Intense research and a deep appreciation of traditional pattern design informs Mary MacGregor’s supersoft knitwear, created from exceptionally high-quality yarns in her Shetland smallholding, the location for which is Mary’s brand name.
We asked Mary: What gives your work its unique signature? I produce contemporary sustainable Fair Isle textiles, unique for Fair Isle work not only for the way I interpret the old designs, but also because of the yarn I use, the world’s best 100% superfine merino yarn from Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia.
The main piece showcased at Decorex is one of my more contemporary pieces because I have departed from the traditional bands of pattern and colour. Instead, I took my design inspiration from old Shaker quilts, but used a different Fair Isle motif in each of the dozen or so diagonal shapes which make up the work.
How did you make this new work? The design of this piece was challenging. After I have finished the design on the computer, I adapt it for the Shima Seiki computer which controls the knitting process on the industrial knitting machine. Knitted on two needle beds, the pattern knitted on the back needle is the same as on the front, but the colours are reversed. So if white is knitted on the front, blue is knitted on the back.
After it is knitted, the top end is finished, then I carefully handwash the piece, gently spin it, and let it dry flat on the drying rack in the workshop. It is steam pressed and the labels sewn on. It is scrupulously examined at each stage of the finishing process and if any defect at all is found, it is rejected and sold as a second.
We’ve all been spending more time at home this year, what does luxury at home mean to you? Home for me is a croft; 24 hectares of grassland on a remote part of the west coast of mainland Shetland. I keep a small flock of coloured pure Shetland sheep. The scenery here is spectacular: waves, cliffs, birds, and sometimes seals and otters.
Luxury at home means being outside regardless of the weather. At one with nature; listening, observing, learning, interacting.
Works shown: Selection of throws in superfine merino. Photos courtesy of maker except image with chair by Yeshen Venema, styled by Jessica Jung.