In episode 13 of the Maternity Sewing Podcast, Lisa chats with Annika Ferk of Nähconnection about the German Sewing Community. They talk about preferences in design, fabric choice, how they find each other, and how a designer can get into this market.
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In relation to patterns without seam allowances, we mention sewing magazine BurdaStyle. It started in 1949 in Germany, and is now published in more that 99 countries.
The German maternity and nursing pattern Annika mentions is the Martha by Milchmonster.
Do you have an idea for a podcast episode – something or someone you’ve always wanted to know more about? Do you have expertise or an experience you want to share? Email us!
[0:00] Hi Annika. Welcome to the maternity sewing podcast. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners?
[0:07] Hi Lisa. Sure. Let me first thank you for inviting me. I was really pleased to get to your and Erin’s message. I’m Annika. I’m from Germany.
[0:21] I’m normally working at the University of Munich as a geophysicist but at the moment I’m on maternity leave with my third child. So I have a 10 month old girl, a five year old boy and a nine year old girl. We live in the south of Germany in a small village. Yeah I started sewing about seven years ago when we built our house because I wanted to be able to sew some pillows and curtains and stuff like this. Well we don’t have any of this yet because I then started to sew kids clothes and haven’t stopped since. So well that didn’t happen with the pillows but I took to sewing I haven’t stopped ever since. I started to blog 5 years ago. And my page is called Naehconnection. Naen is the German word for sewing so it’s a place where I try to connect with other bloggers, sewers and so on.
[1:33] Okay. So your what is your role exactly in the German sewing community? What kind of shop do you have or website? Yeah, so at first I just started I with my blog because I wanted to connect originally maybe to English-speaking bloggers such as I realize that if you only can comment but nobody can comment on your side then there isn’t really like friendships starting or anything.
[2:07] Like in the beginning I only knew about English blog. But then some years later I realized tell there’s a huge German community too. So I thought oh it’s so sad that most of them don’t even know about the English patterns or don’t dare to sew with them because maybe their English is too bad or actually wouldn’t be too bad but they just think it is so I thought it would be fun to translate some English patterns to German and to be able to sell the German version to the German sewing community. And that’s what I do with my shop I have.
[2:45] now I think about 100 sewing patterns or so that are from different English-speaking designers that have been translated to German and try to introduce those designers to the German sewing community.
[3:01] Okay so you’re a really like like a connection between the German and the English sewing community in that way that you translate both ways? I do. I mean I do translate from German to English too but I’ve realized that it’s like I’m just a one-woman show here and it’s just too much work to get really into both sides of the blogosphere. Really doing the advertising and making those patterns public in both on both sides is really difficult. At the moment I’m really actually concentrating on the English patterns that I bring to the German community and hope that in some years I can go more in the other direction too. Okay and so what is, what different different aspects do the English patterns bring to the or designers bring to the Germans sewing community. What what do you think is there something different about them or? Is it design wise or something else? It’s design-wise I’d say. In the beginning I mainly started out with a kid’s patterns.
[4:16] And like in an English sewing Community it’s there’s a lot of let’s say for example for girls there’s a lot of woven dresses and with a lot of detailing. Maybe a bit harder construction-wise. While in the German Community people sew a lot with knits. Most of the people have a huge collection of hoodie patterns because they sew so many knit patterns and so on. So I’m trying to kind of introduce those woven style patterns, many of them are vintage inspired I would say. Then for the women patterns
[5:05] it’s similar I think. In the English speaking community there’s way more woven patterns in general I’d say than knit patterns. And it’s interesting because in the English community more and more people are now daring to sew with knits while in the German people are starting to sew with wovens. So it’s basically just going in the opposite direction. Oh that’s really interesting. So they do they feel like wovens are harder as the same? I’d definitely say so. And then also it’s like I mean probably not every German would like me to say this but we are not a very stylish country or people. We just love clothes that are comfortable that you can wear every day. I don’t think that many German sewists are like longing for evening gowns and stuff like this. It’s more like If I sew something I want to be able to wear it like almost every day and to to really be comfortable in it.
