Designer Interview: Mary-Anne Mace

November 25, 2014

As part of our yarn review of Zealana Kiwi, I thought it the perfect time to introduce you to Mary-Anne Mace, a New Zealand designer who creates beautifully elegant patterns. Her latest pattern uses Zealana Kiwi Lace, and if you read to the end you can find out how to win one of three prizes - two prizes of a pdf copy of The Emperor and the Scarab, and one prize of enough Kiwi in the colour of your choice to make The Emperor and the Scarab, plus the pattern. Hooray!


Hello! Tell us a little about yourself:

I grew up on a Dairy farm in Waikato - A fairly common life for a Kiwi kid in the seventies - feeding calves, pet sheep, milking cows, riding motorbikes, getting slathered in muck and generally being wild were among my favourite activities.


 Big Flower, little flower shawl


I moved to Christchurch to attend University. I worked, travelled, earned more degrees until eventually I quit all that when my first child was born. I re-visited knitting to keep her little self warm in these winters that are so much colder than the balmy north. My mother-in-law insisted she teach me how to spin, so I learned, quite reluctantly, with two children trailing bits of carded sliver around her lawn. Much to my surprise I found it quite addictive. I started dying yarn and fibre to get the effects I wanted, until eventually I joined the Christchurch Guild of Weavers and Spinners and fell in with a bunch of similarly addicted fibre nuts. Learning to spin taught me how different fibres behave, and how twist effects the knitted fabric. I especially like to be able to produce a yarn that doesn't pill or fuzz up alarmingly like so many modern commercial yarns do. And that is why I like Zealana yarns so much!



You use a lot of Zealana in your designs - particularly Kiwi. What is about this yarn that speaks to you? (it's one of our absolute favourites, too):

Initially I was attracted to the Zealana colour palette, especially in the Kiwi range. Slightly heathered, with a possum halo - Zealana's colours look like they grow out of our wild and uniquely New Zealand landscape. Absolute dying and spinning perfection with the vaguely muted colours I love! I've knit shawls and garments in a variety of Zealana yarns and have found them to be quite soft but robust - no pilling or shagging - my most hated bug-bear of modern commercial yarn! 

Minarets and Lace


How did you get started designing patterns? 

 If it weren't for the earthquakes, I would probably never have started designing. I visited the cordoned off city centre early on and noticed how quickly the weeds took hold in the ruins. I realised then that the recovery would likely take years, but the weeds only needed a short growing season. Growing up in the country I've always admired plants and trees, and I found it strangely comforting to observe how the natural world took over our stricken urban environment. While others may find the proliferation of weeds adds to the feeling of neglect in Ch Ch, I admired the weeds and their tenacity. The idea to create a shawl depicting weeds came to me out of the blue, but made perfect sense at a time when not a lot made sense at all. I wanted to design a shawl that celebrated the raw beauty of nature, particularly weeds, that pioneer of destroyed places.


Regenerate, featured in knitty Spring / Summer 2014 


One of your patterns was published in Knitty this year - how exciting! Did you design specifically with the plan to submit to Knitty, or was it more serendipitous?

Submitting the design to the hugely popular online knitting magazine was always in the back of my mind, but I had no idea whether I could achieve my vision. This was my first design so I began with pencil and graph paper – lots of paper! I called the shawl "Regenerate" and decided it was pleasing enough to submit to, but didn't really expect them to be interested as I guessed they would be inundated with submissions for each issue. To my surprise they liked it. I offered to knit one in handspun merino and they loved that even more. When the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Knitty went live I was so surprised to see it on the front cover!




What is your current design inspiration?

Plants and creatures, particularly insects continue to inspire me, and this is fairly obvious in "The Emperor and the Scarab". I'm constantly amazed at the versatility of the knitted stitch to express shape and form, and I've only begun delving into lace knitting. I am equally inspired by colour - the colour of the landscape and the colour of yarn. The unique colours in handspun yarn for me is pure eye candy! Over the coming months I would like to design a large project inspired by my favourite landscape of all - the Canterbury High Country, with the moody yellows of the tussock and the looming clouds of a brewing Nor'Wester.

Southern Blue


And lastly: if you could meet any knitter, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

A designer whose work I have admired for many years is Kate Davies. I love how she accompanies her work with a strong narrative regarding her inspiration, and as a former academic, she delves into the historical origins of knitted garments. She models her own designs in her beloved Scottish countryside, and I find her presentation down to earth and accessible. I just ordered her latest book, and cannot wait for it to arrive!

The Emperor and the Scarab



Ok, so you fancy winning either a pattern, or a pattern plus the yarn to make The Emperor and the Scarab? All you need to do is comment on this post with which colour Zealana Kiwi Lace you would make your shawl in, should you win. Easy! Comments need to be posted by 5pm Monday 1 December (hey, that's my birthday!) and the winners will be drawn at 10am on Tuesday 2 December. 

Patterns will be notified by email, and patterns will be sent via Ravelry. 


Margot Fry

Margot Fry said:

I would use southern blue and send the shawl to my daughter who lives in England as a reminder of the lovely river that runs through our farm.


Melsey said:

Id go with Pounamu. happy birthday!!!


