03 Apr An interview with Donna Druchunas……
Today we’re welcoming Donna Druchunas as she stops by on her blog tour for her new book “Ethnic Knitting Exploration”. After reviewing “Ethnic Knitting Exploration” I wanted to know more about Donna and how writing this book came about…..so an interview with Donna seemed the perfect way to share this with you.
First, I’d like to compliment Donna on a job well done – I’ve really enjoyed reading “Ethnic Knitting Exploration”. Donna has packed a lot of information in this compact book along with an expert job of combining history and techniques. For this interview I settled on the following questions as the ones I most wanted to ask Donna. And she also agreed to share some of her photos with us.
Jean: One thing that knitters always seem to want to know about each other is how did we become interested in knitting. Was there anything in particular that peaked your interest and got you started?
Donna: I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was a little girl, but I didn’t really start knitting in earnest until after she passed away. I was living in San Diego at the time and there was this gorgeous yarn shop that had kits for sweaters made from the most amazing novelty yarns. I’d never seen anything like this before and I knew I had to have one of those kits. Even though I wasn’t knitting at the time, I had to stop in that yarn shop every time I was in the area. Finally it was about to go out of business and I hadn’t bought anything yet! So I nabbed a kit. And that, as they say, is all she wrote. I was immediately addicted to knitting.
Jean: Sounds like you’re a natural knitter! Many knitters dream of becoming designers or authors of knitting books – what took you down the path from “knitter” to “designer and author”?
Donna: I used to work as a technical writer, and I wrote manuals on how to install hard drives and how to use computerized medical devices. I really hated my job but I loved writing. I didn’t know what else I could write about though. I’m slow sometimes, and I need some help putting ideas together! One day my friend Kris, who also writes and knits, asked me, “If you can write instructions for installing a hard drive, can’t you also write instructions for making a sweater?” A huge light went on in my head and I realized that she was right. I could use my love of knitting as a way to write about something that was important and interesting to me. I don’t really consider myself a designer, although I do (obviously) design garments. I am a writer who happens to love knitting. I’m really obsessed with the details of knitting, so even before I was writing on the topic, I read every book I could get my hands on, especially those about techniques and design. I used to sew all of my clothes, so I was familiar with the shapes of garment pieces and the basics of garment construction, so I guess it was natural for me to move into designing my own sweaters. Even when I knit from a pattern, it’s almost impossible for me to make the sweater exactly as shown. I always tweak something to suit my own tastes.
Jean: With your background you could have chosen pretty much any knitting subject to write about. Why did you chose Ethnic Knitting?
Donna: I’m a history junkie and I love old things. Although I am very modern in the sense that I do not look back to the past for some imagined “good old days”, I like things from the past. It’s an odd combination I’ll admit. I like modern philosophy, progressive politics, futuristic technology and all of the freedoms and benefits that these things afford us. But I also love the texture and variety of style that existed before globalization. I don’t want to visit Lithuania and eat at McDonald’s or buy a pair of Levi’s at the store. So my work with ethnic knitting, I think, is a way to help preserve the diversity and variety of cultures from around the world in a positive way, without the need for people to continue to live in the poor conditions and under the strict moral and social codes that existed in the past and often kept women from experiencing life to the fullest.
Jean: I think your appreciation of accomplishments and innovations of knitters from the past comes through in this book. For curious knitters thinking of writing their own knitting books – how long did it take for “Ethnic Knitting Exploration” to go from concept to finished book?
Donna: Oh, a few years. I don’t even remember! Probably 3 or 4 years. Usually a knitting book can be pulled together in about two years or a little less. But there were some technical glitches on the way with this one. However it all worked out just fine and it’s finally here!
Jean: Given the time frame it takes to bring an idea to publication, and with other writers possibly working on the same subject – what separates your book from other books about ethnic knitting?
Donna: This book includes much more detail about the design and knitting process. Most of the ethnic knitting books in my collection assume a very high level of knowledge and experience on the part of the knitter. I wanted to write books that even new knitters could use to explore ethnic knitting and to learn to design their own garments and accessories.
Jean: With that in mind, your book isn’t just for new knitters. You’ve included three levels of instruction for each of the projects in the book – how did that come about?
Donna: I know that people learn and work in different ways. I am very visual, and I work almost entirely from the visual plan, figuring out numbers as I need them. The visual plan has brief text that outlines all the major steps in the knitting process.
Some people like to plan everything in advance and have all the calculations at their fingertips as they go. For these knitters, I’ve included a worksheet that walks you step-by-step through all the measurements and calculations you need for the entire sweater.
If you have never designed a sweater before, it can seem daunting. So I’ve also included detailed instructions for the entire knitting process for those who want a little more hand-holding. This section is also great for busy knitters who might lose their place and who would like some reminders about what to do next.
Jean: As you were going though all this and pulling everything together did any one project or technique become your favorite?
Donna: I have loved Aran sweaters ever since my grandmother made one for me when I was about nine years old. I have at least a half dozen Aran sweaters that my grandmother made in the 1960s and 70s and I still wear them. She called them “Irish Pattern Sweaters”, and whenever she made one for me, she let me pick my own color and my favorite cable stitches. The first thing I remember knitting is a yellow swatch of honeycomb cables. So I have a special place in my heart for cable knitting, in general, and for Aran sweaters in particular.
Jean: Your book is not focused toward only designing or only patterns, like most knitting books are. As you were writing “Ethnic Knitting Exploration” did you have a perception of how knitters would use this book?
Donna: In whatever way makes sense to them. I hope that knitters are inspired by my ideas to go on to create their own unique designs, and that the level of help I’ve included here will encourage those who have been afraid to take the plunge to dive in. It’s easier than you think!
Jean: With that said – and in closing – may I ask if there will be another “Ethnic Knitting” book down the road? A continuation of this series?
Donna: There is a third book in the series, Ethnic Knitting Adventure, that is already partly written. It’s about fitted garments and covers Japan, Bavaria and Turkey. It won’t be out for a couple of years, I don’t think, because there is still a lot of work to do to finish the writing and get it into production. But keep your eyes peeled, because we haven’t determined the publication date yet!
Thanks for being part of my blog tour!
Jean: Donna, thank you for visiting my blog today and sharing some of your thoughts about “Ethnic Knitting Exploration” as well as something about your “inner” self. I would recommend your book for any knitter to have in their collection.
The next stop on Donna’s tour is ColorJoy by LynnH – where I’m sure something fun is planned.