussed numerous other subjects: the importance of color in all aspects of life, the magic and mystery of the comet streaking across the sky, rock-and-roll music (we are both fans), and shoes. Alice Starmore has the most amazing shoes!

Needless to say, working with Alice for PieceWork’s January/February 2009 issue was such a pleasure. Her “Capillifolium Baby Bonnet to Knit,” shown here, is a stellar example of her work combining designs and colors from nature (the botanical name for the sphagnum mosses prevalent on Alice’s Isle of Lewis in Scotland is Sphagnum capillifolium) into a wee cap fit for a royal baby. 

I do hope you’ll check out Alice’s baby bonnet and the other goodies in this issue—it’s PieceWork’s third annual special issue on historical knitting!

-- Jeane Hutchins
Editor, PieceWork magazine


Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I finished it! I finished my mom's Leaf and Nupp Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush--but alas, not in time for it to go under her Christmas tree. This weekend when the snow clears, I will take a few zillion photos and then I will mail it off to her. I'll only keep it for a little while longer, Mom...



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NCAAM wrote
on Jul 31, 2011 12:30 PM

Absolutely love the baby bonnet.

Checked on ravelry forurm for this pattern, would love a copy.

Any ideas if it'll ever be available for purchase as a single pdf pattern?

Deanna wrote
on Jan 13, 2009 4:23 PM
I'm not sure where else to go to ask this question so I'm kind of butting in on this blog. I am trying to get a copy of the book Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush. It was to be a Christmas gift to me but says it is not in stock. We wish to buy from a Canadian source. Is anyone else having problems getting the book? Is there a problem with the publisher? Help, please! Deanna
MargaretE wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 8:26 PM
OK, you got me! I was a charter subscriber to Piecework, but after not having time to read every issue I let it slip for awhile... always meaning to re-subscribe in that mythical future when I had more time. But Alice Starmore! One of my heroes! And the hat is too beautiful to miss. So I just re-upped. Thank you for the inspriation!
DeannaL wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 2:10 PM
I am not experienced enough as a knitter to be able to adjust this pattern to fit an adult. Please consider doing so!
KrupkaM wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 1:59 PM
Wow! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall! It sounds like you had a wonderful time. I've always thought that fiber people are the best! (That means all of us, famous or no.) I love the wee baby bonnet. But why just baby size? Seems to me that it would make a great adult hat! I don't know about the rest of the country, but here in Central New York, ears need to be covered too! Wind Chill here is absolutely bone chilling! Hmmmm- Perhaps if it is knit in DK or Chunky wool? Best Wishes for a Happy New Year! Mary Ann K
CarolW@2 wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 1:53 PM
Lovely hat. Hope to try it.
LeslieB wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 1:41 PM
What a treat and thanks for sharing it with us.
SharonR wrote
on Jan 12, 2009 1:39 PM
What... no pics of the shoes?