[6:24] And then also I mean I know that in English speaking community there’s like it’s more or less only starting that people are buying sergers now while I know several Germans that I don’t know that they sewed for like 3 weeks and then are like okay I need an overlocker. So it’s very different early in their sewing career and then it’s, maybe a little bit easier to sew. Now that’s interesting because you sell my patterns as well and I design mostly for knits and they do really well in your shop so it’s really that’s very interesting to me that
[7:11] Germans start sewing with knits. I started sewing with knits as well,
you know the same reason maybe because I’m Dutch so maybe. I just wanted to sew something comfortable and it was more my style I guess yeah. Yeah and then also I think I mean the whole fitting issue is of course much easier if you sew with knits so I think it’s not that wrong to start off with knits because I mean even if it’s not exactly right it will still fit you. But like with a woven dress if it’s like the bust dart is at the wrong place it might look really wrong you know. so there’s much less place for error.
[8:00] Yeah that’s what I like about knits too. They are more forgiving in that sense.
[8:07] Another thing is that like when I started to sew some years ago in the American kids sewing blogosphere I’d say I often read about where can I even find a nice knit, like they were using old t-shirts and upcycling them to purchase something for the kids and so on. And then when I actually realized like
[8:37] that this is very different in Germany it was so much easier because here I mean you can buy knits everywhere. It’s like every shop has a much bigger selection of jersey than of let’s say rayon or something like this, it’s crazy. Most of it is organic to so really nice stuff. I’ve noticed this too. The organic knits seem like a really big Market in Germany. It’s really really cool. Yeah definitely. And so are the German sewists have like specific platforms that they prefer to meet or to hang out or to is mostly bloggers? It’s really interesting because it took me several years to understand this actually. I think the German community is probably one of the biggest in the world I think. Maybe like comparable to the Belgian or so where it’s like.
[9:44] I mean they’re more German sewing but they’re much more German people. But like in Belgium where like every second person is sewing it’s similar here and it’s how many I mean I know so many of my neighbors and so on that’s so it’s not like I only know the the people online that sew. But it’s very very diverse so I don’t think there is one platform where I can reach all of them. Okay. I mean there’s like the a real bloggers which is a certain group, mostly I’d say pretty high educated and interesting in more detailing and maybe also into harder patterns and more challenging stuff and so on. And then there are all those people that have liked a Facebook page and you discovered them after some years and they have like I don’t know 25,000 followers in your like well I didn’t even know that this person exists and that happens again and again to me it’s like. I mean there are overlaps of course but sometimes you’re like that person I’ve never heard about them but they are like really big on Facebook and then you have other people that are really big on Instagram so it’s very very different.
[11:08] Yeah like also Facebook groups. There are groups you discover after years and have like 100,000 people in there. You’re like well, how come that I didn’t know about this group? Of course it is a bit challenging for a shop too because you want to make sure that you kind of find those different groups and talk to them. And I’m getting better at it but it’s still a long way to go. I do see what you’re saying because I think it’s the it’s the same in the in the English Community.
[11:51] There’s kind of a gap or there’s two different worlds in the one is on Instagram and the other is on Facebook and I am I come from Instagram basically and then now I’m getting more into Facebook but now I see that there’s designers and people that have like like you say like thousands of followers and I haven’t even heard of them. I mean you are like looking for the designers for the maternity sewing shop and I’m sure you discovered many that you have never heard about right? Yeah absolutely. Which is really cool because they have a very large selection to choose from. How come there are those different groups and I mean I think like the blogger people are mostly more in Instagram so there is more overlap here I guess and then Facebook is is more a different world I think.
[12:56] It could be. I haven’t quite figured it out yet either. So if an international designer would like to reach the the German market, how what would it be their best how would they have to go at it? Is it really important that they translate their patterns? Do you think that the language is kind of a barrier to reach the community? I think it is. I mean for like I’m sure there are many many Germans that buy English patterns. But I’m sure there are many more don’t. Let’s put it that way you know. For the first part I think many of them don’t even like check out all the English sites and so on so I think that many of them.
[13:48] would be able to to read and understand English patterns. I mean they are not that different and let’s say design wise if you can check out the pictures and find and read more less what it’s written next to the picture then you mostly can understand what is going on you know. I think most people would be able to understand the English patterns. But they don’t really check out the English sites, follow the English community and so on. So I think that’s like where it’s getting difficult to really let people know even that you are there you know. It might not be that they really wouldn’t be able to read and understand your patterns but it’s more like they don’t even know that they’re this community exists in some of them might not be that interested in it because I mean there are like I don’t know several hundred German pattern designers already. So it’s like finding that group of people that are interesting and reaching out and getting to know them and so on. So the German the Germans pattern market really is.
