I am very delighted to present my second ever Designer of the Month interview with no less than Donna Druchunas herself! Donna has been one of my favourite designers since her book Kitty Knits came out a few years ago (I've also written a book review on it). Her Felted Catnip Mice pattern is the pattern I have knit the most ever - I am pretty sure I have knitted at least 50 of them for the benefit of animals shelters! I am so proud and excited to present this interview to you.
For anyone not yet familiar with Donna's work, 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 Arctic 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 Donn by visiting her website at www.sheeptoshawl.com.
But now - on to the interview!
WK (Worsted Knitt): First of all, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! Now, what got you into designing in the first place?
DD (Donna Druchunas): 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.
WK: What a lovely story! What are your favourite things to design nowadays?
DD: I love designing accessories. I'm not so much into sweaters, although I have written two books about designing sweaters! (Ethnic Knitting Discover and Ethnic Knitting Exploration, which both help knitters design their own sweaters based on designs and techniques used in different places around the world.) I think I am a much better accessory designer, perhaps because I have more fun working on small projects. I love that you can experiment and play without having to dedicate much money or time to each project.
WK: I know what you mean, I like making and designing smaller items as well! What are your favourite materials to work with?
DD: Wool is my all time favorite fiber. Right now I'm also in love with cashmere and I am falling in love with glass seed beads! Over the years I've also had crushes on qiviut and alpaca and silk. But I think wool is the most versatile and wonderful fiber available, especially if you work with yarn that is made from the wool of specific breeds of sheep. There's so much diversity!
WK: Wool truly is versatile! Now, how do you usually design – how would you describe your designing process?
DD: Things just pop into my head. It sounds weird, but my best designs just come to me. Usually when I am looking at or touching a specific yarn. It's almost like the yarn is telling me what it wants to become. I also like to incorporate traditional patterns into my designs.
WK: How does your “typical day” when designing look like?
DD: I don't really have a typical day. Ever since I quit my 9-5 job, I have struggled with having a routine. Right now I am walking to the coffee shop every morning, where I answer email and do some other internet things and some knitting in the morning, then I walk home. After lunch I work on writing and in the evening I am knitting again. I never consciously think about "designing" as an activity separate from knitting. I design with the needles in my hands, except for the odd time when I don't have time to knit something myself and I have to prepare the pattern for a test knitter.
WK: Where do you get your inspiration?
DD: Mostly from traditional clothing and from 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.
WK: Honestly, I wouldn't have thought you'd say today's fashon! :) Anyhow, where would you say you do your best design work?
DD: I can work anywhere. At home, in a coffee shop, on a plane. There is absolutely no telling where an idea will come from or when it will strike. I keep paper and pens in my purse and I always have my iPhone on me with all kinds of apps for writing and sketching, so I can always capture the ideas as they come.
WK: How do you nurture your creative spirit?
DD: Travel! That's my big one right now. I just got back from spending four months in Europe and I am so full of ideas it's just spilling out all over the place. When I'm home, I make sure to have quiet time every day when I am reading or listening to music or taking a walk and
just relaxing. I find that it's when I'm not working on anything in particular that I have my best ideas.
WK: That's wonderful, and I think good advice for everyone - we all need some quiet time by ourselves, to allow the ideas to come. What other advice would you give to aspiring designers?
DD: Learn the business and be professional. No matter how talented you are, if you don't come across with a professional and businesslike attitude, people will be hesitant to work with you.
WK: Thanks so much for this interview and sharing your experience, Donna!
Would you like to be featured as the Designer of the Month? Leave a comment or contact me through the form!
I love Donna's work! What a great interview, too. I love how "things just pop into her head". I wish I'd get that kind of ideas just like that :)