When Mariana Andrić started her brand, she had a big task ahead of her: to find knitters and try to create teams of women who will understand how she wants to create her product. The skill of knitting is really a special skill, and the ways of knitting are various. That is why Mariana went from village to village, from knitter to knitter, and tried to form a small team that would best understand her wishes and transfer it to a quality and modern product at the same time.
She succeeded in that and now we have a small but valuable team in which there is a lot of trust and wonderful energy. Not just in addition to the economic contribution, but in another level this valuable work means a lot to our knitters : their handicraft, which originated in remote areas of one country, so small that even the most locals of Serbia do not know them, is now worn on the streets of New York, London and Hong Kong. That is why each of our products has the name of the woman who wove it, as well as the number of her years. They are super proud to be part of the modern world in truly special way.
The connection with the cultural heritage in Maridruna is very strong. The desire to preserve that cultural heritage was one of the driving ideas on the basis of which Maridruna was created. Knitting on the territory of Serbia is a centuries-old tradition. However, just like all the old traditional crafts, this craft is unfortunately dying out. The skill of knitting implies the process of manual work, knowledge that can only be transferred directly, from the knitter to the knitter. Our grandmothers started learning this skill as very young girls, and today, after decades of work, they have become excellent knitters.
Some of these grandmothers are also part of the Maridruna team. Grandmothers and mothers who knit sweaters with a lot of love and dedication are Maridruna strongest thread that keeps us all together. Unfortunately, this skill is no longer passed from generation to generation and girls cant learn it. The way of knitting in our country is precious, and knitting is a precious skill that, if not nurtured, threatens to die out. There is another important detail: as a valuable skill, knitting can be a significant source of income and many knitters in our team (who are women from different parts of the country) this type of work means a lot.
Maridruna therefore tried and continues to try to combine the old with the new. The skill and tradition combined with the modern cut, in that way the knitting gained much greater visibility in the world. This is also a way to attract the younger generations: to adapt the traditional workmanship to the modern design, and for this combination to create a modern handicraft that everyone will want to wear.
Below we present just a part of Maridruna’s team that makes each woven thread get a special dose of love and significance.
When she was 20 years old, war broke out in Ilijana’s birthplace in Lika, it was the time of the gloomy 90’s when the great Yugoslavia officially and irreparably disintegrated. Starting a new life from scratch in a climate that did not look at all like the one from which it originated, was not an easy task, but Ilijana managed to achieve it. She starts a family, survives a cruel divorce and remains an exemplary mother to her son. She said that the craft of knitting she learned by “stealing” it from others. Since childhood, she watched her mother and other women in her family knit and crochet. It was a some sort of pastime and hobby.
Although she was very interested, her mother did not want to teach little Ilijana to knit – so as not to injure herself with sharp needles. Iliana would then take two pencils, wind a ball on them and pretend to knit. This was the case until, as a slightly older girl, she took the right needles for the first time and began to master the skill of this craft on her own. Today, at the age of 44, Ilijana knits flawlessly, and crochets for her soul. She says that this type of creative work has inspired her in some other fields as well. She invited us to visit her small property with a garden full of organic fruits, vegetables and flowers, which she raised herself. In this fairy-tale ambience that she created with her own two hand, Ilijana creates some of Maridruna’s most delicate models and in that way makes our soft and gantle fairy tale spread further.
Mira finished high school in agriculture, worked in the prosecutor’s office for 15 years – distributing mail to prosecutors, and after moving from one part of Vojvodina to another, she got a job in a completely unexpected sphere – the automotive industry, where she worked as a production operator. That it is possible to achieve everything if you have a strong will, Mira shows us day by day with her delicate work, not for a single moment neglecting her beautiful large family.
Mira has two daughters from her first marriage and three daughters from her second. Knitting relaxes her and she enjoys it since she was a just a little girl. She learned to knit with her great-grandmother Zorka – who carefully supervised little Mira as she knitted and crocheted, so if her thread slipped, she would gently tickle her head to focus. Today, Mira knits so perfectly that she does it by drinking coffee with her neighbor Marija Rankov, also one of Mardiruna’s faithful knitters.
“When I was ten, my grandmother Zoka taught me to knit and I immediately wanted to knit something from what I saw on the pages of women’s fashion magazines. One day my mother brought the German magazine Verena and in it I saw a sweater that I fell in love with. My grandmother knitted it for me, but I didn’t like how it turned out. Then my mother tried and she also failed to fulfill my wish. I had no choice but to try it myself. I tried until I knitted an identical model like the one in the picture “, remembers Olivera, who is credited with an important role in Maridruna – directly participating in the process of creating new models with Mariana, as well as checking the quality of sweaters and cardigans that arrive in Maridruna direction in Belgrade, from all over the Serbia. From that first sweater, which no one believed was knitted by a girl of only ten years old, to a girl who shows even the most skilled knitters in the Užice region how new patterns and embroideries can be created on a sweater, not much has passed.
During the war of the 90’s, which marked the years of inflation in Serbia, it was Sisyphus’ job to get a source of income. Olivera was then studying at the teacher’s college, and in order to make money, she knitted the famous Sirogojno cardigans, which were paid a lot. “I studied and knitted at the same time. In front of me on the table is a book, and in my lap is wool. However, I did it because I had to. I didn’t enjoy constantly knitting one same model all the time. I’ve always loved experimenting and creating something never seen before. That creative process excited me and gave me the will to work. ” Olivera is 46 years old, the mother of two teenagers and has been happily married for more than two decades. For 18 years she was the director of animal feed production, but at one point in her life she made the decision to quit her job and try to return to what had always made her happy – every member of the Maridruna team can confirm that it was one of the best decisions which our Olivera brought.
