Donna Druchunas is a writer and knitwear designer with passions for knitting, world travel, and research. She has been visiting Lithuania, where her great-grandparents were born, every year since 2007. She has also been designing knitwear and writing for over a decade and is the author of award-winning knitting books, including TSB’s THE ART OF LITHUANIAN KNITTING. Druchunas teaches knitting throughout the world, holds retreats at her private studio in a 150-year old farmhouse in Vermont, and owns Sheep to Shawl Knitting Studio and Store.
In THE ART OF LITHUANIAN KNITTING, the book she co-wrote with June Hall, Druchunas begins an exploration of where and how we knit, with the reasons why we knit. Here’s what she says:
Every year as I was growing up, I learned a new craft and left the others behind. Knitting came first, then crochet, embroidery, needlepoint, weaving, beading, decoupage, and candle making. When I was in third grade, I learned how to sew, and I spent the next ten years making all of my own clothes.
When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I stopped doing crafts altogether, because I’d started working in a department store and it was just as cheap to buy my clothes as it had been to make them. As we all know, knitting today is no bargain. Our craft is not about frugality—or even about the need to keep warm—but about creativity, charity, and meditation.
I started knitting and crocheting again when I was thirty-five, a year or so after both of my grandmothers passed away in the same year. I don’t know why I suddenly became interested in these crafts, when I hadn’t picked up a hook or needles in twenty-five years. Maybe I needed a way to stay connected to my grandmothers after they were gone. Soon after I made my first sweater, I discovered books about knitting. I encountered pattern collections, new and familiar techniques, and stories about knitting and yarn. At first, I promised myself that I would knit at least three projects from any book before allowing myself to buy another, but soon my voracious reading habit took over and I started spending as much on books as I did on yarn. As I read through the books I purchased, I discovered that historical and ethnic knitting techniques grabbed my attention most.
Knitting is fascinating not only because it is beautiful and functional, but also because each stitch infuses a hand-knit project with the story of its maker and details about the time and place in which it was made. The materials and stitches chosen tell us about what yarns and patterns were available to the knitter, the gauge and evenness of the stitching tells us about her skill level, and the wear (or lack thereof) on the knitting gives us clues about whether it was made for everyday use or just for special occasions.
Ultimately, I believe that what makes the knitting of Lithuania—or any place—special is the spirit of the people and the soul of the place.
THE ART OF LITHUANIAN KNITTING is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.
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Trafalgar Square Books, publisher of fine equestrian and craft titles, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.