Inside the incredible career and passion for knitting of Donegal fashion designer Edel MacBride

Knitting has become so cool now, but when I was little it was anything but.

I don’t remember learning to knit, it was just something I learned from my mother and grandmother. It’s in my blood, these inherited skills passed down from generation to generation.

I love how the fashion seasons are so mixed up now and we’re in love with casual comfort and luxury.

My goal is to reach more people with the “one piece forever” message once a year, and change the way they buy forever. You will thank yourself and the planet will thank you even more.

I love wool, just like Mother Earth and our bodies .

It is naturally comfortable, breathable and lasts a lifetime. It can also be repaired, reused, recycled or, if it fails, it biodegrades easily.

Last year, the massive story was about Tom Daley, the English diver who knitted despite not winning gold medals at the Olympics.

My sisters and brothers used to knit little teddy bears when a new baby was born in the family, and I used to knit so many panda sweaters every time a cousin was born. One of my knitters, Helen, told me of a father and two sons who knit to supplement farm income in Donegal. I’m sorry I couldn’t meet them because they lived near me.

After doing the RTÉ Craft Master series, I took very successful knitting classes for several years that pulled me out of the recession of 2009-2011.

When I was younger, I thought I was going to be a teacher, so it felt like that aspect of my life had come together. I like having someone who has never knitted before because I will have them making hats after a few hours.

In 2015 we started working with the Limerick-based Irish Tourism Group to develop KnittingTours.com and I spent every January from 2018-2020 in New York City promoting them with the Marketing Manager.

Between April and October I was teaching the incoming groups – we had people from over 25 different countries at any one time. My dream is to switch to YouTube videos, but we’ve probably been too fussy about perfection instead of just spreading information.

When you knit, you engage the left side of the brain and unleash your creativity – the benefits are well documented.

You can have your best ideas when knitting because it puts you in a zone away from all the daily stresses.



Alannah (partner of Edel’s son) wearing a hand knitted shawl cardigan in Kilcarra wool from her 1989 collection

My son William is 27 and he said recently that he was the last generation to remember life without a cell phone.

I’m glad that wasn’t the case when I was growing up, because if you keep checking your phone, you’ll never get into the creative zone. Then the other side of the coin is the benefits, for example the knitting revolution would never have happened in the world without the technology. I was leaving the knitting wave that hit America around 2008 to come here. It looked like we were never going to take up this hobby like the Americans – 35 million of them knit, or 10% of the population. What has changed the game internationally and nationally is access to information online.

I have four children.

My first three children are McCartney from my first marriage. I remarried in 2007 and had Joseph, the family’s spoiled baby, in 2004! The other three are my daughters Maggy, 32, Emma, ​​31, and William, 27. They are all amazing and we often have conversations about the benefits of what they have learned from the family business.

When I was at university in Limerick I knitted for a local store and also worked for Paul Costelloe.

Having children puts a bit of discipline on someone who is a natural workaholic. When I had to pick up the babies at 5:30 p.m. it brought some balance to my life and it was wonderful.

I opened my first shop in Derry after returning from America three weeks after Maggy was born.

One day an old man came in and asked if we were mending socks! I was completely horrified – I was there with my designer collection and this man asks me to darn his socks.

Then just recently I asked a photographer to buy some sweaters and after a few hours his dog grabbed the front of one. He wrote to me asking, “What else do you propose but to get rid of the dog!” This turned out to be a simple repair job and we offer this with all of our products.

As far as my designs go, I’m excited about the new 100% Galway Wool on order, courtesy of The Galway Wool Co-Op and Donegal Yarns.

The lighter merino knits I’m working on right now are versatile dresses in shades like Summer Red and Paris Aqua. They are perfect for adopting a casual outfit and can be worn with leggings and long-sleeved t-shirts.

My fingerless mitts have been updated in a thin rib and are a great accessory as they can be kept on while working.

Best-selling author Claire Allan surprised me with a tweet calling them “a godsend to the writer’s hands”! Every season calls for my big soft Aimsir scarf or its super big sister, The Big Weather scarf. Both are available in many bright greens and cocktails.

There’s a scene in Sex And The City where Sarah Jessica Parker comes out wearing a big red scarf and a leather jacket.

There is nothing more beautiful than a big red scarf. Prada and Miu Miu will release a version every three years and it will sell for around €800 in virgin cashmere or merino. You’d make a nice, big, long, squishy garter stitch scarf for $50. Irish actress and singer Angeline Ball is knitting a red scarf the minute I gave her some ideas. She’s on the last ball now and it sounds really amazing.

Mom and dad were great dancers and were in their style.

My paternal grandmother was the main seamstress in the village, making everything from wedding dresses to altar boy outfits, and she also had a huge influence on me.

What excites me are vintage pieces because of the quality of craftsmanship.

My dad was a Western enthusiast, he was known as The Convoy Cowboy in Donegal. His knowledge of leatherwork and blacksmithing, and his love of old materials rubbed off on me.

Some of my favorite pieces include a remarkable turquoise and silver Navajo necklace my dad bought my mom in the 1970s.

I have another beautiful silver and gold necklace made by a girl named Charlie Harrison. She made one for Mary McAleese and another for her mother and I asked her if she would consider making a third in the year of my 40th birthday, and she did. It’s beautiful and nice to have.

In another life, I would have worked with a brand that understood the classics, like Donna Karan or Ralph Lauren.

I have a cream coat that I wouldn’t sell or give away for the world, it’s my own creation in 100% wool. It is a very light yarn similar to Italian fur. My daughter got her hands on it recently and said, “Where’s that from, maybe I’ll take that” and I said, “Maybe you won’t!” I told him I’d be in a box before someone got their hands on it!

Power suits aren’t my thing.

I’ve worn a jacket over the years and I know it can really tidy up your shape and bring that feeling of power, but I feel like it’s bowing a bit to the guys at the board table . There’s a show called Yellowstone with Kevin Costner – based on a ranch in Montana with an incredibly wealthy American family and their power struggles – and the dress sense of the girl on that show, who is a very powerful woman, is intriguing.

Lisa Lambe wore one of my white Aran sweaters on the cover of her Wild Red album released last November.

As well as being a great singer and songwriter, she’s invested in tradition and heritage – things that inspire me as a designer – and we’ve become great friends. After Hillary Clinton wore some of my pieces when she visited Derry in 1995, she sent me a lovely letter. It will be something pleasant that the family will have in time.



Lisa Lambe album cover
Lisa Lambe album cover

The main validation for me is client connectivity.

I will never take this for granted and will keep it above all else in the longevity of my career.

www.edelmacbride.com

Get the latest RSVP headlines free straight to your inbox by subscribe to our newsletter