In our latest issue Selvedge 98: Together, Corinne Julius profiles the knitwear designer-maker Mati Ventrillon. Fair Isle-based Mati took part in Selvedge World Fair 2020 and a small selection of her locally-made jumpers are still available to order in our online artisan store. Here we share an extract from Corinne’s article, to introduce you to this maker who champions heritage design. Mati Ventrillon is different from what you might imagine of a renowned maker of Fair Isle knitwear; her life story has been one of change and adjustment to widely different circumstances. Born in Venezuela, into a mixed Venezuelan, French, and German family, she is something of an outsider in the place she has chosen to call home.
Mati has adapted local traditional wear, reframing it for contemporary tastes. She uses only the highest quality Shetland wools, spun on Shetland. She researched Fair Isle designs with the late 93 year old Annie Thompson, who could trace her family designs back to the beginning of the 20th century. Mati’s crew neck jumper re-interprets the striped background of an 1860 silk sweater from the George Waterson Museum, (researched by Annie Thompson’s daughter, the social historian Anne Sinclair,) whilst preserving the authentic 19th century Fair Isle motifs.
Mati wasn’t keen on naming her company after herself, but her mentor with Walpole, the business crafted programme, insisted that it was based on her story in the islands, not the islands themselves. After a rough personal year, Mati has been developing her MV Collection, which celebrates the markings of Shetland Sheep. “I was going to label each sweater with the tag of the sheep used.” The pieces look very different and draw on early motifs and colourways. Her hooded, (snood) jumper for example, is inspired by an 1860s knitted cap from the National Museum of Scotland’s Collection. “Knitting here is mindful. It takes time to absorb the culture, observe and understand. Thinking about the collections takes time to move forward whilst still being connected to the Island’s tradition.”Try Fair Isle knitting with a free pattern for Selvedge readers.