Ethnic Knitting Discovery

I first met Donna Druchunas at the 2006 Women Writing the West conference when I took one of the workshops she presented. I was immediately impressed by her clear, straightforward and enthusiastic explanations. Of course, I bought her book, Arctic Lace. I am even more delighted by her latest book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery, which delves into knitting and design techniques of the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the Andes. But, don't think for a minute this is some stuffy and old-fashioned book. It offers a bit of history and lots of ethnic design concepts, yes, but it encourages modern knitters to use these as a springboard to explore their own ideas and create unique interpretations as stylin' as anything out of a fashion magazine. You can see my own experiments at the Queen of Socks blog and here we continue our discussion with a few technical questions.

Dani: It's a tribute to the plain and conversational writing in this book that I dove right into the charts and discovered, to my great pleasure, that reading charts is pretty straightforward. Somehow it seems easier knitting in the round. I was a little confused by the balancing stitches though it's explained pretty clearly in the book. But, Donna, the charts still confuse me a tiny bit. Tell me in these two examples, what the difference is in the shaded areas. Why does the zigzag square have one section not shaded?

Donna: I'm not really sure why the repeats got marked in two different ways on these charts. Both are essentially correct.

What shows in the repeat with the box that is not immediately obvious in the other chart is what stitch(es) you need to duplicate for centering a stitch pattern for flat knitting or between armholes, for example. In addition, the lice chart shows only one repeat of the rows while the zigzag chart shows 2 so you can see what it looks like with multiple row repeats. Rows 1-6 and rows 7-12 are identical.

On all of the charts, the gray area shows the stitches that you repeat in circular knitting. You just work those stitches over and over again around the whole piece (assuming that your number of stitches is an exact multiple of the pattern repeat, of course). If you are knitting back and forth or if you're trying to center a pattern between the armholes on a sweater, then you'd add the balancing stitch(es) again at the end of the row so the zigzag starts and ends at the top of the peak. You can see that stitch/column 6 on the chart is at the top of the peak as is stitch 12. If you start and end at these points, your pattern will be centered. But if you're going in the round, you don't want to start and end at the top, or you'll have a double-stitch peak where the round joins.

I hope Deb, my editor, will answer the question about the box in the comments. I truly don't remember which one of us put that box on the chart. We were playing with different ways to show the repeats when we first started, and maybe that one got left over from an old experiment. At any rate, both of the charts shown are correct.

Color charts and knit-purl charts are quite easy to follow. Some complex texture charts are a little more complicated, especially cables where you are dealing with a bunch of stitches all in one maneuver.

Dani: One of the things I love about the book is that it has a grown-up coloring book feel to it.... great illustrations, and because they're not in color, I found that I could copy the designs, and color them in myself to see what the designs might look like. Is it okay to copy the book's pages this way, for individual use?

Donna: The "flat" illustrations were made by my editor at Nomad Press. She talked a lot about creating them on her blog:

You can certainly copy the drawings for your personal use. In fact, I encourage it. Especially the schematics and the project worksheets. You should photocopy them so you can use them over and over again for creating new designs.

Dani: The obvious follow-up question, of course, is "what books are next in the series"? Serious knitting fans want to know! Just give us some hints.

Donna: The second book in the series, Ethnic Knitting Adventure will feature Ireland (Aran sweaters with saddle shoulders), Lithuania (raglan sweaters) and Iceland (yoke sweaters), as well as a chapter on designing and knitting cardigans. The third book will feature more fitted garments with techniques and stitch patterns from Turkey, Japan, and Bavaria. I can't tell you too much about book three because I'm rewriting it! I wrote all of the books at about the same time, but it's been a while since I started and I found a lot of new ideas that I want to incorporate into book 3. I can't mess with book 2 because it's already in production!

Dani: Donna, you've presented workshops at local yarn shops teaching techniques from your books. Do you have a schedule for Ethnic Knitting Discovery yet? Where can we find the information when you have things lined up?

Donna: I'm not going to be doing too much teaching in 2008 because I'm exhausted from traveling and teaching every month this year. I am working on instructor kits for shop owners to use to teach workshops out of Ethnic Knitting Discovery. The first will be "Design Your Own Norwegian Sweater" and then others will follow. I will probably be doing some teaching next Fall, but not much except for a few local classes here in Boulder County, Colorado, for the first part of the year.

Dani: Thanks for visiting and for your help! I've forged ahead and here's how my fingerless glove is coming along. You can see the snowflake pattern just starting to develop:

If the book has given me nothing else, it's the courage to try new things. Even cutting a piece of knitting. Gulp. It's a common ethnic knitting technique that's covered in the book. I did it. I actually picked up stitches and cut away. I am knitter, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore..... What next? Steeks?

You can buy Donna's book by clicking here.

To read more about Donna's publisher, Nomad Press, and their support of the Green Press Initiative click here.

That's not all folks. Be sure to visit some of the other blog stops on this three-week tour:

The Keyboard Biologist
The Hook and I
On Being a Writer
I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can
Knittin' Mom
Yarn Spinner
Physics Knits

Knitting Matters

And we'll add more of our favorite links as the tour progresses.

1 comment:

Janet Grace Riehl said...

There are also four posts at www.riehlife.com that focus on the cultural, family, and art aspects of knitting.