Interweave facilitated an interview with designer and teaching luminary, Shirley Paden, whose work I've admired for years. Her designs combine elegance with beautiful fit and timeless style. If you knit something she designs, it will look stunning for decades--and let's face it, if you're going to knit a sweater whose materials are high quality, and if you're going to knit to the best of your ability, you want to be able to wear that sweater for a long time. So here's the good news: Shirley Paden will be teaching a two-day Design Basics Masterclass at the Knitting Lab! And after that, a one-day design class on skirts and dresses! There's still space left. What are you waiting for?
SMW: Your designs are classic and elegant. What draws you to this look, and do you see, over the course of your career, an evolving or changing design perspective, either in your work or in hand knitwear generally? If the latter, how do you relate to the rest of the field?
SP: Thank you for the kind words. I grew up sewing. My best friend's mother was a professional seamstress who worked for a well known designer who's pieces were classic and elegant. She had a professional sewing machine at home and spent lots of time working with us and teaching us professional techniques. She was kind, loving and generous and I owe her a debt of gratitude. This early exposure to the world of couture clothing design gave me a lifelong appreciation for finely tailored and finished garments. I try to bring this attention to detail to my designs.
I like the classic concept because many hours of work and concentration are needed to knit and finish a garment. Therefore, at the end of the construction journey I want the final product to be something that the knitter feels is really special. I also want it to be something that can be worn for many occasions over many years.
As designers we are all artists. Therefore, we are stimulated by creating in different ways. For me, working under the dual themes of "classics" and "quiet elegance", my design direction remains unchanged. However, although always working within the boundaries of those two broad themes, experimentation is never ending.
As with any group of artists I think every hand knitwear designer brings their unique approach to the craft. There is a broad knitting audience and a need for a broad range of design ideas. We make cloth stitch-by-stitch and there are so many things that can be done as it is constructed. I am fascinated by the range of creativity that is in the market. We all have our places. International conferences like Knitting Lab are living testimonials to this. Also, we are lucky enough to live at this very unique historical moment with the internet. It was to the 20th century what Gutenberg's printing press was to the 15th. As knitwear artists It has given us a wonderful worldwide sharing of ideas on a level that was unthinkable even 20 years ago. It is a wonderful rising tide and every boat is being lifted.
Gentle knitters, I ask you: How can you not love a designer who thinks like this?