An interview with Isabell Kraemer

von Claudia Ostrop - 8 Mar, 2021

An interview with Isabell Kraemer

She is undoubtedly one of the most successful German knitwear designers, and she also has her place at the forefront in the international knitting world: Isabell Kraemer.

Her success lies in that her designs are timelessly beautiful. Suitable for everyday use, they are everything but ordinary. Her casual pullovers and cardigans have enchanting sophisticated details - and each one has what it takes to become a favourite!

Isabell Kraemer's patterns are almost always knitted seamlessly from top to bottom. The patterns are written with absolute precision and are easy to follow.

We are very happy that Isabell designed the Laia pullover specifically for our Puno yarns and our brand new yarn Puno Winikunka. Laia is a cool piece with a beautiful lace pattern around the top of the yoke.

And we're just as happy that Isabell took the time to chat with us and answer a few questions!

Isabell, you are one of the most successful knitwear designers of our time. How did that happen? 

Well, it wasn't planned! It all started when I discovered Ravelry. At some point, I did a lot of test knitting for different designers. But now and then, I didn't really follow the pattern and changed it a little (in case my test knitters should read this: I always consulted beforehand; these weren't 'unapproved' changes.) My versions of the patterns usually were received with great approval. I think that was pretty good advertising, not only for myself as a 'knitter', but also for the designer. Back then, I also knitted a lot of things 'just like that' (without a pattern), which meant that a lot of people asked for the pattern for these very projects. Mainly, however, it was Joji Locatelli and Heidi Kirrmaier who encouraged me to dare to publish my own patterns. What could go wrong, right? Well, that's not entirely true: everything and nothing could go wrong and it took me a long time before I made my first patterns available to 'the world'. In 2011, I finally dared. At first, my patterns were all for free - I couldn't imagine that anyone would want to pay anything for them! Two years later, and with a little more experience, I published the first pattern for sale. ... the rest is history ;-)

Who taught you to knit?

I taught myself! My mother had a number of handicraft books. Quite thick volumes, I think they were from Reader´s Digest. She never really did much handcraft, but the books were on the shelves. And then at some point, I took them and taught myself how to knit. That's why I knit like a right-handed person, even though I'm actually left-handed - after all, that's how it was shown in the books!

Do you remember what your first knitting project was?

Oh yes .... luckily there is no photo proof of it (I hope so ;-)). The piece was an oversized pullover, knitted with my grandma´s yarn (probably all 100% acrylic ... my grandma was more than enthusiastic about this new fashionable material that you could wash in the washing machine. It looked a little like a patchwork blanket, with different patterns (I had these handicraft books!). And different colours (all shades of pink because Grandma thought this colour was so great). I then sewed together these two large rectangles, knitted a neckline and then, when it came to the sleeves, I noticed that the thing was so wide that only 4” of ‘sleeves' were actually needed. 

The knitting patterns you publish are fascinating; you obviously never run out of good ideas. How are your designs created?

If I sat down to design something from scratch, it would probably be an endless story. I can't think of much on command. It might sound weird, but ideas just come my way. I am suddenly just there. It's not really tangible, but I'm knitting something, for example, and suddenly the idea of ​​something completely different occurs to me. Then I have to quickly draw a sketch! Because I have gathered these ideas, I later have a better plan of what to do next. 

Sometimes the ideas are of course also inspired by a particular yarn. I like to try out new yarns. As I knit, I quickly get an idea of ​​the patterns that would look good with that particular yarn. Or how a pullover should look like, for example, short or long, narrow or wide, smooth, monochrome or with a pattern ...

There are many beautiful books, which have also inspired my designs.

Speaking of yarn, do you have any particular yarn preferences? What kind of yarn do you particularly like?

Oh! That´s a difficult question. Basically, I lean towards the rustic. So wool, with which little has been done, that comes directly from the sheep! Of course, it doesn't have to be scratchy (not that it particularly bothers me). I just like a robust structure. I'm a long way from silk. If it is supposed to be smooth, then I´d go for linen.

And how do you like our Puno? It's also rather soft and smooth.

Puno is a very nice yarn! The lively colours are great because they are slightly mottled. And the cotton doesn't feel like normal cotton at all, nor does it behave like the cotton yarns of the eighties, where the knitted fabric was first as hard as a board and then worn out. There are really not many cotton yarns that I like a lot. The blend of cotton and alpaca is a really great. It was a lot of fun to knit Laia with Puno. I think it really makes the lace pattern stand out.    

Isabell Kraemer in an interview with Paul Pascuali     Isabell Kraemer in an interview with Paul Pascuali     Isabell Kraemer in an interview with Paul Pascuali

Laia by Isabell Kraemer – especially designed for our yarns Puno und Puno Winikunka. The pattern is available at Ravelry. Perfect for spring! 

What else do you like about Pascuali yarns?

I think it's important to know that the yarn I knit with was created in a reputable way. Fortunately, this is important to a growing number of knitters, so that there is more of this in the market now. I think it's fantastic that the Pascuali yarns are not only great in terms of quality, but also in terms of sustainability, nature conservation and animal welfare!

Do you have a favourite pattern?

Yes and no! Usually, the current pattern is my favourite - otherwise the pattern would not have existed! I have knitted a lot of things that have never made it to the public - precisely because they didn't have what it takes to become my favourite.

To name a few of my favourites: I really like Humulus! I think it's great, well, like many others out there, apparently. I enjoy wearing it very often - you can tell by the way it looks now.

Or the Reagan wrap cardigan, which I've been wearing for years, especially in spring and autumn.

Do you do everything alone or do you have a team in the background working with you?

I still do all the knitting myself. Even the sleeves ...

But of course, I have help in the background now! At first, I really did everything on my own, in addition to my 'regular' job, which I actually only gave up until 2017. On the one hand, there is Janine, who does a lot of administrative work for me and, for example, also organizes my test knits. I have a handful of translators for my patterns (I write the patterns in English ... German is good in all other areas of life, but not when it comes to knitting) and a small team of moderators who work with me and help me take care of my forum on Ravelry. And not to forget my test knitters, who check my patterns very carefully before they are published!

And finally, a very private question: What do you do when you are not knitting?

I Jog! I've now had almost a full year in which I didn't go jogging at least every other day. I had big problems with my shoulder and back last year and could hardly do anything. Sitting, writing, knitting, none of that was possible. The pain didn't go away, but at least I got out when I ran, and the fresh air was good for clearing my head. Since then, I've been running my laps regularly. When I'm under stress, running is the best! Sometimes I have to put down my knitting because my two cats demand their petting - and of course they get that too!

Translation by Marisa Cid