Black Purl Magazine: Ethnic Knitting: A Roundtable Discussion

Original Post #554

Ethnic Knitting: A Roundtable Discussion

by L’Tanya Durante
Originally published in Black Purl Magazine, Winter 2008

Donna Druchunas, Author of Ethnic Knitting Discovery and Arctic Lace: Knitting Projects and Stories Inspired by Alaska’s Native Knitters

On inspiration…
“I love textiles from different cultures, and I love old and antique textiles, too. I get a lot of inspiration from these things and it does carry over into my own designs. Sometimes I try to copy something very directly, to transpose a Mexican weaving pattern into knitted colorwork, for example. Other times the influences are more subtle, but they are still there. My choice of colors, for example, or my decision about what fiber to use for a specific project, might be determined by something I’ve seen or read about in an ethnic textile tradition. I collect a lot of books about textiles, many of which are about other techniques besides knitting.”

On passion…
“I am a very modern person. I like forward-thinking and progressive attitudes in culture and politics, but I’m constantly drawn to old and traditional things in my physical surroundings. I don’t particularly care for modern furnishings or for very much fashion-forward design for myself (I think it’s cool, and I love to look at it in magazines and at museums, but I don’t surround myself with it). Something about tradition makes me feel comforted. So although I don’t want to live my life following many traditions, I represent that comfort zone by surrounding myself by physical reminders of the history of my own family and of different cultures.”

On process…
“There’s nothing like going to a place to absorb the colors and texture of the life there. I can’t go everywhere I want to go. My inspiration usually begins with armchair travel. I love reading, and when I get obsessed with a topic, I’m likely to read a hundred — or more — books on the subject and related topics. I think reading is wonderful because it’s inexpensive (or free if you go to the library) and can give all of us many more experiences that we could ever afford otherwise.”

“When I do get to travel, I like to spend time with people and with things. I like to go to museums and markets and shops in the area and see the historical artifacts and garments, but I also like to just go out and get a feeling for the place and meet people.”

“When I work on a book, I make a very rough outline; a list of ideas I want to explore really. But after I get into the research this almost always changes, especially when I get to travel. You learn so much more than you ever imagined, there’s no way to figure out what you’ll need to write about beforehand!”

On advice…
“Don’t be afraid. It’s so easy to rip out your knitting and start over if you don’t like what you’ve come up with. And what would you do next anyway? My guess is knit something else. If you still feel intimidated by trying new things, start with small projects first. That’s why I included a practice project in each chapter of Ethnic Knitting Discovery, so the readers can play with colors and textures and try the different techniques on a small accessory before diving head first into sweater design.”

On her style…
“Have fun! Most everything I do is to have fun. I guess that makes me a hedonist of sorts. Even when I do things for charity or to help others, I expect to get some satisfaction and joy out of it. It is, as they say, better to give than to receive. But when we give, we also receive. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I guess I think we need to enjoy this life as much as we can, and part of that enjoyment for me comes from knowing that I can also help others to experience pleasures by helping to alleviate some of the suffering in this world in some small way.”

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