Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blog tour: Ethnic Knitting Exploration, by Donna Druchunas

Today we're a stop on Donna Druchunas's blog tour, celebrating the release of her new book, Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland. In honor of the blog tour, I'm going to do a quick review of the book.

Donna's book is the second in her "Ethnic Knitting" series, a slightly different kind of knitting book designed to arm the knitter with technical information rather than entice her with color photographs. As she explains in the introduction:

While differing in details, ethnic knits share a few common traits. Most are knitted in the round using double-pointed and circular needles. They are knitted without line-by-line instructions or written patterns. Each item is a unique combination of pattern stitches and colors, made using traditional knitting techniques. The stitch patterns are passed on to new knitters by families and friends.


Acoordingly, Ethnic Knitting Exploration focuses on giving the knitter the tools to design her own sweater, loosely based on motifs and techniques used in the focus countries (here, Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland):

Chapter 1 explains three basic sweater shapes, raglan, yoke and saddle-shoulder sweaters, showing how these three shapes differ from the drop-shoulder sweater, and showing general proportions for each shape. Gauge, sizing and ease are also covered briefly.

Chapter 2 covers basic skills that the newer knitter may not know: tips for knitting in the round, how to knit with the "magic loop" method and two circulars, estimating yarn quantities and explaining yarn weights, increases, decreases, various ways to sew seams, short-row techniques, and how to center patterns.

Chapter 3 is inspired by Lithuanian knitting traditions, and begins with an overview of folk traditions in Lithuania. Two techniques are introduced: making striped ribbing, and how to work with multiple colors by stranding yarn. Several traditional borders and motifs are charted, and then you'll find blueprints for three projects: fingerless gloves, and two raglans. (I call them "blueprints" because they aren't set patterns, but rather walk you through creating your own pattern with your own yarn and sizing information, picking the specific charts and motifs yourself.)

Chapters 4 and 5 follow a similar format: Chapter 4 is devoted to Icelandic knitting, and begins with a brief overview of Icelandic knitting traditions; skills covered are how to knit with unspun Icelandic yarn and how to fit patterns on a yoke; several borders and motifs are charted; then blueprints are provided for a capelet, a yoke pullover, and a yoke cardigan. Chapter 5 begins with an overview of Irish knitting traditions, then instructs the reader on cables, bobbles, charting cables and some tips on Aran sweater design; several cable patterns are provided, and then blueprints for a poncho and two aran-style saddle shoulder sweaters.

The last chapter is devoted to issues raised by cardigans: specifically, how to knit them given that they require an opening down the front, making adaptations of some kind necessary if you knit in the round. You'll find a section discussing steeking, how to knit a cardigan back-and-forth in one piece, and tips for working cardigans in pieces and seaming them. Tips on buttonholes and neckbands are provided, too.

There's a lot of information packed into this book, and if you are a relatively inexperienced knitter searching for a nonthreatening way to stretch your wings and learn a bit more about design and ethnic traditions, this book will help walk you through some of the things you need to know. It is not a "pattern" book per se: there are no set patterns to follow line-by-line, and you will have to have some imagination as you won't find photographs of the finished project, since each person's choices will dictate what the finished item looks like. But for someone ready to test the waters of designing their own garments (specifically raglan, yoke and saddle shoulder sweaters), and playing with some ethnic-inspired motifs, or for those who would like to create an heirloom-style sweater that is uniquely theirs, Ethnic Knitting Exploration may be for you!

I'm sure Donna will be checking the comments section today, so if you have any questions for her, leave a comment and I bet she will respond. Tomorrow's stop on the Ethnic Knitting tour: The Fitter Knitter (you may remember Cindy from being a stop on the KSF blog tour -- hi, Cindy!).

1 comment:

Joe said...

I'm very excited to have received an early copy of this book as a "door prize" for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat. I think the guys will be quite pleased and it will mean I will definitely have to order myself a copy.