Tanja Steinbach




    How important is it for you to pick up your knitting needles as a private person, when you are no longer performing your creative job? Is it even possible to relax from your work for the MEZ brands, Schachenmayr and REGIA, or are you always thinking about “work“? Or do you knit something entirely different in your free time?

    In some ways, a “creative job“ is a privilege… Of course, it is sometimes difficult to stick to regular working hours. Creativity can’t be turned on and off at the touch of a button. By the way, it is also not the case that I primarily knit for my work… but I'll get back to that later. Relaxing is very important. And sometimes I have to force myself to do it… to get “work“ out of my thoughts and do something entirely different! Occasionally, I knit something just for myself – and then that seems to take “years“ and serves simply as a way to unwind… when I do that, to really clear my mind I like to exactly follow instructions from one of my designer colleagues, such as Stephen West or Asa Tricosa.


    You have been creating knitting designs for MEZ, formerly Coats, for 20 years now. What exactly is your role?

    That has changed several times in the course of the years. I began in product development and there I was mainly concerned with new yarns and colors - and very little with knitting designs. During the course of time, that kept shifting, away from yarn development and toward the knitting collections. Now, as far as yarn development is concerned, I serve almost entirely as a “consultant“ only, testing new yarns while knitting and occasionally making color suggestions. Primarily I am concerned (together with a colleague) with such questions as how the yarns can best be promoted by appropriate knitting designs – by what is best suited to the individual yarn and what is currently “in the air“. The concepts for the collections are then developed and realized, in cooperation with free-lance designers and many helpful knitters.


    Doesn't creativity then fall by the wayside at some point? Where do you find inspiration again and again?

    The wonderful thing about my job is that one day is seldom like the next. Often each day is different. Of course, that can be strenuous, but it also keeps you flexible and open for new ideas. Of course, we also use the

    so-called trend portals to compare color and fashion trends and there we repeatedly encouter new ideas. Also, a weekend in a different city or a visit to a good exhibit can also turn ideas in a new direction!


    Did your enjoyment of sewing and knitting already begin in your childhood? And what role does crochet play? Or other creative activities? 

    I think so, even if in retrospect it’s no longer possible to determine exactly when the foundation was laid. At home (I come from a classic Swabian craftsman’s business), many different things were “homemade“. My mother sewed a lot for us when we were children and at some point, you just try it yourself – at least that was true in my case. I always loved to spend an afternoon at the sewing machine and then have a “cool garment“ – it's probably best to not talk about my technical possibilities and workmanship at the time, but it was “creative“ …


    After your dressmaker’s apprenticeship you studied textile design in Reutlingen. Before very long you were concentrating on knitting. Was that your plan from the beginning?

    The answer is definitely no. In Reutlingen one focus is on the field of knitting technology. The company “Stoll“ is located there and for that reason the campus is well-equipped with knitting machines and technology for yarn processing and the study program is structured accordingly. In the beginning I definitely also imagined concentrating on the clothing industry – but things often turn out differently than planned. In retrospect I can say that it was a good development for me.


    In addition to your job as a designer, you also write books on needlework and can be seen on TV in “ARD Buffet” and in “Kaffee oder Tee” on SWR. How did that come about? And what does the work in front of the camera mean to you?

    I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. In the early 2000's the Frechverlag publishers had decided to add the topic of “Needlework” to their line of craft books and were looking for partners and authors – so I wrote my first little book about “Sock knitting“. And it was similar with television. At the beginning I had a consulting function and prepared topics for the editorial staff and eventually I found myself in front of the camera.


    And what it means to me? Well, it’s always exciting and it’s a fantastic change from my everyday work. I also consider it a privilege to work together with the colleagues from SWR, that always brings new aspects. Having said that, it’s also distressing to see how short 4-5 minutes of airtime actually are and what a balancing act is required to make this time as informative for everyone as possible. When I watch the programs later I often think, “you could have explained that here“ or “you held it wrong (or too fast) for the camera there“ – but that's the way it is with live productions.…


    What is the reaction to your instructions and tips?

    I’d say “very good“. The instructions for “ARD Buffet“ and  “Kaffee oder Tee“ are in good demand. Since June 2015 I also have a blog (www.tanjasteinbach.de). Here, and also through other social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, I come in direct contact with other knitting and needlework enthusiasts and I really enjoy the communication. That is also an inspiration.


    I started the blog after prolonged urging by one of my colleagues and now I'm very grateful to her. The kickoff was the new “knit along“ for the ARD Buffet in summer 2015 (“Der Sommernachtstraum“/“Sundowner“). In December 2014 I had created a similar activity for the ARD Buffet and after that it was clear that such a project always generates many requests. And that a new activity would also have to have the corresponding support. In this case, I didn’t think Facebook would be the ideal platform. I wanted an “independent“ forum where questions and information could be bundled. Of course, that was a super start for the blog and I am always pleased to see how often the shawl has been knit and is still being knit!


    Everyone knows that a day has only 24 hours. How do you manage to juggle work, family, and time for yourself? How do you maintain your personal balance?

    It’s not always easy… but many other working parents have the same problem. “Housekeeping“ was never my strong point and that is certainly what suffers the most. Things just aren’t perfect at home. My husband and children make things easy for me and the children are past the age when they need constant attention. I really enjoy my work so things are just made to fit – and sometimes you have to just leave work to itself and be “selfish“ and do something just for yourself or together with family or friends.


    What is your personal opinion? Why are needlework or other DIY topics so popular again?

    I don’t think that they were ever really gone, it’s just that they are very popular with the general public again. Even in times when knitting was scorned, as a “grandmother’s activitiy“, people knit, crochted, and crafted. I see what’s happening at the moment, as a kind of “emancipation“ of knitting. People like to knit (crochet/sew/... ) and are happy to show it! I hope that this trend also makes an impression on education and that once again good instruction is offered in the schools. I think that making something “with your own hands“ is a very important experience and when it also has a practical application then it’s really wonderful!


    Would you be willing to tell us what your personal strengths and weaknesses are?

    "Do it right or not at all" - that says it all... I´m fairly drastic there. So I often don´t always find the right time to stop. When I do something, I do it thoroughly and can find it difficult to distance myself from it...

  3. This Interview was first published in "Stricken for you". This is the shortened, actualized version.







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