Tudor Roses: way more than knitting

February 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Books

Review by Renee Schmutz-Sowards, BCPL circulation specialist

I recently stumbled across a mesmerizing book that has had me in a bit of a conundrum over whether or not to review it. On one hand, this book has utterly captured my imagination; it’s intriguing, hauntingly beautiful, fascinating and has left me eager to share it with anyone and everyone.

So, why the internal debate?

Well, you see, it is basically a knitting manual. And I don’t knit. Actually, can’t knit. Or crochet. I know how to sew and embroider, but I just can’t figure out how to make sticks and strings make anything remotely wearable.

So how do I review a knitting manual? More to the point, why would I want to?

I decided to go ahead with this review because ultimately it ends up being so much more than a book of knitting patterns.

Tudor Roses is the collaborative work of Alice Starmore and her daughter, Jade Starmore, and is actually a revision of an earlier book, also called Tudor Roses, which featured knitwear designs for both men and women.

The authors decided to revise the book after reading a quote from 1483 in which a French spy reports that Edward IV “also left behind daughters, but they do not concern us.”

Alice and Jade Starmore were inspired by this to narrow their focus solely on the women who were considered of no concern but without whom there would not have existed a Tudor dynasty. They also updated several of the patterns and added some entirely new ones.

The book now features 14 knit designs, each inspired by women from the Tudor dynasty. Each section of this book features not only the patterns, but tells the story of the women who inspired it through “brief, fictional word-sketches” written by Jade Starmore.

Each section includes starkly elegant portraits of women wearing the knitwear. While the images are undeniably modern, feature plain backdrops, and simple hair and makeup, the photographer has managed to capture a real sense of the elegant, strong Tudor women who inspired these images and designs.

While my favorite sweater is the one inspired by Katherine Howard (an absolutely delightful fusion of historical and modern) my favorite moment in the book – yes, this book has moments, lots of them – was turning a page and seeing Anne Boleyn in pants and boots, looking daringly steampunk!

And in the next instant another small shock of realization: Pants suit her character and this artist captured that so subtly and with such sophistication that I am nearly jealous of her insight.

Anne Boleyn was, after all, a reformist.

I’ve found myself going thru the book, cover to cover, repeatedly. First to look at the stunning pictures, and again to read the beautifully concise history of the Tudor dynasty. And then again to look at the pictures, but this time slower and with more care, taking time to really examine the photos, to admire the sweaters and the jewelry. Taking time to see the inspiration these talented artists found in these flowers of history, these Tudor Roses.

If you would like to read Tudor Roses, you can check it out from Boyd County Public Library. Or reserve it through our catalog by clicking here.

Leigh Scaggs

About Leigh Scaggs

A long time supporter of digital emancipation and proclaimer of obfuscatory testaments, I have been a proud supporter of bits and bytes for nearly 20 years. With that much chronological highway behind me I'm cognizant enough of the fact that advancing age does kill brain cells and observant enough to notice that it's only killing the weak ones.

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