If you’re one of our regular blog readers, I know you’re all familiar with Martina’s patterns, as I think I have linked to her fun and popular patterns more than anyone else’s here in the blog! She has so many popular designs that work beautifully for multi-colored skeins of yarn (the ones you buy because you love the color combination, but then you’re not sure what you’re going to do with it?). And the Nuvem that I made continues to be one of my favorite wrap-arounds in the winter and on airplanes. Here’s a little peek into Martina’s life and her designing. Enjoy!
Loopy: Thanks for being in the Spotlight today, Martina! So how long have you been a knitter, and who taught you to knit?
Martina: I learned how to knit when I was 8 years old – that’s more than 30 years ago – phew! My grandma Lisa taught me (she will be 90 next year), and my first little project was a light blue garter stitch scarf for my doll. Still my favorite stitch pattern!
Loopy: I guessed that garter stitch might be your favorite, as so many of your patterns use that stitch. I think that’s one reason so many people love your patterns. Easy to make but unique and fun at the same time. What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Martina: Triangular shawlettes, obviously, and anything that has an interesting construction or geometrical shape, and as few purl stitches as possible! I have a very inefficient method of purling, and I guess that is the reason why I like to knit and design purl-free patterns.
Martina: That would be the “Tabi Socks” by Veronik Avery from her book “Knitting Classic Style”. They have a very pretty, delicate lace pattern on the top of the foot that I was unable to memorize, so I had to look at the chart all the time. But they were surely worth the effort, they turned out very beautifully. I knit them as a birthday gift for my mom a couple of years ago and she still treasures them and wears them on special occasions.
Loopy: I went and looked those up. Those are pretty. It almost looks like cobblestones going up the front of the sock. Lucky for your mom! When did you first start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Martina: When I had my first child, I knit some children’s garments from an old eastern German pattern book that I had found on e-bay. It was from the 1950’s and the patterns were not really patterns, but rough guidelines. Often you were asked to shape something according to a schematic, without it telling you exactly how many stitches to decrease. So I learnt how to do that and also how to adapt those patterns to heavier yarns. (In the 50’s, apparently they knit everything on size 0 needles). At the same time, I started reading Elizabeth Zimmermann’s “Knitting Without Tears” that tells you that yes, you can knit anything you want as long as you know how to calculate a few things. And she was really innovative in constructing knitted items. I liked that. And at some point, I started making up my own.
Loopy: That’s where your innovative streak comes from! Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Martina: That’s a very hard question. Usually it is the one I have just worked on, and right now it is the next design for my Strickmich! Club, which turned out beautifully! The one I like most construction-wise is my Matchmaker, which is a big, triangular cowl knit entirely in garter stitch. The shawlettes I wear most are my striped “Ecken + Kanten” (“Corners + Edges”) and “Miss Winkle”. I just think the little loops are cute!
Martina: I love playing with geometric shapes, sketching and figuring out what would be the easiest way to achieve a certain effect. Swatching is also great because I get to play with yarn and see if my plan works – it is wonderful when it does! One thing I do not like that much is translating my patterns. I always write them in English first (although English is not my native language, you can probably tell) because I think the English knitting language is much more concise and easier to understand. I then translate everything back to German, which is fiddly. You really have to pay attention and it is not very creative, so that is really not my favorite part.
Loopy: That’s so interesting that you write it up in English first. I’m actually happy that your patterns are in English at any point in the process! Do you have other jobs outside of pattern designing? And do you do this business full or part time?
Martina: I am a mom and I have two kids (5 and 8 years old) and a husband, and I take care of most of the housework. So my designing is part-time. I used to work as a freelance writer for “Brigitte Magazine” here in Germany, but I have given that up in favor of knitwear design. I really enjoy being my own boss (at least during the times when my kids are not around). I do this part-time and my husband is helping me with a lot of things like organizing our Club. I am getting the feeling that it is very important to not be on your own with your business and have someone to team up with. The dyers I have worked with for our club are a great example – they all have business partners, husbands, or grown-up children working with them. Sure, even if you are a team, still something difficult may come up, but you are not alone. And if everything runs fine, you can enjoy it together!
Loopy: It’s always nice to have family help in the business. I’m fortunate to have that, too. Does anyone else in your family knit?
Martina: Now that you have me thinking about it, it turns out no one really knits. My grandma used to knit socks for everyone but gave that up in favor of Norwegian-style embroidery which she enjoys and loves a lot. My mother can’t really knit because she had Polio when she was a child (no vaccines back then), so she cannot use her left hand the way knitters usually do. So I try to knit her every hat, sock and shawlette she desires, because she cannot do it herself. She helps me with the sewing machine in return! My 8-year-old son actually prefers to crochet. But I recently taught my husband to knit garter stitch, and I still have hopes that he will pick up his half-finished potholder again one day!
Loopy: The only trouble with that is that he might want to share your stash as he gets more into knitting. You’ll have to make sure he starts his own stash! Are there other hobbies that you enjoy as well?
Martina: I love to play the piano, and I play the guitar a little bit, badly, but enthusiastically.
Loopy: What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Martina: Driving to the shores of the Baltic Sea, preferably the island Fehmarn where my family used to spend their summer vacations on a camping site. I would walk on the beach, pick up pebbles, breathe salty air and enjoy the view.
Martina: I have my best hours and feel most motivated to start new projects after 10 pm at night. Sadly, that is the time when I have to go to sleep because school starts at 8 am here in Germany, and we have to get up at 6:30 to get everyone ready. I have a very hard time getting up in the morning, and I try to compensate with lots and lots of coffee. I am a continental knitter, and although I am curious about the “throwing” method, I am just a tiny bit too lazy to try it. And solids or multicolors – that depends, of course! Knitting with multicolors is just plain fun, especially when you can achieve some pooling, striping or spiraling with it. When I knit my latest pattern “Endless Rainbow”, it was pure joy to see the colors emerge and the effect they create next to each other. But for some projects, solids are obviously the way to go, especially if you are doing complicated cables or lace. So, really, every kind of yarn has its place in the this world – and, of course, in my stash!
Martina: When can I come see your lovely store?
Loopy: Ha – ANY time. We would love to have you visit! 🙂
So have you made some of Martina’s patterns? Or do you have some on your list to make? Which one(s)? Martina is offering our Loopy blog readers $1 off of one of her patterns, your choice! Simply enter the code: theloopyewe upon checkout. This offer is good between July 11 and 18, so pop over and pick one!