I have the honor of being today's stop on Donna
Druchunas' Book Blog Tour
to celebrate the publishing of her third book, Ethnic Knitting Discovery
Donna's books are always written with humor and in a great, conversational style. As a reader, I feel that I'm having a nice chat with a good friend, albeit with a friend who just happens to be a expert knitter and knitwear designer.
I'll start out with what Ethnic Knitting Discovery
isn't. It isn't a glossy, coffee-table book of knits modeled by pout-y, twenty year old models. It isn't even a book of patterns per se. Instead, it's a meticulously researched book focusing on historical knitwear from 4 main regions -- The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and the Andes. Some of these regions may be more familiar to readers (Norwegian sweaters with their fair-isle motifs are very recognizable in the U.S.) than others, yet I managed to learn new things about even the knitwear that was most familiar to me. For example, yoke patterned sweaters (from the Netherlands) are very appealing to me visually, but I didn't realize that their design comes from the more practical origin of thriftiness -- textured stitches consume more yarn, thus long ago dutch knitters relegated their use to just a small region. And Andean knitters purl in the round from the the inside
to achieve stockinette stitches on the outside (right side)!
More importantly for the knitter ready to strike out on his or her own, this book doesn't contain detailed instructions of any particular sweater or item. Instead, Donna encourages the reader to experiment, all the while providing as much or as little guidance as needed by the individual.
The book is organized (save for the first two chapters) by region. The first chapter covers the basics of swatching, some sweater silhouettes, the concept of ease, the percentage system for determining the components of a sweater, and standard measurements for different sizes. The second chapter delves a little more deeply into the nuts and bolts of good sweater design -- the importance of considering yarn type and weight, knitting in the round, basic steeking (yikes!), and working with charts.
After a preface of the necessary tools (techniques, mini-stitch dictionaries, etc), the region chapters are divided into 3 main sections -- small projects designed to serve as practice or even a large gauge swatch (hats, scarves, etc), medium projects as the individual becomes comfortable with the knitting style of a particular region (simple sweaters), and large projects utilizing most of the techniques illustrated in the chapter (more complex sweaters). Each of these sections are further divided into 3 "patterns" depending on the comfort level and design style of the individual -- a visual plan containing a rough sketch and pertinent measurements, a planned worksheet where the measurements of the visual plan are translated into actual stitch and row numbers, and a step by step instruction sheet which gives detailed, written instructions incorporating the numbers from the planned worksheet.
Most invaluable in my opinion, are the many tips and hints scattered throughout the book such as Donna's advice when picking up stitches to "[fudge] on the 'slightly less than' side" (pg. 57). Although knitting is a very mathematical discipline, there still remain elements of art and judgment that make it very fun (and at times, frustrating).
At any rate, the enthusiasm Donna has for her subject and her readers is infectious. I'm usually a plan-most-things-out-before-I-start kind of designer, but by the end of the book, I'm inspired to try to design a little more freely like the knitters that came before me.
Thanks, Donna, for stopping by my blog. For more Donna, check out her guest post
on my blog last year and her other stops on the current tour