Everyone has a hero, for different reasons:
Blog about someone in the fibre crafts who truly inspires you. There are not too many guidelines for this, it’s really about introducing your readers to someone who they might not know who is an inspiration to you. It might be a family member or friend, a specific designer or writer, indie dyer or another blogger. If you are writing about a knitting designer and you have knitted some of their designs, don’t forget to show them off. Remember to get permission from the owner if you wish to use another person’s pictures.
I chose Alice Starmore as my hero, even though there are many other wonderful designers who are heroes. Its an odd choice, considering her history in the knitting world. But it is precisely what happened that makes her a flawed hero. Because it shows that she is just as human as any of us.
As you can see, I have taken a photo of some of her books. These book highlights a wide range of her talents: Aran, gansey, and Fair Isle. It is Fair Isle where she truly shines. If you looked at my first KCBW post, you will see one of her designs.
Her sense of color is so unique – I have never come across any other FI designers who come close. I haven’t seen anything where she talks about where her sense of color comes from, except that she is very much influenced by her surroundings. But that doesn’t quite explain it. There are many Fair Isle traditional patterns to be found in the Shetland Islands, where she comes from, and none of these are as distinct.
My theory is that somehow, she has a neurological condition, or is one of those people with a genetic mutation that affects the eye.
There is a certain neurological condition, that is called synesthesia. Basically, the simulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to an automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. This may mean seeing musical notes as a range of colors, or perceiving certain words as tastes. Its a really interesting field for researchers, particularly because it tells us so much about how the brain works. There are many famous people who have this – Vladimir Nabokov, Wassily Kandinsky (see how vivid his paintings are?), and Rimsky-Korsakov. Why not a knitwear designer?
My alternate theory has to do with what Samurai Knitter talked about in her post about color vision. Apparently, some people are more sensitive to colors. As she explains, it may be due to evolution of genes that affect color reception, where people can have four color receptors, instead of 3, in the retina. That means millions more color in perception. All very interesting.
Sheilavig Vest, designed by Alice Starmore
Now, I have ambivalent feelings about her, and one cannot avoid talking about her past history. If you do a google, you can find out what happened during the late 90s-early 2000s, when she had a dispute with a certain company, withdrew the rights to her design and broke the contract. This resulted in a sudden decline of Fair Isle knitting, and left many yarn stores that had invested heavily in carrying that company’s line of Shetland yarns in the lurch because they could no longer sell Starmore patterns. This really threw me for a loop, and left me feeling exasperated over the whole thing.
The popularity of Fair Isle knitting has never really recovered since then. . It’s now incredibly difficult to find a wide range of Jamieson’s or Jamieson & Smith shetland yarn; one has to go through mail order. Only now is it beginning to come back, especially as FI designs are now showing up on the fashion catwalks, and people realize that in days of fiscal austerity, it can be satisfying to buy several balls of color and spend a good while of time knitting a nice vest or cardigan, using a size 3.00 or 3.25mm needle, that can be worn as a layer with different sets of clothes.
I do admire her decision to make a go in setting up her own company, even though I somewhat disagree with how she runs it (only being able to buy her kits? What about those of us who have a large shetland yarn stash?).
And . . . what’s up with her gauge??? I can usually match her Fair Isle gauge. But Gansey? Yes, that means dropping down 2 sizes. To a size #0, often. That means poking holes into my finger and a weirdly-bent needle. Ouch. Here’s a picture of the vest that I had knitted for mother. This took me about a year, during which it was often the only thing I worked on. It seemed to take for-ev-er to knit up. I had been planning to make this for myself as well, but after I finished this, no más!
And, Aran? Eeep. I’m planning to knit St. Brigid, and according to swatches that I’ve done so far, I might be having issues with coming close to her gauge.
All of which, goes to show that Alice Starmore is in her own class. You may interpret this however you wish.
To see what others have written by their hero, do a Google for the tag listed below!