Today we’ve got a special post with Ethnic Knitting Exploration author Donna Druchunas. I think she says it best on her site what the book is all about:
This is an unusual knitting book, because you’re an unusual knitter. These pages don’t contain lots of inspiring color photos because there’s heaps of inspiration at your favorite yarn shop or spinning wheel.
What you’ll find here is solid information on how to build three classic sweater shapes — raglan, circular yoke, and saddle-shoulder — in the yarn that’s caught your fancy. You’ll also discover ways to use color patterning, build an Aran-style design, and turn a pullover into a cardigan.
It also offers you three small projects that will help you build your independent-knitter skills quickly and easily before you launch into a sweater.
Donna is on a blog tour to promote the book, making stops at many fiberbloggers you know and love (like my friend Amy) all this month. I had the chance to ask her some questions about her book and its inspirations. So, here we go:
Donna says: “Wow, great questions! You’re making this hard for me. But thanks for being part of the blog tour for Ethnic Knitting Exploration. I really love to find out what people want to know about what goes on behind the scenes in the life of a knitting designer and author!”
What, to you, are the best and most enduring parts of classic knit design? I see from your post at The Hook And I that you enjoy pulling inspiration from both the past and current trends, but what is it about, say, a classic Irish Aran sweater that lands it in the “classic” column?
I guess there are two things that make me consider something classic:
1) The design stands the test of time. I still wear many of the sweaters my grandmother made before I was born and when I was a child, and they don’t look out of place. The lines and shapes are simple, the fit is not too loose and oversized and not too tight. I guess there’s just nothing *extreme* about the designs, nothing trendy or tied to the fashions of the day. You never know in advance, I suppose, what will *become* classic. Coco Channel’s designs were probably considered avant garde when they were new — and now they are definitely classics! I try to knit a mixture of classic designs and fun/funky things for myself. I don’t think one is better than the other, but if you make everything that is trendy, you won’t have any sweaters that you can wear for the rest of your life. You’ll always be needing something new. For me, that’s not ideal. For some knitters, it may be just perfect.
2) The garment shape, stitches, and/or colors were used historically in clothing that was made in an area before fashion magazines and printed knitting patterns made styles more homogenous. I think of these pieces as knitted folk art.
Why Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland? All seem to have very different knitting traditions — is there a common thread for you?
Like the things in my house, the main theme is just “things I like”! Not very logical. But there you have it. I like Aran knitting because my grandmother made tons of “Irish Pattern” sweaters when I was a kid. I love Lithuania because I am Lithuanian and I’ve visited the country and it’s all tied to my roots. I love the Icelandic sweaters because of the construction — I love making the yoke where it gets smaller and smaller as you go, and the knitting goes faster and faster, and suddenly you’re done! And then, no seams to sew up! (OK, a few sts to seam or graft at the underarms.)
What ties the book together thematically, is that all of the sweater shapes I included focus on fit refinements in the shoulder area: raglan, yoke, and saddle shoulder sweater all have modifications to the yoke area that changes the fit from that of a boxy drop-shoulder sweater.
Do you have a favorite design in the book? (And don’t say no. If forced at gunpoint, you could definitely pick one, right?) Why that one? What appeals to you most?
Yep, the Arans. I can’t help it. I love, love, love Aran sweaters. My grandmother got me addicted, and since I started knitting again in the 90s, I have been buying books on Aran knitting, studying the patterns, reading about the history. Everything about it just appeals to me. I’m also addicted to lace now, too, but the history of it just doesn’t grab me like the stories about cable knitting in Ireland. I don’t think anyone can have too many Aran sweaters! I have at least a half dozen. And I have yarn in my stash for that many — or more — queued up to make!
Where do you get most of your day to day knitting ideas from? (Non-knitting related) photos, TV, walking down the street?
Everything. I am always writing down ideas. I have a special “idea notebook” where I keep track of all the ideas I have, so I don’t forget about the next great idea! Most of them will probably never get any further than being notes in a pad, but the others are there for me to recapture when I have time to start something new. Starting a project is my absolute favorite part. I love when something is finished, but actually finishing it is hard work! Starting a new idea is full of possibilities and the chance of adventure. It’s like a game. After a while, it becomes real, concrete, and then it is work. I love my work. But I love my play more. So, I just get ideas from everything. Sometimes they come so fast it makes me crazy. I guess I’m a little manic. That’s why I started the idea book. So I could spend 5 or 10 minutes capturing an idea without having to start yet another big project and overload myself. Moderation is something I struggle with all the time.
When was the last time a new design came to you LIKE THAT…you know, fully formed, just have to write it down, it all makes sense, etc?
Most of my designs come to me that way. Mostly the yarn talks to me. But sometimes I start with a stitch pattern or a garment shape. Maybe that’s why I’m not a great designer. If it doesn’t fall into place, I get irritated and quit working on it. I read about some of the designers I really admire reworking designs over and over again until they get all of the details just right and that is SO not me. I like to try new things, test them out, and then move on to something else! Maybe I’m just lucky or lazy. My book ideas are the same way. Of all the books I’ve published, the idea has come to me more-or-less fully formed, with a table of contents outlined in my head. I write it down almost like I am taking dictation, as I capture the ideas flowing out of my subconscious mind. There’s one book I started that wasn’t like that and I haven’t been able to write it. It just hasn’t taken shape. I may come back to it someday. I don’t know. But I don’t really enjoy struggling with bringing ideas to life. I like the ones that just pop out of nowhere.
How does your new book differ from your last one? (Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes)?
Mainly it’s the garment shapes. The first book focuses on drop shoulder sweater. The second book focuses on more complex sweater shapes. Also, the first book has a lot of information for those who have never done circular knitting before. The second book has more tips for those who have done circular knitting and for those who may have designed a few of their own sweaters, and who want to go further to learn some new techniques and to work on more complex creations.
What’s it like working with a smaller publisher like Nomad on these books compared to, say, a larger publisher such as Martingale (who published Kitty Knits)? Do you feel a sense of greater control, the ability to go into more excruciating detail (of the kind we knitters love so much)? What?
I love working with Nomad Press and with Martingale but the two are very different. I don’t think Martingale is a big publisher, however. I think they are a small to mid-sized publisher, in the greater scheme of things. Martingale is totally organized and great to work with. Everything goes on schedule, the people are wonderful, and if you do your work as an author, there is no pressure or stress added to that from the publishing process. Some other larger publishers that I’ve worked with in the past have been terribly disorganized, probably because everyone was overworked or because of corporate takeovers and reorganizations. That can make life hellish for an author. Nomad is also great to work with. Sometimes things are not as organized as I’d like, but because I know it’s a small, boutique publisher, and because I know everyone who works there personally, and because I love that someone is putting out the kind of books about historical knitting that I love and that so many other publishers would run away from, I’m OK with the process. It’s less linear than working with a larger publisher, but I also have much more input on the title of the book, the cover, the marketing plans, the illustrations and photos, and most of the editorial process. Someday I’d like to publish a book with a huge NY publisher just for the experience. I imagine it probably sucks but …. for now I’m sticking with the publishers that I know and love, and who know and love my work. I’ve got future books lined up with both Nomad Press and Martingale & Co., and I have no regrets about working with either of these houses.
Thanks again for being part of the blog tour and for asking such interesting questions.