Designer Interview: Mary-Anne Mace
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.
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!
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.
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 knitty.com 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 Knitty.com, 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.
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!
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.