27 Mar 2009

Episode 77: Personal Best

It’s the largest, grandest, most popular, and most renowned thing ever, though it’s not always considered a success. But it’s big. It’s the Magnum Opus.

Adrienne Martini blogs at MartiniMade, where you can see her recently completed Mary Tudor sweater. Her first book, Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood was published by Free Press last August. Adrienne has written about the process of knitting the Mary Tudor sweater, and its controversial designer, in her new book, Sweater Quest, scheduled for publication in March 2010.

Alice Starmore’s wonderful patterns and equally wonderful writing can be found on her website, Virtual Yarns. Unsurprisingly, the Oregon Cardigan, calls to me, and is one of my favorite of Alice Starmore’s designs.

The rest of the Starmore Saga can be pieced together with a little help from Google. Or, you can save yourself a heck of a lot of time, and wait for Adrienne’s book.

Many thanks to the friends and colleagues who generously shared their time, as well their personal Magna Opera; Shannon Okey, Heather Ordover, Annie Modesett, Amy Singer, Sage Tyrtle, and Cat Bordi.

The Koigu wrap I talked about in the podcast has been identified, thanks to Honda! It’s the Colourflow Wrap, designed by Christa Giles. If her name sounds familiar it’s because Crista is also the host of the podcast ChristaKnits, and it was she designed who the little pink “iKnit to Cast On” buttons. Props to Crista for a really simple, yet thoroughly inventive design.

KniTunes were provided by and used with the permission of:

Additional music Invisible Wings, by Jami Seiber, from her cd Lush Mechanique, courtesy of Magnatune.com



  1. I am desperately knitting on a baby blanket for a shower tomorrow and this podcast was the exact thing I needed to complete those last 20 rows, yes!!

    Posted on 3.27.09 ·
  2. Thanks for a wonderful series Brenda. I’ve really enjoyed the combination of alchemy and knitting and life.
    In case you, or your readers, are interested in more about alchemy in a historical setting, I highly recommend Neal Stephenson’s trilogy of books “The Baroque Cycle”. Alchemy and alchemists play a major role in these stories, including Sir Isaac Newton himself.

    Looking forward to the next series!

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  3. Kate wrote:

    Yay, Brenda! Thank you for sharing these podcasts with us. I really value your insights and company during the day. The brain wave podcast keeps coming up in my mind and I shared it with my husband. Just wanted to say thanks, and I look forward to upcoming podcasts.

    PS Love the minion idea for getting help with music and reviews.

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  4. Nicole wrote:

    You should definitely knit an Oregon cardi/vest! It’s not that hard to do, and oh so enjoyable. Here’s a link to mine. I get compliments every time I wear it:


    Great podcast, as always. I hope someone figures out where you read about that Koigu shawl. I would LOVE to see that!

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  5. sally webster wrote:

    Superb show Brenda. Loved the last one. Have played it several times. This new one definately falls into the same catagory.

    Could you maybe help me with short story site that the guy recommended? Can’t quite catch what he’s saying. Many thanks

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  6. Audrey wrote:

    Thank you for finally talking about Alice Starmore. I was wondering why information about her was so sparse. I only recently discovered her work and acquired two of her books, one for a substantial amount of money, only to discover a few weeks later that her “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” would be re-released in paperback form in a few months and available on Amazon for less than $20! I paid $100 for the original hard cover copy on eBay. Oh well, the sweaters are still amazing and I will in my lifetime knit some of them, I just know it! Her genius has literally made my creative brain explode.

    As for your birch sap situation, I would say to persevere. I live in the province of Quebec, Canada where maple sap is flowing down the streets as we speak. I’ve never tasted birch sap, but maple sap is the same consistency as water and the sweetness of the taste is very subtle. Only the boiling process concentrates the taste by evaporating most of the water and keeping the sugar of the sap. The more water you evaporate, the sweeter and thicker your sap becomes.

    Hope you are enjoying a glorious Spring 🙂

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  7. Sally, the storytelling site mentioned in the podcast was The Moth. Back episodes are available through Audible.com. It’s also a free weekly podcast, available through iTunes, and The Moth website. It’s one of my favorites.

