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Martenitsa: How To

So this afternoon, I went out to buy a few martenitsas and some groceries.  I ended up with more than 20 leva in martenitsas.  They are so cute and it seems so festive.  Also this a truly Bulgarian holiday.

When I got home and figured that I would give making my own martenistas a go.  I bought colored thread/string in red and white.  These are the traditional colors.  Every martenista I saw today had at least these two colors.  Some had additional colors like yellow, blue or orange but these colors were accents.  Red and white are musts.

Thread in Red and White

Then you’ve got to cut off the right amount of thread to work with.  Hopefully this goes better for you then it did for me.  The white thread was easy to work with.  The red, well, this turned out to be well messy.  I ended up just having to pull on a loose end until I got enough red to work with.


I cut my stings into about 12 inch long pieces.  I made two different styles.  One–the friendship bracelet inspired martenitsa–took four pieces of thread and the other a braided style only required three pieces of thread.  The braided martenitsas were the easiest to make so this is what I’ll describe.  If you want to make a friendship bracelet inspired martenitsa you should be able to follow these directions pretty easily.

Cutting the ThreadOnce you’ve got the thread cut then you need take you’re three pieces of thread and fold them in half in the middle.  Tie a knot and when you’ve done so you’ll have a loop at the top of and six strands of thread to work with.  Then start braiding.  Probably you have either four strands of red and two strands of white or vice versa.  Group the strands so that you have pairs two reds, two, whites and two reds.  Then braid until you’ve got an inch of string left.  Stop.  Tie an end knot. The only thing you have to know is how to braid. Easy-peasy.

Completed Martenitsa Now if you wanted you could add to the standard martenista I’ve described by adding beads either in the braiding of the martenitsa or you could add them on as little tails to the martenista.  Many of the beads I saw today were blue and white evil eyes.  Finish your martenista off with a safety pin through the loop at the top and instruct the wearer to position it on the chest near the face for good luck.  Or you could make the martenitsa longer and wear it as bracelet.

I think the hardest part is giving the martenista away after you’ve made it.  This said, given the fact that you can buy martenitsas at every street corner in Sofia I think that people will really appreaicate your effort in making your own martenitsas and if you don’t live in Bulgaria, I think you’ll have to make your own martenitsas if you want to give them away on March 1st.  Good luck.

3 Responses to “Martenitsa: How To”

  1. Aunt Jane says:

    I see all the years of crafting has paid off. I’m sure we could whip up some of these.

    Love aunt jane

  2. karolinka27 says:

    @Aunt Jane: I had a lot of fun making these basic ones. There are some more complicated ones that I would love to try to make I just didn’t have everything I needed here… Looks like I’ll be bring a craft project back with me!!

  3. miter says:

    I’m a whole year late in reading this, but considering I plan to make some martenichki to send out to my Bulgarian friends this year (and your martenitza import business is either still in the planning stage, or not properly advertised ;) ), this should come in handy!

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