Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Portrait of a Knitter

I would like to give a very warm welcome to Donna Druchunas, teacher, writer and most importantly, knitter. Donna gives workshops in ethnic knitting, lace and rug knitting. She blogs on SheeptoShawl and you can follow her as druchunas on twitter - we do! Donna has written several great books about ethnic knitting and lace. We have interviewed her about knitting and her view on traditional crafts.

Eddie: Why knitting?

Donna: I particularly like the portability, and the ability to explore so much creativity in such small projects. The fact that I learned to knit as a little girl also makes me slightly sentimental about knitting. I am primarily interested in historical and traditional knitting techniques and motifs from around the world. I am also interested in how these things from the past can be updated and used in contemporary situations. Even though knitting is my main craft I also love to spin and dye my own yarns, and I also crochet. I've done just about every craft there is over the years, but the fiber arts are what attract me most these days.

Eddie: When did your interest in knitting begin?

Donna: All my life I have been involved in some sort of craft. I learned to knit from my Grandmother when I was a girl, then moved on to other things. I didn't come back to knitting until I was in my mid-30s, but then I became completely obsessed.

Eddie: How about techniques, do you have any preferences and where do you go to learn new stuff?

Donna: I love lace and cables, but I also find that I end up working on colorwork projects because color knitting is so popular in ethnic knitting. Lately I have begun knitting with beads. I pick up new techniques anywhere and everywhere! There is always a lot to learn at home in the US from knitters and teachers, but I also go around the world. This summer I have been in England, Scotland, France, Holland, and Lithuania, and before I return to the states in October, I will be visiting Switzerland, Italy, and Belarus! I am especially excited to see what I can learn about Belarusian textiles, although I think knitting was less common there than in many other places.

Eddie: Do you have any favorite tools or materials?

Donna: I am currently enamoured with all kinds of straight wooden knitting needles. But because I'm on the road for so long, I've only brought a few things with me: An assortment of double pointed needles for the socks and mittens I'm knitting, a small set of interchangeable size circular needles, and a compact tool kit with a measuring tape and other small knitting necessities. My iPhone has also become a very useful knitting tool. My favorite yarn is wool but I love all natural fibers. I tend to stick with animal fibers mostly, because I find them easier and more pleasant to work with because of the springiness and give in the yarn.

Eddie: Why do you think crafts are important?

Donna: Crafts, as opposed to "art", give us all the ability to make things and explore our creativity without having to feel like we need a university degree or some permission to play. We are creating something useful AND beautiful. I feel very inspired about the future of knitting as a craft. I am visiting 8 yarn shops in Vilnius this week! There are old and young people knitting, and the variety of projects ranges from slipper socks to lace shawls. It's amazing! I also love the way using yarn and knitting needles and crochet hooks makes me feel connected to my grandmothers, too.

Eddie: How do you think we can keep traditional crafts alive?

Donna: I think we can keep traditional crafts alive by just continuing making things. But I don't think there necessarily is a need to keep traditional crafts alive in their traditional form. That said, I think it is great if some people want to reproduce traditional garments and accessories exactly as they were made in the past. That has its place. But for the modern knitter, I feel that using traditional crafts combined with contemporary tools, materials, and fashion sense is the way to keep things going into the future. Most of us don't have a need for an exact reproduction of an antique pair of liturgical gloves, for example. But we can reinterpret the patterns and techniques to create something we can actually use in our everyday lives. I also think it is especially important to teach children how to do as many different crafts as possible! Then when they get older, they have an assortment of talents to choose from.

The images in this post are copyright of Donna Druchenas from. If you wish to use the images please request permission from Donna.

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