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  8. marri wrote:

    brenda, you’ve outdone yourself! what a wonderful podcast – a conversation about alice starmore, notes from annie modesitt. how wonderful. can’t wait to hear what’s in store for the next series!

    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  9. Betsey wrote:

    Is this the shawl you were looking for?


    Posted on 3.28.09 ·
  10. Sasha wrote:

    Thanks B! Thoroughly enjoyed the episode and am inspired to tackle many magnificent and giant life projects so I have many contenders in the Magnum Opus stakes 🙂
    Alos, listening to this episode I realised something about -how- I listen to your episodes – Tempting as it is to gobble up the episode greedily by fast forwarding through the music, particularly those types of songs I wouldn’t normally have on my own player, I always resist the temptation and listen to the episode in its entirity. Partly because I respect that you’ve spent a good time chosing those songs carefully and with purpose, and also because sure enough, 60 seconds or so into the track I’m there with you taking the journey through the episode – it’s not just the words that make the podcast, it’s the segway songs too that put the listener in the same place you are in as the podcaster, and we all take the journey together. And I like that 🙂
    The other bonus is that I experience things I normally would not chose to and end up enjoying them very much! For example, the “stay until I fall asleep song” – loved it!
    Thanks again – have a sensational evening 🙂

    Posted on 3.29.09 ·
  11. Laia wrote:

    Loved listening to the new podcast. The music was amazing as always (I especially loved the closing song). I’m going to miss hearing your voice for the next month.

    I’m also going to go peruse my knitting book collection and put together a review. I’d absolutely LOVE to do this. And I’m a grad student (in Corvallis at OSU) so getting new books that without money would be great.

    Posted on 3.29.09 ·
  12. Susan wrote:

    Hi, Brenda. I was also thinking that you had just scratched the surface of what alchemy has to teach us, so I am very glad that you will continue to slip it into future episodes.

    On the same day I downloaded this episode, I also downloaded the most recent episode of a Wisconsin Public Radio program titled Here on Earth. It’s a great broadcast (and a great podcast). Fridays are for all things gustatory, and the topic was Maple Syrup. You might glean some helpful information for your birch sap endeavors there.

    Posted on 3.29.09 ·
  13. Great podcast. I haven’t listened for a while and have missed it.

    I had a bizarre moment during this week’s episode. As I was listening, I was also looking up some material for a class I’m presenting tomorrow. It involves energy work with the amygdala. As I was reading through my handout and noting to myself how to pronounce the word, your pronunciation guy was saying “amygdala”. It made no sense for a moment as I hadn’t heard last week’s episode and couldn’t imagine what amygdala had to do with knitting. I thought it must my computer’s speech program kicking in. Talk about synchronicity!

    Posted on 3.29.09 ·
  14. In VT this weekend sugar houses all over the state hosted open houses and tastings. And yes, maple sap tastes pretty much like water!
    I’ve combined some stats I picked up with my own wine making experience and here’s my best suggestion for the birch sap wine. There’s math involved, and I’m making a major assumption that maple syrup has about the same amount of sugar pound for pound as honey. The maple wine I’m making using this assumption hasn’t been bottled yet, so I can’t tell you if it worked!
    It takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup. Maple sap is 2-3% sugar while maple syrup is 66% sugar. For wine must (the liquid that you ferment into wine) you want about a 12 PA (potential alcohol) which is about 22% sugar. If you have maple syrup lying around you could get this by mixing 3 cups of syrup into 1 gallon of water. If you’re dealing with fresh maple sap there’s no point in boiling all the way down to syrup only to dilute it back again. This is where the math comes in. If 40 cups of sap will give you 1 cup of syrup then you need 120 cups of sap to give 3 cups of syrup. Just don’t boil it all the way down. Boil 120 cups of sap (7.5 gallons) down to 1 gallon and add the wine yeast. The boiling down could probably be done in an afternoon – I recommend doing it outside if you can, otherwise open your windows so you don’t cause wallpaper to peel with all that steam!
    The trickiest part here is that I don’t know if birch sap contains the same amount of sugar as maple sap.

    Posted on 3.30.09 ·
  15. Laurie May wrote:

    I laughed out loud in my car on the way to work this morning when I heard you correct the pronunciation of amygdala. The only reason I knew the correct pronunciation (and note that I was NOT one who felt the need to correct you :)) is that my daughter is in medical school and, somewhat frighteningly, some of the professors have a band that has Amygdala in its name. Talk about nerds!

