Friday, October 12, 2007

Blog Book Tour!

This just in, a guest blog post from Donna Druchunas, famous writer of numerous knitting books and my friend:

Joanne, thanks for inviting me to write a guest post for your blog about my new book Ethnic Knitting Discovery!

The book is a workbook to help knitters overcome the fear of designing their own sweaters. It's also a toolkit for those of us who have dabbled in design a little bit, to help us expand our skill to work with different types of color and texture stitches and to experiment with sweater construction a little bit.

Those of us who spin know that it's not always possible to find a pattern in the exact gauge or stitch pattern that will work for our handspun yarn. I admit, I've never spun yarn for a sweater. I did make a vest with handspun once, but I usually end up spinning 4 or 8 ounces of something and giving in to the temptation to knit a hat or mittens or a scarf because I just can't wait any longer to spin the rest of the fiber!

That said, it's my dream to someday have several sweaters made from my own handspun. And I plan to use Ethnic Knitting Discovery to plan out the first one. I am planning to get some natural color alpaca to spin up into sport-weight yarn to make an Andean sweater for my husband. (He won't wear it, because he's always hot. So it will ultimately belong to me.)

I'm not a good enough spinner to give any spinning lessons, but I do have a few tips for designing sweaters using your own unique yarns.


That's the key to successful knitting. I know many knitters hate to swatch. But I love it! I have a whole cardboard carton of swatches in my closet. I love to try out yarns and test new stitch patterns and fiddle around with new knitting needles. But beyond the fun, swatching is what tells you if your yarn, pattern, and needles all work together. A swatch isn't just about "getting gauge." It's about feeling the yarn move through your fingers, finding out if the pattern stitch is fun or frustrating, and deciding if the finished fabric is as comfy as we'd imagined. If you haven't been a fan of swatching, I highly recommend it. You want the garments made with your special yarn to be as beautiful and comfortable as possible. And don't forget to wash your swatch before measuring it! I have a sweater with sleeves that grew almost to my knees after washing because I skipped this important step.

Texture Patterns

Texture patterns will compete with thick-and-thin or fuzzy yarns, so they're best worked in worsted or semi-worsted spun yarn. What that means, is when you prepare the fibers, you keep them all facing in the same direction, so you get a nice, smooth preparation. And when you spin, you try to keep the fibers under control so the final yarn is smooth as well. If you prepare your own fibers, use combs to get a nice worsted preparation, or flick the locks of wool and spin from the lock for a semi-worsted preparation. If you buy fiber that's already cleaned and prepared, you're looking for top.


Color knitting is more flexible and you can use yarns that aren't so smooth and yarns that are nice and fluffy. Combining the multiple strands of yarn and a nice fluffy preparation will create a sweater that warmer than anything you could ever buy. That's where woolen spinning comes in. Let the fibers go crazy in the preparation, facing in every direction, puffing up like a cloud. Use hand carders or a drum carder to make your own woolen preparation, or buy roving to spin this way, and try using the long draw technique for drafting.

If you're new to spinning, don't worry about these technical details, but do make sure you take the time for the swatching. That will let you yarn tell you what it wants to become! In each project chapter of Ethnic Knitting Discovery I have a selection of charts from a different region of the world. There are texture charts from Denmark and The Netherlands, and color charts from Norway and The Andes. I also have a bibliography to point you in the right direction to find many more charts, should you find that you become obsessed with a particular flavor of knitting. Don't be afraid of wasting some of your yarn for swatching. You can always rip the swatch out if you need the yarn to finish a project. But I suggest that you make a home for them in a nice box. They are a type of knitter's journal, even if you're like me and you don't take the time to write any notes to go along with the swatches. It's fun to go through them every once in a while. You never know when an old swatch might light the fire of a new idea in your mind.

Then, once you have an idea of where you want to go, you can use the tools in Ethnic Knitting Discovery as a roadmap. There are diagrams, spreadsheets, and step-by-step instructions for designing and knitting sweaters, so you can be as wild as you like and make things up as you go, or as controlled as you like, and figure out all of the details in advance.

There's nothing as decadent as knitting with handspun yarn. A hundred years ago, would anyone have thought that spinning your own yarn would be a luxury?

Want to read more about this book, and my friend Donna, its author?
Check out her website:


Blogger Nancy said...

Blog Book Tours are really interesting. Donna, it's great that each post on the tour is different. I do have your book and you and Deb are creating a terrific series. Knitting with my handspun absolutely spoils me for any other yarn!

October 12, 2007 at 10:17 AM  
Blogger e's knitting and spinning blog said...

Thanks for hosting this Joanne it is really interesting!

October 12, 2007 at 7:27 PM  
Blogger Donna D said...

Thanks Nancy. It's more work to do something different every day on the blog tour, but I think that's what makes it work. If we just posted the same stuff on every blog, that would be boring for me and for readers!

October 12, 2007 at 9:45 PM  
Blogger SueJ said...

More facinating stuff. My handspun wont make a cell phone sock yet!

October 14, 2007 at 2:29 AM  
Blogger Dani said...

I spun enough twitty yarn to try some ankle warmers and fingerless gloves. You can see my disasters when Donna stops at my blog at and ... come visit. I'm loving reading all the comments at the various blogs. Thanks!

October 16, 2007 at 7:41 PM  

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