Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and The Andes
by Donna Druchunas
Blog – Link.
Amazon – Link.
Last Friday in our CRAFT Pattern Podcast we gave you a taste for Ethnic Knitting Discovery, a new book by Donna Druchunas with a pattern featuring knit motifs of Norway to knit your own headband. Ethnic Knitting Discovery combines knitting history and techniques from the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the Andes, but is also a designer’s guide that frees you from relying on line-by-line patterns. You’ll finally learn how to start designing your own sweaters and knits with her helpful illustrations and charts. Personally, I’m always scared to rely on my math skills for knitting projects and this book has made me more confident about my skills. This book makes the whole process easier with her explanations. To me, Donna is the knitting historian of our time — introducing us to knitting stories of other lands, while giving us the foundation to grow our own knitting skills. To kick off the Ethnic Knitting Discovery Blog Book Tour, I got a chance to talk with Donna to find out more about Ethnic Knitting Discovery and more background about this fantastic book!
Nat: Please tell me more about your new book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery.
Donna: Ethnic Knitting Discovery is an introduction to the knitting styles and techniques from four regions: Denmark, The Netherlands, The Andes, and Norway. There’s an introduction that includes tips for making sweaters that fit and that introduces the basic techniques required for knitting circular sweaters. Each project chapter includes a techniques tutorial and small starter project, like a headband or scarf, to help newer knitters get their feet wet learning new techniques. There are also two sweater “recipes” in each chapter that walk readers step-by-step through the process of designing pullovers using the stitches and knitting skills used in these diverse parts of the world.
Nat: What kind of research did this book entail? How did you decide upon choosing which countries to cover in this book?
Donna: This book was an armchair travel book for me. Because I wanted to explore knitting techniques from four different parts of the world, I wasn’t able to travel to all of these areas. Instead, I amassed a collection of books about each region, focusing on knitting books. It’s amazing what’s been published that is now out of print. So many of the wonderful books that came out over the last few decades are now quite hard to find, and expensive when you do find them. I’m now best friends with the interlibrary loan staff at our public library.
For this book, I wanted to include traditions for making very simple sweaters, so I chose the areas of the world that are well known for drop-shoulder sweaters with very little shaping. I also wanted to include both texture stitches and colorwork. I chose The Andes because of their amazing colorwork knitting, even though knitters in the region primarily make chullo caps and purses. I adapted designs from these small projects to use in sweaters.
Nat: Which country’s techniques or motif patterns did you discover were your favorites?
Donna: The Andean knitting technique was my favorite to learn because it’s so unusual. In the Andes, knitters tension their yarn by running it around their necks. They hold the balls of yarn on their left, and run the working yarn around the back of their neck to the needle in their right hand. When they knit in the round, they purl around the inside of the circular tube of knitting. But they also use a unique purl where they just flick the yarn around the point of the needle with their thumb, so this technique is very fast and it creates a perfectly even tension for color knitting. I haven’t tried it on a sweater yet, but I’m planning to buy some natural alpaca fiber at the Taos Wool Festival next weekend to spin up for an Andean-inspired sweater.
Nat: Your book really helps unleash knitting creativity, letting knitters break free from typical line by line patterns and starting them on the path to design. This can be intimidating to some knitters so what are some simple tips you can suggest that will help make this process easy?
Donna: The whole book is designed to make designing sweaters easy for everyone. I start out with a section about what you don’t need to know to design your own sweater.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as “knitter’s math”. All you need to design a sweater is the basic arithmetic you learned in grade school. If you can double a recipe or help your 3rd grader with her homework, you can do this! That said, some of us are still intimidated by columns of numbers. I sometimes flunked algebra or trigonometry tests in school because I forgot that 6 x 5 = 30. So I created a spreadsheet with explanations of how to do all of the necessary calculations. And guess what? You can use a calculator!
You also don’t need a PhD in color theory. I believe that all people, especially knitters, have an innate sense of color. You already know what you like. What do you wear every day? What are your favorite curtains in your house? Look at those colors, then take out a pile of magazines and make a collage of photos that include those colors. Hang this up in your knitting area as a source of inspiration, and take it with you to the yarn store when you go shopping for yarn.
Nat: With books like Arctic Lace and Ethnic Knitting Discovery now under your belt are you researching any other knitting histories of other countries for the near future?
Donna: I went to Lithuania this summer for a few weeks and will be going back next summer for at least a month to go to language school and to visit museum collections and knitters and spinners around the country. Lithuania will be featured in Ethnic Knitting Explorations, the second book in this series that is now in production, and eventually I plan to write a whole book about Lithaunian knitting. It’s my next obsession!
CRAFT Interview: Arctic Lace by Donna Druchunas – Link.
Interview with Donna Druchunas, Author of Ethnic Knitting Discovery