[15:11] already there’s already a lot of a lot of choice for German sewists. There is a lot of choice already.
[15:21] I think a big difference between German and English patterns is that if you want to go more challenging there’s not much choice in in Germany. Then also I mean as I said most of it is knit, then I think I might there’s much more designers for kids clothes than for women’s, but I might be wrong here because I mean I’m always, discovering new stuff so there might be some designers that I’ve never heard of that have hundreds of patterns for women and I just didn’t know it. So but I think there is more kid stuff out there.
[16:05] There’s one thing that is making it harder for English people is the price point I think. German patterns are way cheaper than English. In Germany I think it’s rare to find a pattern that is more expensive than let’s say eight euros which is more or less the same as eight US Dollars. So that is a thing that is making it harder to reach the German community for someone from abroad because obviously they don’t want to sell their patterns much cheaper in Germany than anywhere else.
But it’s like for a German if they are used to buying for five euros it’s like what the pattern is 15 euros no no no no no. I’m not buying it.
[17:00] That is that is a bit of a difficulty I think. I can see that.
But as you say for but for the patterns themselves they are pretty much the same in their set up and lay out so if someone from an English-speaking community would like to try German pattern it would be also the same. Of course you will have
[17:27] all kinds of designers so there will be some that are doing a lot less than English. Then there are some designers that are driving me nuts because it’s so detailed that you are like okay yeah that is pattern for let’s say a beanie for a kiddo and it’s like 20 Pages for three sewing steps. It’s like what what’s going on? I’d say most of them are similar. I mean something that is of course often different is that there’s no seam allowance included. Something to keep in mind. Normally you somewhere find the word natsugabe which is the German word for seam allowance to see if it’s included or not. I mean there’s some designers that are now doing their patterns with a seam allowance but I’d say more of them are doing their patterns without so that’s something to keep in mind. Do you think that’s because because of the Burda?Because of precedent of the Burda not including seam allowances or is it a different reason? It might be from burda, I think so but.
[18:54] I mean it’s interesting because like many Germans are like “what you’re including seam allowance?” It’s just like the same as when you’re talking to someone from, I don’t know that you asked me, what a pattern without seam allowance. It’s just like what’s normal to you. It’s like for comparison we have our house that we built is actually imported from Sweden. Our windows open to the outside instead to the inside. Everyone who sees them is like what? They come to the outside? I’m like yes it’s just how they do it in Sweden. It’s just normal for them this way it is for us the other way so it’s just something you don’t think about it and then you’ll realize it might be another way to do it so. And I think I mean both of them have have their advantages. I mean I prefer I’m a bit lazy so I prefer when my seam allowance is there already. But obviously if you want to make any changes to the pattern on and so on it’s easier if you don’t have to seam allowances.
[20:07] Yeah that’s true yeah there’s something to say for both ways I guess.
[20:13] And then my last question would be so you mentioned you are a mother of three children. Do you have any recommendations for German maternity or nursing patterns? I must say that like when I was pregnant with my first child I didn’t sew already. Then with my second child a boy, I didn’t sew far myself yet so I didn’t try this out. But then like for my baby daughter, when I was pregnant I did sew most of the things that I wore but most of them were from English pattern designers. But there’s one pattern that comes to my mind. It’s called Marta from the German pattern designer milchmonster. It’s like a sweater or hoodie dress and it has like it has the seam right under the bust so that’s perfect to have room and a nice part of your growing belly and there’s even a nursing option so you can even wear this nicely when the baby is born. So I think that’s something that many Germans sew when they are pregnant.
[21:29] Okay yeah I think I’ve seen mention of this pattern as well. And it’s in German right? It’s in German yes okay okay thank you so much,
for being on the show and introducing us to the German sewing community. Thanks for inviting me it was a real pleasure. Thank you.
That’s it for today’s episode of the maternity sewing podcast. You can find Maternity Sewing at maternitysewing.com. You’ll find our curated pattern shop of maternity, nursing, and postpartum friendly sewing patterns. Our blog where we have inspiration for pregnant, nursing, and postpartum sewists, and the show notes from all of our podcasts. I’m Lisa Kievits, you host today and co-owner of Maternity Sewing. You can find me at paprikapatterns.com and on Instagram as @paprikapatterns. Today I talked with Annika of naehconnection. You can find her online and on instagram as naehconnection.