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Book–Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, & Ireland

Three weeks ago, I blogged about receiving this book in the mail. It is Donna Druchunas’ second book in a series on Ethnic knitting styles, entitled Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland & Ireland.

I was delighted with the first book in the series (which included Norway, from my own heritage, and the Andes, which is a current fascination). I am honored to be part of the blog tour for this second book.

The blog tour will span from April 1 to April 22. Donna has posted the tour schedule on her own blog. Yesterday the tour visited Jean Clement of Desert Rose Designs. Her entry is here.

Something that I often think about, is how knitting styles and knowledge evolved one person at a time. Each person passed what they knew to the next, who personalized their own output. Sweaters often did not match from one to the next, though there would typically be regional style details which were similar.

Once I met a woman from Turkey and we chatted about socknitting. She was proud to explain to me how no two pairs were ever the same. Each reflected the mood of the knitter as she knit that pair (and no doubt, the yarns available at the time were also an influence). This novelty was a very important part of her own socknitting background. It was important to her that I understand how much that uniqueness mattered in her culture.

With Donna’s Ethnic Knitting books, we have a series which addresses this individuality which is a deep part of folk knitting. Just as knitters in one area were inspired by local custom as well as their own moods and supplies, so are we inspired by them. It seems fitting that we not copy, but instead continue that inspiration to create something which honors its inspiration, yet reflects our own touch.

I interviewed Donna by email earlier this week.

Donna, I make a living primarily as a knitting instructor. I really love how the designs in your book are presented in three different ways.

The first method seems for confident knitters. The second uses gauge and measurement to create general guidelines for the piece, and the third allows the knitter to plug in his/her own numbers but to knit from what feels like a standard pattern.

As an instructor, how would you suggest I use this book for the best benefit of my students? I teach both local classes (which tend toward more basic skill levels, though not aways) and at fiber festivals (often with more experienced students, but again not always).

Thanks Lynn.

I created the three methods because I know that there are many different ways that people learn. Some are visual; some like text; some like numbers. The only disappointment was that it is impossible to include videos in a book! I hope to get some on my website eventually.

The three methods you mentioned are:

  1. For adventurous and advanced knitters, I have a visual plan where you can fill in your measurements and stitch counts as you go.
  2. For those who want more details, I have a spreadsheet to help you do all of the calculations you’ll need for your project.
  3. For those who have never designed a sweater, or who want a little more hand-holding, I have step-by-step instructions for working up each project (with your numbers).


I think the book can be used several ways for classes. I teach a few different workshops:

  1. Techniques. You can focus on a specific technique like steeking, color knitting, or making cables and use the techniques sections to give you ideas for creating your workshop. This is good for a short workshop, such as a 1/2 or 1 day workshop at a shop or at a fiber festival.
  2. Projects. You can have a project workshop, where you go through one of the projects in the book. I would not focus on one method or another. Even in one class, you may have students who prefer the visual, the numbers, or the text instructions. I would focus on the steps required to create a garment. I break my workshops out into several sessions:

First session:
Get Ready: In this section we go over materials and I usually help the students shop for yarns that will be appropriate for their project.

Get Set: In this section we discuss gauge and stitches and make

Later sessions:
Knit! In the Knitting portion we do lower body, upper body, sleeves, and finishing sections. It’s great for teaching in a local yarn shop, because you can spread the classes out over time, so people are able to actually get a lot of knitting done.

When I travel and teach 1 or 2-day workshops, that doesn’t allow for the students getting much knitting done outside of the classroom! So we usually don’t get to knit an actual sweater on “away” workshops. We just get one designed and sometimes get the first part cast on.

Would you perhaps present a project and choose one of the three methods for the class to all follow? Would you suggest perhaps making one wristwarmer from one method and the second with a different method?

No, I think the knitters will find the way they like to work. The small projects are also great for classes, because you can have a shorter, less expensive class and teach a technique with a project. I work from the visual method, and make up everything as I go.

I never thought of this, but when I talked to people who were using the books on their own, they sometimes chart out the whole sweater or garment before they start! So we all have our own preferences. Some people would be worried about starting a project if they didn’t have all the numbers figured out in advance, for example.

I am sure you are excited about the choices you have made. This is not a typical way of presenting materials to modern knitters. This is your second book of the series, though. What input are you getting from knitters regarding the three choices you have provided?

Once people understand the 1-2-3 ways of working, they love these books. I don’t think I did a good enough job of explaining that with the marketing for the first book.

Every time I personally showed someone a book and the 1-2-3 (visual, math, text) instructions, they bought the book! I think having classes to show people how easy it is and how they can choose the best way to work for their personal needs is a great way to get people past the intimidation of thinking that designing their own garments is too hard.

Do you have any advice for an instructor at a yarn shop, as far as how to use the book for the best benefit of the customer? Often students do not want to buy a book. Yours is so helpful, I know they will be happy to keep it, but how do you explain the possibilities, to someone who has not looked at the book yet?

I’m working with my publisher on releasing the individual projects from Ethnic Knitting Discovery as PDF patterns. I’d love to work with shop owners who want to purchase rights to print multiple copies for using as handouts in classes.


I know many people can’t always afford a book, especially at the same time that they are paying for a workshop and materials for a sweater. So I think having the individual patterns will really be a boon for that. If the PDF experiment is successful, we may also eventually release the Ethnic Knitting Explorations projects in that format. Only time will tell!

A couple of my books are going to be released in Kindle editions soon, and I’ll be recording one audio book this fall. I’d love to hear from knitters and teachers about what formats they’d like to see books available in.

Thanks for hosting my book tour on your blog.


Donna, it has been a pleasure to be part of your book launch. My plan is to cast on for a pair of fingerless gloves using method 1, hopefully yet today. I will be sure to post photos here and on Ravelry (username: ColorJoy) when I have progress befitting a photograph.

Readers, look for the free PDF pattern for the fingerless gloves on April 10th at Deb Robson’s blog, The Independent Stitch.

Tomorrow, the blog tour goes to Katherine Vaughan’s site, Knit with KT. Would anyone care to join me there?

2 Responses to “Book–Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, & Ireland”

  1. Deborah Robson Says:

    Lynn and Donna, thanks for the fantastic explanation of the Ethnic Knitting books. I’m the publisher, which means I’m also the tech editor and layout designer and production coordinator.

    Donna and I came up with the idea of this series at a funky coffeeshop in Loveland, Colorado, what was it? maybe five years ago? We wanted a bridge that would give tentative knitters the skills and confidence to be comfortable with a book like Priscilla GIbson-Roberts’ Knitting in the Old Way. We’re all about knitters’ liberation.

    Of course, what Donna and I are coming up with does that, and has taken on more, as well. These are definitely a different type of knitting book, and yes, we envision people working both on their own and in classes (as teachers and students) to discover the satisfaction and delight of working without patterns. (We love patterns, too–just not all the time.)

    The Kindle editions of the books should be available any time, and I also spent yesterday assembling the technical files to put them on the Sony eReader. And just about a month ago a new (free) app for iPhone and iPod Touch was released to let people read Kindle titles on those portable devices (Kindle for iPhone)–or carry the whole Ethnic Knitting series worth of ideas with them!

    What a strange, wonderful world we live in!

  2. Donna Druchunas Says:

    Great news about the Sony Reader! I’m all for providing materials in many different formats, so every reader can choose what they prefer. Me, I like the old-fashioned paper book. I do like the idea of a Kindle or e-book reader for carrying around research material, though. So easy to search. Just about impossible to “search” through paper books. Well there’s the index. But still not as convenient as a search function!