Ethnic Knitting Discovery by Donna Druchunas (book review)

Posted on by MK Carroll


Ethnic Knitting Discovery: The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and The Andes

Donna Druchunas

Nomad Press
Ethnic Knitting Discovery is not a hip, funky, not-your-grandma's knitting book. It's not much of a pattern book either. I couldn't be more pleased!
In the tradition of books like Knitting in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts and other ethnic/traditional knitting books, Donna gives an overview of specific techniques, motifs, and projects, and examples of how they are used. Unlike some other knitting books on ethnic traditions out there (including Knitting in the Old Way), Ethnic Knitting Discovery is geared more for the basic knitter, who may want a more streamlined, step-by-step approach to a project. There are no line-by-line written patterns in this book, but the instructions are presented and structured in three ways so that the individual knitter can create and knit an original piece without having to start completely from scratch. After the general description for each project comes the visual plan (a schematic with sections labeled to show what happens where, e.g. "work crown decreases, changing to double-pointed needles as needed," a method for those who want to jump right in. That is followed by a planning worksheet; a table for filling in the numbers in advance, for those who want to have a more specific plan without needing each step detailed. Finally, there are step-by-step project sheets, which take the numbers calculated in the planning worksheet and arrange them into a more detailed set of instructions. These project sheets are not as detailed as line-by-line instructions, but will expand on the planning worksheet in a way that will help you move along faster, e.g. "Work in k1, p1 ribbing as follows: Row 1: K1, *p1, k1. Repeat from * to end of row. Row 2: P1, *k1, p1. Repeat from * to end of row."
The schematics are very clear and basic, as are the illustrations accompanying the patterns. The only photos of completed projects are on the cover, an intentional choice meant to steer the individual knitter into designing an original (for those who would like to see more of the finished projects, there will be photos added to the website in the future). Motifs and texture patterns are shown as photos accompanied by charts (the texture patterns do have written line-by-line instructions as well).
You can take a peek at the inside of the book on at, download the Design Your Own Norwegian Ski Sweaters for free from Interweave's Knitting Daily, or the Knit Headbands of Norway courtesy of the Craft Pattern Podcast.
Overall, this is a book you can keep on your knitting shelf for years to come. It's a wonderful introduction to traditional knitting, and a good resource in itself. With an MSRP of $21.95, this paperback is an easy investment for the knitter ready to move beyond line-by-line knitting, the knitter with an interest in other traditions, and the knitter who wants to knit something personalized and unique without having to get too wild and crazy (although that's always an option). Crafters like myself, who find books of folk/ethnic motifs and patterns for cross-stitch and embroidery as well as for knitting and crochet, will appreciate the tips on how to incorporate those motifs and stitch patterns into a self-designed piece. The holiday gift season is coming up, and this book would make a lovely gift, especially with a few skeins of yarn. This is the first in a series, with more traditions from around the world to be featured in at least two future books.
Some of you may recall that my plan was to select a project from the book to work on, and I have. I just haven't cast on yet (it's been an interesting week). I have the yarn, and you'll be seeing the project take shape here as well as on Ravelry (my username there is mkcarroll).

In addition to writing knitting books and patterns, Donna is also interested in charity and activist knitting, and created the Knitting for Change blog, providing free patterns and information about knitting charities. Oh, and that's a rug she's knitting in the photo above.