    Thanks for including my audio submission on _Infidel_ – that was a nice surprise!

    Posted on 3.30.09 ·
  16. Another great episode!

    Is this this the koigu shawl?

    Posted on 3.30.09 ·
  17. Renee wrote:

    One of the best ‘casts evah! Loved the Starmore segment — what paradoxes humans are, and I didn’t know what the whole brou-haha was about, now I have a glimmer. And the magnum opus segment was interesting as well – will have to think about it. And I never knew opera was related to opus – my bad!

    Posted on 3.31.09 ·
  18. zknitz wrote:

    I just recently started listening to your podcasts- they are fabulous (yes I have gone back and downloaded them all). But this last one was really inspirational- thanks so much for continuing to put out such inspirational work.

    Posted on 3.31.09 ·
  19. Tracy wrote:

    Hello, Brenda! I’ve been a listener since the very beginning and love all your shows. This episode was such fun! I look forward very much to series 8. I am an American living in Norway, where the knitting tradition is very much alive and well…But I’m still learning how to decipher knitting patterns in Norwegian! Your podcasts bring me so many delights–knit talk, great music, life musings…and all in English! Thank you for the great gifts of yourself you share. Best Wishes :o)

    Posted on 3.31.09 ·
  20. Annette wrote:

    Just wanted to thank you, Brenda, for this wonderful series. So much to think about!

    Posted on 3.31.09 ·
  21. Kelsey wrote:

    Hey Brenda,
    Listened to the episode yesterday and I can’t stop thinking about it! So inspiring. I think I’ll listen again.

    I loved the alchemy theme of this series and I’m glad to hear that it may crop up again in future podcasts. The mini episodes sound like fun and I’m looking forward to them!

    I loved this series. I think it’s my favorite and maybe I’ll listen to the whole thing again while I’m anxiously waiting for the next one.

    Posted on 4.1.09 ·
  22. Gaidig wrote:

    I can completely understand the appeal of the combination of acid green and plum. I have a beautiful piece of Atlantisite with the same color combination just waiting for me to make jewelry out of it.

    Posted on 4.1.09 ·
  23. Adrienne wrote:

    Gaidig — should you make a piece of jewelry out of it, I’d be thrilled to see it. I had no idea that Atlantisite existed and am now smitten.

    Posted on 4.2.09 ·
  24. Erin wrote:

    Another way to find references to yourself or messages addressing you on Twitter (in case people don’t start the tweet with ‘@knitsib’) is using Twitter search: http://search.twitter.com. 🙂

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  25. Mary wrote:

    I love your podcast. I have loved it for quite some time. Your alchemy series had parts to it that were profoundly touching and I thank you for that.

    I wanted to share that I was a bit disturbed by the section with Adrienne Martini, AS, and copyright. There is much I could say, but I think I will leave it with: that converstation struck me rather badly.

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  26. Mary, Thank you for your kind words about the podcast. I am glad you enjoyed the recent series.

    I wish you would say more about what it was that you found disturbing about the Alice Starmore piece. I’m curious, and also a little puzzled, as I certainly didn’t set out with the intention of creating something that would disturb. If you’d like to comment further, you’re more than welcome to do so.

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  27. Sue wrote:

    Another fine series! This podcast has never failed to expand my thoughts and inspire me. I feel that our own magnum opus may not be what others would attribute as our greatest. We shouldn’t label own greatest work, instead striving for a better one should always be our quest. We shouldn’t settle for one. What you label as your magnum opus may not be what I think is yours. I believe that this podcast is to me, your magnum opus. To me it is a ‘greatest work’!

    Posted on 4.3.09 ·
  28. Mary wrote:

    Hi Brenda,
    Oh dear, no, I think the world of your podcast, your fine work, and you’re insightfulness. Re: the Alice Starmore piece, I wanted to respond to you and speak to my reactions as it seems I was a bit too vague, but I haven’t time to go back and listening again, so please take these comments as representative of the impression it left me with.