“My mother taught me to knit, crochet and embroider. I was ten years old and I was completely thrilled with what can be done with a few skillful hand movements. From then until now, handcraft has been my great love and interest “, says Zoka, who at the age of 72 can now boast of a knitting experience of over half a century. Zoka has been knitting and crocheting through her all life, but mostly since she retired.
During decades of 70’s Zorica moved from southern Serbia to the far north of the country, because her husband got a job in Subotica. They lived in a harmonious marriage with their son and daughter for almost 50 years, until a couple of years ago, love of her life get ill and passed away.
Zoka living alone now, but her hands are always busy. Knitting fills her time. She enjoys every Fiona she knits and eagerly awaits every packet of wool we send her. When not knitting for Maridruna, she shows her love for handicrafts through numerous crocheted objects. To the question “What does she do with all those things that she has crocheted in the meantime, does she sell or give them away somewhere?”, Zoka answers very confidently “No, I just enjoy what I do”.
Marija was fascinated by the knitting skill her mother-in-law had and asked her to show her how to knit. Very quickly, Marija started knitting for herself with great pleasure. When she learned to knit, she was about 20 years old, but she showed this precious skill to her daughter Danijela much earlier, when she was only five years old, Danijela (who is also part of Maridruna’s team, knitted at an enviable level). Seeing how much pleasure knitting gives her, it became a challenge for her to learn something more from handicrafts.
Watching her mother-in-law crochet skillfully and quickly and creating beautiful handmade tablecloths, she wanted to master this skill and she succeeded. Marija is now 60 years old and has been working as a saleswoman in a supermarket for years. She is the mother of one daughter and two sons, but also a proud grandmother. She spends most of her free time knitting for Maridruna or crocheting beautiful handcrafts for her own soul.
Danijela is 40 years old, she is Marija’s daughter and a proud part of Maridruna’s team that comes from the north of the country, from the surroundings of the beautiful city of Subotica. “I was only five years old when I got my first serious knitting assignment. A chimney sweep who came to our house to clean the chimney saw me knitting skillfully and asked if I could knit him a sweater? I was honored with this task and excitedly threw myself into knitting that sweater. From then until now, knitting has been my great love. ” Danijela works as an employer in a chain of famous supermarkets, she is the wife and mother of two teenagers.
When we visited Danijela in her family house, she explained to us that in addition to all the activities that her family does, she always finds time for knitting. It’s something that’s just hers, primarily the fastest way to relax and calm down. “In the bedroom I have armchair that is only mine in which I knit, that is some sort of my sanctuary for peace and relaxation. I also knit in the living room, while at the same time watching a series or TV program with my family. I work with people all day, knitting is my kind of purification and preparation for a new working day. ”
Grandma Marija is 79 years old and we can freely call her the real Maridruna grandmother. She is a part of the Maridruna team since the very beginning of the brand, and care for every new Maridruna model that emerges like one of her grandchildren. Maria brings smile to Marijana face evry time she shows her grandmother’s attitude towards sweaters – she worries if someone will wear these models, if people will buy them, if they are really well knitted, if the wool is of good quality.
Marija is the first knitter that Marijana met. She came through advertisements, and before retiring she worked as a typist in court. And just as she was perfect and dedicated to her job, which she successfully performed for decades, she applied this principle in her work in Maridruna. She learned to knit from her mother as a little girl and she never stopped knitting, because she says that her hands cannot rest, that she has to do something with them. She retired earlier so that she could dedicate more time to caring for her grandchildren, because family is her greatest care and love, and knitting is her second one. Grandma Marija knits until late at night, next to the lamp in her room, gets up early and immediately picks up the needles and continues to knit. That much she enjoys the act of knitting.
“I am a child from the village near montain Golija, and it was understood that every girl in our village knows how to knit before she goes to school. That was my first serious knittwear task – to knit a sweater for my first day of school “, says Nada, who is a typist by profession. Now at the age of 62 she spends most of her time knitting and enjoys it. Nada says that during the covid-19 pandemic, knitting saved her from going crazy. She couldn’t move anywhere, a lot of people were sick, so all she had to do was shut herself in the house and knit. Nada grew up in difficult rural conditions, in a poor family with her mother and brother. Ever since she knew about herself, she went to the fields to look after sheep and cows, just like other village children. While keeping the cattle, the girls knitted, and so did Nada. When she went to school, she always carried a book, needles and wool with her. Sometimes she would knit, and sometimes she would read. Later, when she perfected her work for village fairs and assemblies, she knitted sets and dresses for herself.
“I enjoy what I do so much that I look forward to every knitted sweater as I once did to the success of my children,” concludes Nada. “The assembly that was held for Saint Sava after the biggest winter, was a big village event. The girls came in new dresses and beautiful coats and fur coats. I was young and beautiful, but poor, I could not afford anything like this for such a occasion. Then I would persuade my mother to spin the wool, we would dye it with natural colors and I would knit a dress or a set for myself: a skirt and a sweater. I remember a particularly beautiful gray with white rhombuses that I knitted on the edges of the skirt “, recalls Nada, who later in life with great passion knitted sweaters for her husband and the most modern designs with popular cartoon characters for her sons. She says that knitting is her therapy for calming, recreation and enjoyment that she tries to afford every day. When not knitting, then knit or tie for her own soul.