I take my Mary Tudor sweater with me whenever I know I'll be talking about Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously
. It's like a woolly albatross. It's a fine albatross to have, mind you. For instance, it doesn't require frequent feedings of live fish and it won't complain when shoved in a bag.
According to my unscientific survey, the bulk of people who spy the sweater in person preface any comment with "I could never do that."
There's a much, much smaller set of knitters who see the sweater and sniff that they've made four Mary Tudors already as well as a dozen other Starmore designs. Good for them, I say. They are the knitters who understand the compulsion.
To the never-do-that knitters, my answer is always the same: if you know how to knit and purl, you totally can do this. There are tutorials online for two-handed knitting here and also here. Or you can stick with carrying your yarn in one hand and switching back and forth, which takes longer but doesn't require learning a new skill. Whatever works.
The better question is whether or not you want to knit a complicated Fair Isle sweater. If it's your first go with one, it will take about — again, unscientific estimate — a bazillion times longer than you thought. Don't let that stop you. To paraphrase the great Elizabeth Zimmermann, if you already like knitting, this type of project simply means that you get to do more of it. If you like finishing as many projects as you can before you die, perhaps you should stick to washcloths and coin purses.
But it feels good to work on a project that is well out of your comfort zone, even if you don't manage to finish it. What is the worst that will happen? Even if it all goes horribly, horribly wrong, no one will die. In the most tragic scenario, you start with a pile of yarn and you end with a pile of yarn, which you can then use to make something that doesn't make you crazy. An acceptable risk, certainly.
If you should feel the urge to make your own Starmore, her website sells kits for some of her patterns. Dover Press just reprinted her Book of Fair Isle Knitting. Copies of The Celtic Collection are still kicking around.
But she's not the only Fair Isle designer. Fiona Ellis's Inspired Fair Isle Knits will leave you, well, inspired. As will Wendy Keele's Poems of Color and Ann Bourgeois's Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified.
I promise that with enough patience, you can totally knit your own albatross. If you want to.