    When your guest was going on and on about Alice Starmore’s quest to have copyright on her materials honored, faulting her at length for it, and then stating that people should give things away for free because then they would get 10 fold back… oiy. Goodness. What a particular set of belief systems at work there! You did, if I remember, query your guest on this point. And I was with you on that. But she didn’t really clarify or situate her comments. And if I remember, you fairly soon after turned the interview toward another area of discussion.

    Why did it leave me disturbed?
    I watch the world give things, even their lives, for Western and particularly American consumption… It saddens me. I watch farmers give so generously to the people around them while they struggle to stay afloat. It seems that there is this attitude in America among the urban middle class that demands other people pay for things either with their time, their labor, or their own pocket book, and give for free or for cheap. Have the big corporations taught consumers this (where nothing from them is really free, people have paid for it somewhere down the line, but it sure looks like it is the generous 15% more free, free sample, free ipod with computer….hello? free?). I don’t know Alice Starmore per se, I don’t know the details about why your guest feels that she should have given more to the world, but the statements and principles behind them the statements… oiy. I hear that knitwear designers are having a heck of a time asking for copyright to be honored. I’ve seen it in action at the yarn shop I worked at. I know that your podcast isn’t “free” — that your immense generosity pays for much of it, I know ravelry isn’t “free.” Those of us who have jobs that pay us more than we need and are conscientious, we donate funds and support the fine sponsors (which is not hard. Long live briar rose and audible.com).

    Sorry. Is this making any sense? It is simply my reaction… and I suppose I should own up to my own ungracious thought of xeroxing your guest’s book and distributing it for free as that seems to be what she values most… them be some apples. So I am really no better. I was disturbed by the guest’s comments. This is by and large why.
    Thanks Brenda. I think you totally rock. Even when I don’t agree with you (which actually isn’t very often) I still respect and value what you have to say and am glad to have heard it. Most of the time I am profoundly touched by your insights. This guest I am sure has integrity and worthy thoughts…

    Posted on 4.5.09 ·
  29. Mary, I think I hear what you’re saying, there’s a lot going in what you wrote, but I will try to answer your concerns.

    First, any impression that you have received that my guest, Adrienne, thinks that copyright doesn’t matter, or shouldn’t exist, is entirely my fault, as the editor of the piece. I can assure you, she does not. We had a fairly extensive conversation on the topic which, due to the time constraints, had to be edited pretty severely. As it stands, it’s one of the longest interviews I’ve ever run in the podcast, and it could easily have taken up the entire program, as both of us had so much to say on the subject.

    The idea of giving work away for free, while at the same time realizing a profit isn’t some airy fairy “belief system”, but an actual business model that has been tried and tested by a number of noteworthy writers. It is an idea gaining in popularity. Fiction and non-fiction writers both have found that releasing an entire book online, for free, doesn’t hurt sales; it actually improves them. Adrienne wasn’t suggesting that knitwear designers, or anyone else, give away their work for free. She was just pointing to a couple of authors who’ve found that this business model has proved profitable, as it opens new audiences for their work.

    Neither was Adrienne suggesting that Starmore doesn’t have the right to protect her own copyright. There is a difference, however, between copyright, and trademark, and Alice Starmore acted as if the two were interchangeable. During the height of the controversy, when Alice Starmore’s own brand of yarn was discontinued, someone in a Yahoo group put together a list of yarn substitutions, so that knitters who couldn’t get Starmore yarn, could continue to work on their Starmore projects. I’m not certain whether Starmore claimed that her copyright was being violated by the group, or her trademark, but whatever she claimed worked. Yahoo received her complaint, and had little choice but to shut the group down.

    Starmore then went on to track ebay auctions, and shut down any that happened to use her name. So a listing for eight hanks of yarn in a heathery gray “similar to Alice Starmore Scottish Campion colour number blah blah” would appear, Starmore’s agents would find it, send out a cease and desist, and eBay would close the auction.

    And this is where is does get tricky. Because neither the myriad auctions for yarn, nor the list of yarn substitutions were actually violating copyright, or trademark. The yarns listings weren’t claiming the yarn WAS Starmore’s brand. They said it was “similar to”. Were people profiting from the use of her name? Absolutely. But there is nothing in the descriptive copy of the auctions, nor in a list of yarn substitutions that violates Starmore’s copyright, and her actions managed to alienate knitters, moreover, they were hugely detrimental to her brand. The bidders for the yarn auctions were knitters, just looking for yarn with which to knit her designs. Adrienne’s “marjoram issue”, discussed in the podcast, illustrates how difficult it can be to source these yarns, and getting the right colour is crucial with Starmore designs. So ultimately Starmore’s actions were only hurting the people she really ought to have been most concerned about – her fans.