Adele said:

I’d choose Rococco because it’s such a lovely warm shade. Being wrapped up in it would make me feel hugged all through autumn and winter.


Dianne said:

Love MaryAnne’s patterns and think the Emperor would look stunning in Lime.


Sarah said:

I reckon that emperor & scarab would look pretty cool in poenamu, something to brighten up seemingly endless Southland rainy days!


Sam said:

It’s gotta be Granite, Granite, Granite. Gorgeous grey colour.


Leone said:

I love the Sunset – gorgeous the summer (they keep saying its coming!). Kate Davies has been one of my favourite bloggers too just wish I was as prolific a knitter.


Katie said:

I’d use Beach or Fern, they both remind of the beautiful muted tones of New Zealand when I’m away.


Sonya said:

Storm blue looks like a gorgeous colour, I think there may be some of that in my future.


Morag said:

My colour choice: Majesty – what else would you knit Emperor with?


Julie said:

The shawl is gorgeous. I would make it in Ocean, my favourite colour.

Laura Brennand

Laura Brennand said:

I love the winter green!
Happy birthday!


Jemma said:

Fern would be my pick. M


Margaret said:

Lovely interview, superb pattern, incredible yarn! :D
Happy birthday for the 1st!


Kate said:

Pounamu, I think would be perfect for this gorgeous shawl :)

Amy R

Amy R said:

Beautiful patterns and yarn! I think the storm blue is gorgeous!!


George said:

All of these patterns are gorgeous. I think for emperor and scarab I would have to go with sunset. The gold is such a perfect match.

Karin Duncan

Karin Duncan said:

The patterns are all gorgeous! Storm Blue, Winter Green or Rococco wouls be my picks


Amie said:

Ocean Blue for me :-)


Sheryl said:

Beautiful shawls, I would have to make it in lime – perfect for summer nights.


Trisha said:

Pounamu – love Zealana yarns … and this is a beautiful shawl.


Paula said:

Love the design .I’d do it in Storm Blue. Happy birthday on the 1st!

Susanne S

Susanne S said:

Tough choice but I’d knit this up in either Pounamu or Granite – both are fabulous colours.

Maureen van den Beld

Maureen van den Beld said:

I think the lime would be perfect


Bex said:

Granite has, and always will be my favourite. I use it for gifts for people who are extra special to me. It doesn’t matter what their favourite colour is, or what colour scheme they normally wear, Granite goes with everything and makes them feel special

Carol Hill

Carol Hill said:

Pounamu or Majesty for me they are heavenly.


SueS said:

What lovely designs. Love this in Ocean or Storm Blue. Knitting with granite now and it is great.


Rachelle said:

I think it would look brilliant in Storm Blue


Karen said:

Lime, pounamu or ocean


celia said:

such beautiful work. Thanks for the inspiration.


kate said:

So many beautiful colours,so hard to choose, but I do love the sea so Ocean my pick.


Rachel said:

Gorgeous design!! I think, for me, it would look amazing in Granite


Eilidh said:

3 cheers for early December babies! ;) I am kind of liking the idea of a Rococco coloured shawl.


Charlotte said:

I think I would choose sunset. A lovely warm colour for a warm scarf


Tehmina said:

Probably would want to knit it in pounamu or winter green. Beautiful pattern!


Keiry said:

Wow, her patterns are beautiful. I’d love to knit it in sunset, or pounamu.
PS: happy birthday


janesc said:

How beautiful! I would definitely choose Storm Blue. Wow!


Michelle said:

Happy Brthday for Monday Tash
Stunning design …. Think I would love to do it in Majesty or Papura


Ruth said:

Lovely design – I would use Pounamu :)


JoanneF said:

Stunning. I think I’d have to pick Storm Blue.


Leith said:

So hard to choose! Wintergreen or granite would be my first choices I think. Happy birthday for Monday!


Shelley said:

It would have to be the pounamu or rococo. Really make the pattern pop. :)


Lisa said:

Good post. Really enjoyed reading about this designer – especially about finding creative inspiration in post-quake Chch. My yarn colour pick: Sunset (what else?!).


Katharine said:

Luuuuverly patterns – have recently discovered knitting shawls – very addictive and not too large a project so you get knitting gratification fairly quickly. I really love Southern Blue and Regenerate, and love the shape of The emperor and scarab. Have just looked on ravelry at Mary Anne Maces’ patterns and the shawls are just gorgeous – I need to make one of these! I’d go for a mute colours I think, Beach or Winter Green.


Kate said:

It’s going to look stunning in any colour! I am wavering between Ocean and Fern… since I don’t have a green shawl yet I think I’d have to go for Fern :-)


Julia said:

What a gorgeous pattern – I’d have to go with Majesty to knit it up, as that colour is suitably gorgeous as well!


Alex said:

Winter Green is calling to me today. Have a great birthday!


Amelia said:

Granite would be my choice of colour, the whole range is impressive. I really want to know who she spins her yarn to reduce pilling, it’s the bane if ever will crofters life I think!


HRYC said:

Congratulations Michelle for winning the yarn + pattern! And to Adele and Carol for winning a pattern each. Hooray!


Michelle said:

Oh WoW … I Won!!!
Thank you so very much to both Mary Anne and Tash for their amazing generousity

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