Shirley Paden: Design Star

Oriel Lace Blouse by Shirley Paden
Pewter Coat by Shirley Paden

I've long admired Shirley Paden. It all started with her Pewter Coat, a beautiful swing coat that includes a lot of little design extras, like doing all the shaping simply by changing needle sizes! There's a note in the pattern that says to be sure to remember to change both needles when you change sizes. I found this really funny because I've often changed just one needle in these situations and not noticed until I've had several uneven rows to contend with (if you use circular needles, you're all set).

We've recently put together a collection of Shirley's work, A Designer Profile eBook, with 6 Knitting Patterns by Shirley Paden, and it's full of some of her best patterns, including the Pewter Coat and another favorite of mine, the Oriel Lace Blouse.

The Oriel  Blouse is knit from Alchemy Silken Straw, which is an amazing yarn, and Shirley's design really shows it off. Silken Straw is a 100 percent silk tape-like yarn that, after blocking, transforms into a soft, drapey fabric. To die for, especially in Shirley's stunning lace Oriel Blouse.

Shirley recently talked to Interweave Knits' Bethany Lyttle, and I thought you'd enjoy reading some of their conversation.

"People often have a misguided idea about me and design. They think it's easy for me, that I zip along without my own frustrations or disappointments or confusions. But as I always say to my students, 'When it comes to knitting a design that you've created, there's only one thing you can count on: something is going to go wrong!'

All the careful planning in the world won't prevent those moments where you put needle to yarn and discover that you've not taken a certain variable into account, or haven't looked at a detail from a particular perspective. In fact, to this day, even with all my experience (I've been knitting since I was about nine years old, have taught countless design classes, have my own custom design business and so on) no project goes forward without a hitch. That's why at the beginning of any design class, I always laugh before we start and say, 'Let's pray!'

But what I've come to realize is that moments like this are the best part of the knitwear design experience. Because suddenly you are doing more than reading a chart or a series of instructions. You are interacting with your own vision, pulling it out of some sort of abstract universe and making it real, making it become what you'd hoped for all along.

The mistakes that get made when you're designing are different than the mistakes you make when you overlook a row on a store-bought chart or when you drop a stitch. The mistakes you make when you're working up your own creation add up to what I call 'design wisdom.' Somehow they really stay with you and get incorporated into your 'knitting brain'! The next time you begin a project, those skills are at the ready." They are waiting for you.

So, if you wonder how I design or why I keep wanting to design, you have your answer now. To watch the process of a vision unfold, take form, and live in the world-something unique to the knitter who creates it—is awe-inspiring. Why would I want to do anything else?"

Indeed. I, for one, am glad that Shirley doesn't want to do anything else!

Check out her eBook A Designer Profile eBook, with 6 Knitting Patterns by Shirley Paden today!


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