    And these are just a few instances in what was quite a long campaign by Starmore to control the use of her name. Does she have a legal right to do that? Maybe. I’m not an expert in copyright right law or trademarks, but my understanding is that, in at many instances, she did not have the right. She made a lot of noise, and threatened legal action, and most people she threatened simply backed down.

    Does it suck to find out that people are profiting from the use of your name? Yeah, it kinda does. A few months ago a listener sent me a link to an eBay auction for an audio book I recorded a few years ago, and released via Librivox, into the public domain. I do understand completely how upsetting it is to find your name in an eBay listing; to see people profiting from work that you created. My knee jerk reaction was to write the perpetrator immediately and ask them to remove the listing. Then I complained loudly in the Librivox forums, and asked that my book removed from their lists, pronto. I came to understand over the course of that Librivox conversation that the people selling the book weren’t actually doing anything wrong. The work is in the public domain, I can’t take it back, and people are free to do make copies and distribute it as they see fit. It’s a done deal. There’s nothing stopping me from making copies of the work and selling it myself. Anyone is free to do that.

    Once I calmed down I realized that it was actually quite flattering to have my audio book selected as one of the few Librivox titles the seller offers on ebay. I wrote the ebay seller again, apologized for freaking out, and got a very nice email in reply. They’re not a huge operation, just a guy and his wife, burning classic audio books to cd, for people who don’t have a computer, and can’t download them. Yes, they are making a small profit on the sales. I could ask that they remove my name from their listing, and the cds themselves, but why bother? It’s out there. They’re nice people. They even offered to send a copy of the cds to me, and I opted instead to have them mailed to my parents.

    My point, I guess, is that we all makes choices, and these choices dictate our behavior, and sending out letters or threatening legal action is one way to go. Or, you know, you can take a step backwards and see yourself as the insignificant speck, on a great big planet, swirling through the infinite cosmos that you are, and get over yourself.

    The Starmore saga, and Adrienne’s book about it, and the process of knitting one of Alice Starmore’s amazing designs, and the woman, herself, are all full of complexities. I’ve always been fascinated by the story, and the woman, and I’m a huge fan of her design work, and her writing, which is why I decided to talk about her in the podcast. If the story left you with gaps in understanding, that’s entirely my fault. Perhaps I shouldn’t have attempted to tell such a complicated story in such a short amount of time. But if you want to know more, of course, you can always read Adrienne’s book when it comes out next year. It promises to be one heck of a story.

    Posted on 4.6.09 ·
  30. AnnP wrote:

    So much to think about in episode 77! You really seem to have hit your stride with series 7 and your hints at what’s to come are intriguing. You will be amused to hear that I woke up with your pronunciation guy in my head saying “amygdala, amygdala”.

    Posted on 4.7.09 ·
  31. Martha wrote:

    More than 20 years ago we traveled Scotland in a rental car with three little girls in the back seat. When we weren’t encouraging them to look for sheep (which, thankfully, were on every hillside!), we had them watch for the Loch Ness monster. They didn’t see it. But,when my husband and I saw a couple big tour buses turn into a winery, we knew it was time to stretch our legs and try Prince Albert’s favorite… Birch Sap Wine!

    The wine must have improved, it gets a good review in the article linked below! We MUCH preferred the mead. 🙂

    Brenda, thank you for your podcasts. I am a “contemplative crocheter” and loved #76! It will be very helpful in reviving a local prayer shawl ministry.


    Posted on 4.8.09 ·
  32. JennJustJenn wrote:

    Brenda, you’ve done it again. It appears to me that somehow, across an ocean and half a continent, you have managed to sense exactly what I needed and provide it post haste: on the very day that this podcast went up, my partner found the only available copy of Alice Starmore’s Aran Knitting in my city’s library system and surprised me with it.

