Hello, my name is Ann Mackie and am a knitter based in the Orkney Islands. I am originally from the beautiful island of Hoy, but have lived in Tankerness on Orkney’s Mainland for most of my adult life with my husband and our two sons. My love of colour and inspiration for my knits comes from the land, sea and sky around me here in Orkney.
Going back and forth to Granny and Grandad Hoy for weekends and holidays, I have always had a love of anything arty/crafty, from a very young age. My dear late mum taught me how to hand knit at the age of 4, and hand and machine sew around the age of 6/7. I always loved drawing, colouring-in and painting too. I used to knit tiny jumpers, socks, and such for my Barbie dolls, making their clothes with the sewing machine. Mum and I used to make them furniture too from any bits of foam, match boxes, kitchen roll tubes, etc. We could design and make everything a Barbie doll could want.
The knitting machine only came into play while I was expecting our first son, some 32 years ago. My Mother-In-Law went out and bought a knitting machine, which subsequently appeared in the middle of her kitchen floor. As a result, I was left with the machine while she headed into town, so I decided to give it a go, although at the time I wondered why as I had only ever hand-knitted. I persevered, after falling out with it, feeling like I never wanted to touch the thing again but kept going and finally got to grips with it.
I then bought my own second-hand machine and knitted jumpers, hats, socks, gloves etc first, for the family and then for friends. I also knitted for some local knitwear businesses at the time too.
Whilst we built an extension onto our house, I had to pack away the machine so at the time had a long break from it. I was working several jobs at that time, then one full time job, where I got made redundant, and finding a new job was not easy.
As luck would have it, after I’d done a one day a week textile course at the Orkney College, I was head hunted to help start a knitwear range for a local designer after she had seen me helping/teaching others in the class It was great being asked to help in such a big way, so I dug out my machine and set it up in a spare bedroom. I helped with the designs, made the patterns, and turned her designs into knittable patterns. I then worked to knit, sew and finished all the pieces ready for their new homes.
Later that year, my parents came to live us from Hoy, due to ill health Working from home I was able to care for them, whilst working on the knitting. Sadly, we lost mum two years later. A few years after that, I went self-employed and started doing my own designs alongside the knits I was already doing for the local designer. It was not long before I became very busy. Dad was still with us too but he was needing more and more care. I managed to knit and look after dad for a further 7 years but the time came when we sadly had to make the decision that he would live in a care home.
Around the same time, my husband and sons built me a knit shed in the garden. A little after that, I bought the knitwear collection that I’d help start as the local designer had decided to move on to other things.
My dad sadly passed away a year or so after moving into the home but I know he’d be very proud of me, and my business. My parents always encouraged me so I thank them both for giving me the courage to start and keep going with Ann Mackie Knitting Services and Designs.