Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest Post: Author, Knitwear Designer Donna Druchunas (interview)

Donna Druchunas is the author of numerous books, including Successful Lace Knitting: Celebrating the Work of Dorothy Reade, Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland, and Artic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories inspired by Alaska's Native Knitters. She spent four months this year traveling in Europe to teach knitting workshops and do research for her next book, which will be about knitting in Lithuania. During her two-month stay in Lithuania, she studied with local knitters, visited fiber arts galleries and museums, and enjoyed being in her home. You can learn more about Donna by visiting her website Sheep to Shawl 

Who taught you to knit?

My grandmother. I don't even remember learning!

What method of knitting do you use--Continental or English?

I use a form of Continental knitting with the yarn carried in my left hand. But I pick the purl stitches in the opposite direction of most American and Western European knitters. The way I knit is more common in Russia and it is sometimes called the "Eastern Uncrossed" or "Combination" method.

What is your favourite stitch pattern?

For simple patterns, I love moss stitch. But I have become addicted to knitting lace. I'm partial to simple lace patterns as well, those I can memorize in just a few repeats. Because I enjoy working simple patterns in gorgeous yarns, and even lace with handdyed yarns, I am especially fond of feather and fan and simple leaf patterns.

Why did you become a knitwear designer?

Because I go overboard on everything I do, and I decided to start knitting again in my mid-30s after a break since I was teenager. My family's motto is "nothing in moderation!"

Tell me about your first pattern.

About ten years ago, I was shopping at the Boulder Handweavers' Guild annual sale and I saw a marvelous felted bag that I wanted badly. It was $75, and quite outside of my budget at the time. I was with my mom at the sale and we decided we would try to figure out how to make the bag ourselves, so we went to the local yarn shop, bought some wool yarn and a book with some information on felting, and I went home and started to play. I ended up with one of my favorite bags of all time--I still use it today--and it also became my first published knitting design.

Where did it appear--your website, ezine, magazine?

My first published design was in Family Circle Easy Knitting. I always loved that magazine and was sad to see it go away!

Are you a member of a knitwear designer association? Why? Why not?

No. I was a TNNA member but my membership lapped. I'm thinking of signing up again so I can work with their intership program and maybe teach and do booksignings when my next book comes out.

Do you attend fibre festivals? Why? Why not?

I love fiber festivals and I do attend for personal pleasure. Sometimes I teach at them too, but they don't have the best pay and I can't afford to travel and teach if my travel and lodging expenses are not covered, so I mostly teach at nearby fiber festivals or at ones I plan to attend anyway just for the pleasure of the experience!

Does your local yarn shop support you? In what way?

Yes, I work with several local knitting shops. I teach and hold book signings at local shops, and they also help me find test knitters when I need help with deadline knitting.

Have you taught knitting classes? Where? When?

I teach all the time and have taught all over the United States and in several European countries. Next year I will be teaching more than usual, with workshops almost every month at home in Colorado and a tour of New England and possibly Eastern Canada in the fall. So if anyone reading this lives in those areas and wants to invite me to teach, let me know soon! I've never taught in that area before and I'm very excited about it. I've also taught on cruises and my next cruise is in New England and Canada next autumn also. You can find out more here:

What inspires you?

Mostly traditional clothing and nature, but I also love contemporary fashion. Although I'm not a fashionista and I usually can be found wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I adore seeing the new fashions that come out every season. I had a fantastic time window shopping at the designer shops in Rome near the Piazza Spagna this summer. It was amazing to see how much knitwear was on display.

I know that you're an author as well as a designer. In fact, your knitting book series Ethnic Knitting is mentioned in The Sweater Curse. Please tell me about your books.

There's too much to tell in such a short space! I have two books about knitting (Artic Lace and Successful Lace Knitting), two books about designing sweaters (Ethnic Knitting Discovery and Exploration), a book of designs for cat lovers (Kitty Knits), and a book that may be out of print, I'm trying to find out, about knitting rugs (The Knitted Rug). If my first book is out of print, I hope to get it put out as an ebook ASAP. The other books are going to be available as ebooks soon as well, and I have an audio edition of Artic Lace in post production right now. I hope it will come out before Christmas, but I'm not sure.

What are you currently working on?

I'm trying to finish my next book about Lithuanian knitting before the end of the year!

What is the most rewarding thing about being a designer? About being a writer? The most challenging?

I love making things and seeing my finished items and books. I also find it very rewarding to hear from knitters and readers who have enjoyed my work. The most challenging part is working as a freelancer and trying to stay organized and meet deadlines, especially when traveling and also holding down a day job! My day job is also location independent, so that helps. But it's still quite a lot to juggle.

Please share knitting/designing/writing advice

In all of these areas, being professional is the most important advice I can give for anyone wanting to get into the business. For those who are doing these things for fun, my advice is take it easy, remember to breathe, and above all else, have fun!

Thank you so much, Donna. It was a pleasure interviewing and corresponding with you--as always.