    The happy coincidence (?) of these two events has given me much-needed inspiration needed to tackle a project of which I didn’t think myself quite worthy (the St. Brigid pullover). Inspiration can be difficult to find after a long Canadian winter and I really appreciate the nudge, however you did it!

    Love, love LOVE your podcasts. Thank you so very much.


    Posted on 4.9.09 ·
  33. I am a cafe owner in Baltimore, and really appreciate the times i can get away to Wales and think about knitting. Your series on alchemy has bedazzled my world, and have had a great time contemplating Magn Opus. Thank you for what you do. I will support audible, as i have in the past. Can’t wait for the next series, and put a photo of the outdoors to cheer our welsh-travel desires!

    Posted on 4.11.09 ·
  34. mara wrote:

    hi brenda, thank you so much for another podcast!!! i am knitting my second clapotis with ebay-half-priced-rowan wool cotton- and really enjoying listening to you! have a good night+ greetings from germany, mara

    Posted on 4.12.09 ·
  35. Mary wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    Stopping back to say thank you for your long response. I hear you. I don’t agree with everything you say, but I hear you and find it interesting.

    Posted on 4.13.09 ·
  36. KP wrote:

    Hello Brenda! I absolutely loved the episode, but then again, I often do. I am a fairly new listener who is still working her way back through the whole series, but I am keeping up with all the new stuff. Your piece about Alice Starmore really struck me for a couple of reasons. First of all because I love the designer and my art teacher (who is lucky enough to own three or four Starmore books!) hinted that there was something shady that caused a great deal of drama due to her work. She was also the one to tell me that her books were out of print. I was also struck because you accidentally validated a purchase I made over my Christmas break. I am a college student with very little spare money. However, due to the fact I had a birthday coming up I went into the knitting section of my Borders back home to get some gift ideas. In my perusal, guess what I stumbled upon? Alice Starmore’s Fisherman’s Sweaters! I could hardly believe my luck because I knew she was out of print. The reason your podcast validated my purchase even beyond that fact is because I thought the price was high for me. However, after listening to the last episode I now realize that $26.95 is beyond a steal and the book is full of drool worthy patterns. So, a double thank you for dipping into the story and making me feel oh-so-clever for spotting that book. The only other think I wanted to ask was about the book review positions you mentioned. Can I apply even if I am in the states, and what kind of things are you looking for in a review? I think I have a pretty good idea since I have listened to multiple reviews over the episodes, but if there is anything specific, I would really like to know. Sorry for the novel of a comment, and I hope your life fairs well in Wales.

    Posted on 4.13.09 ·
  37. Jill wrote:

    Hi Brenda,
    I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts – they are so insightful! I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the stitch pattern you talked about in this episode – the one where you slip stitches with the yarn in front to make a fabric that doesn’t curl as much… I’d like to try it. Thanks again for a great podcast; I always look forward to them!

    Posted on 4.20.09 ·
  38. Monica wrote:

    Hiya Brenda! Your podcast made me search, once again, the interwebs for some sign of an affordable copy of Tudor Roses. There’s one for $177US available from somewhere, but my piddling Aussie dollar just ain’t gonna stretch that far LOL. *sigh*… oh the tragedy.

    I was quite intrigued by the plural of opus… opera? SO cool! This was discussed with much excitement the other evening at my place with a friend who is a professional opera singer. Hehe! I do so love nifty trivia like that 🙂

    Posted on 4.21.09 ·
  39. It figures that the shawl you were looking for is from “Three Bags Full” in Vancouver, B.C., Canada! I was just there 6 weeks ago…. It’s a long way to go just to see some yarn (I’m from New Zealand), but it was worth it! What a fabulous shawl! It’s a great shop. They stayed open a little late for me when my mother & the in-laws didn’t get me to the store with enough time to shop properly! It makes me want to give this shawl a go and I’m not even into shawls! 😉

    Posted on 4.21.09 ·
  40. Devi wrote:

