Discovering Inspiration with Alice Starmore

Linda Ligon and Alice Starmore having fun after Interweave's very first Knitting Lab.

Interweave held its very first Knitting Event in San Mateo, California, in November 2011.

Editor's note: We invited Karin Strom, Editorial Director of Interweave's Yarn group to tell us about her recent adventure at Interweave's premier knitting event, the Knitting Lab.

Pinch me—I just spent three days with Alice Starmore. Yes, that Alice Starmore. The knitting legend joined us in San Mateo, California, for the recent Interweave Knitting Lab, where she presented a thoroughly inspiring keynote address. It was her first trip to the States in thirteen years. Alice traveled all the way from her home on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, to be our guest at the first-ever Interweave knitting event. After the event ended, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a few days exploring the Northern California coast with Alice and Linda Ligon, Interweave’s founder and PieceWork’s creative director.

Alice’s presentation at the lab was full of lush images from her island home, a rugged place where generations of her family have lived and where she learned to knit in the traditional style of the island. Everything about that environment, from the surrounding sea to rock outcroppings and native wildflowers, serves as a source of inspiration for her color and design work and her own yarn line. In addition to the traditional Fair Isle colorwork and Aran knitting most American knitters think of when they hear the name Alice Starmore, she has in recent years been pursuing photography, tapestry, and painting, as well as conservation of the island habitat that is so dear to her.

The beautiful California coastline where Karin Strom traveled with Alice Starmore, exploring the natural world as creative inspiration.

On our road trip up the California coast north of San Francisco, I got to witness firsthand just how Alice looks at things in nature. We made a special stop at Shell Beach in order to see the very beautiful blue schist that a geologist and knitter had told Alice about at the event. She deftly climbed onto a rocky ledge to study the very beautiful indigo rocks, which I would probably have walked right by. The next day we examined the teeming rainbow of aquatic activity in a tidal pool: beautifully textured bright green sea urchins and golden tentacled anemones paired with delicate pink kelp. By the end of those couple of days, I had an understanding of just how much nature informs Alice’s color combinations in her design work and yarn development. I know I’ll be thinking about my own color choices differently after that adventure!

I just wish I could have spent an extra couple of days with each of the instructors at Knitting Lab, many of them contributors to PieceWork: Nancy Bush, ethnic knitting expert extraordinaire; Robin Hansen, knitting folklorist and mitten maven; Carol Rhoades, expert on all knits Nordic and British; Susan Strawn, historian and raconteur. Just to name a few. Maybe next year . . .




Knitting Lab New England

October 4-7, 2012 at the Radisson Hotel Manchester, NH

Knitting Lab San Mateo, CA

November 1-4, 2012 back at the Marriott San Mateo, CA