    This last podcast really has had me thinking for weeks about how you really determine what my magnum opus would be. I was first introduced to knitting when I was living in Iceland over a decade ago. I remember the first time I saw a Norwegian style cardigan my host grandmother had made. I just couldn’t believe that it was handmade! So one day she came over to show me that indeed it was handmade. I was mesmerized. So she gave me to needles and some yarn and a new knitter was born. I’ve never done a Norwegian sweater. More than a decade has passed and I just knit my first successful sweater. So I know I’m in no position YET to knit that Norwegian. There was one thing that kept coming back to me when I was listening to the podcast and then thinking about it later. Maybe the magnum opus isn’t solely the project itself, but all the work and skills we gather along the way that prepare us for it. Each project, each stitch bring us closer to mastery of the craft.
    It also might just be the next challenge we’re all striving for. It would be sad if there were just on magnum opus in one’s life. I like to think that each project I work on is bringing me closer to that Norwegian sweater. I might never knit it, but the idea that I’ll eventually be skilled enough to do it is all I can really hope for now.

    P.S. I’m the guy who called and recommended The Moth podcast, but um… my bust size would indicated I am

    Posted on 4.22.09 ·
  41. Sara wrote:

    I’ve been listening to the podcast on the way in to work and had to look up Alice Starmore as soon as I got in. I only knew about her in a gansey context. I haven’t heard the whole article yet, but I’ve found her website http://www.virtualyarns.com – I hadn’t realised she was still selling, so that takes the pressure off me a bit as I can’t resist discontinued yarn or the challenge of finding it! Also, and perhaps more importantly- Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting has been reprinted as a paperback and is available on Amazon as a pre-order for August – for £15.10 and free postage!!!!

    Posted on 4.24.09 ·
  42. Mary L. wrote:

    Brenda, thank you for responding at length to (the other) Mary. I too was left with a bad taste in my mouth for a variety of reasons about the Alice Starmore conversation. This is what I needed to hear you say:
    “So ultimately Starmore’s actions were only hurting the people she really ought to have been most concerned about – her fans. ”
    Although I might amend that because it wasn’t just her fans, but her customer base.

    Posted on 5.1.09 ·
  43. This episode was the first podcast I’ve ever listened to. I listened to it a couple of weeks ago and now I am working thru all the episodes very happily. This episode meant so much to me. It is so comforting to know that there are other people in the world who think as I do. I loved the interview on the Alice Starmore “Sweater Quest” book…and I will be buying in when it comes out in March 2010.

    I loved the discussion about the Magnum Optus….a concept that I wasn’t really familiar with…I have a huge undertaking that hasn’t been very successful but has consumed my life for the past couple of years. I was on the verge of giving up because of my lack of success, but this podcast has allowed me to look at the endevour in a different way. I have been training my dog, Norton, in competitive obedience, and we are really struggling and sometimes we look pretty foolish. But we love working towards a goal even if is seems unlikely that we may attain it. Somehow this episode gave me the permission to continue to enjoy this process even though I may never be successful.

    And I love the song “9th Obsession”…it is the story of my life.

    I will forever be a faithful listener!

    Robin Clark
    Cincinnati, OH

    Posted on 5.13.09 ·
  44. Hi all of you.
    To those of you who enjoyed the last song on this excellent podcast (Wondermachines by Intercontinental Music Lab) we’ve just released a new, and entirely free album called Superheroes of Space. All of the tracks on it are about space, explorers and astral bodies. There are lots of styles of music on it so hopefully you’ll find something to enjoy (and learn in the process as we like to make our songs a little educational as well).
    You can download the album for free from

    All the best.


    Posted on 6.4.09 ·
  45. sadie horton wrote:

    Now that Sweater Quest is out I am wondering if the publisher will authorize an audiobook (I already checked for one on audible). I would love to have it to listen to while I knit!

    Posted on 3.28.10 ·
  46. Shannon wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I listened to this podcast years ago when you first released it and have been working back through recently as I’m desperate for things to listen to that will keep my attention. You see, I’m doing some work that, while important, is a bit of a slog. And it occurred to me that, in a way, this could very well be my magnum opus: digitizing a huge portion of print materials from my library (I say “a huge portion” because I will never digitize my library’s entire collection in my lifetime). And the truth is that, if I complete this work, it will be a huge accomplishment, one that I can point to with pride. So although I was just looking for entertainment while I’m tied to my scanner and computer, your podcast has given my work more meaning and helped me to recover my sense of pride in what I’m doing.

    Thank you so much, Brenda. This was exactly what I needed!


    Posted on 4.29.13 ·

Comments are closed.