Modeled after the famous TV program called Inside the Actor's Studio, The Designer's Studio is the place where you will meet a well-known designer and read about her/his designing style, philosophy, most favorite techniques, publications, and many other interesting details of the creative world of knitwear designers. Our guests will be answering a set of 15 questions (the same for every guest) and you will have the opportunity to leave the comment or your question after the interview is posted. We will try to keep up with your questions. This is a very exciting project and I hope you will visit here often and will not miss any of the interviews posted here.

Faina Goberstein.

December 28, 2010


Internationally renowned knitwear designer and the author of Knitwear Design Workshop: The Comprehensive Guide to Handknits Shirley Paden lives and works in New York city. Shirley is the owner of Shirley Paden Custom Knits and she also finds the time to design for such major publications as Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, Knitter's as well as other publications. Shirley's designs are timeless, well-tailored, simply stunning. It seams that she finds that perfect union of yarn and stitch pattern with ease. Her exceptional work is an inspiration for other designers and for knitters who want to try their own skills on modifying commercial patterns.
Shirley teaches master knitting classes for the fashion industry and gives workshops on different topics. You can look up her schedule on her website . Learning from such an expert is a dream for many of us. Continue reading below for Shirley's answers for this interview. It is fascinating.

1. When did you start knitting (crocheting) and who taught you?
I was taught to knit by my grandmother when I was 8 or 9. I could however only make a straight piece of fabric, e.g. a scarf or stole using Garter, Stockinette or Ribbing stitch patterns. I was never taught how to follow written pattern instructions. I stopped knitting for many years. When I began knitting again about 20 years ago as an adult, I began to work with written pattern instructions and to learn the different types of pattern stitches.

2. When did you begin publishing your designs?
My first published designs consisted of a lace throw and 2 lace pillows. They were accepted in the Fall of 1995 and published in the Spring 1996 issue of Vogue Knitting. My first garment design was a Prada jacket interpretation. It was published in the Fall 1996 issue of Vogue Knitting.

3.What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
In terms of favorites, while I do not have a favorite knitting technique, I do work primarily in 3 fabric construction categories. They are Lace, Cables and Color. For needlework techniques, I enjoy all aspects of the Finishing process. It is a completely different Needle Art that is set apart from Knitting. To do this well, a different skill set is required. I feel that it is the part of the garment construction process that is the most important. That is because a beautifully and very skillfully knit piece can be completely ruined if it is not beautifully and professionally finished.

4.When you are thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?
It is always the combination of a silhouette with current and classic elements coupled with the beauty of a pattern stitch. I work under what I term the 2T approach to handmade designs. The 2T label stands for “Trend with Tradition”. What that means is that I follow the silhouettes for modern trends as shown by the major forecasting groups. I then overlay traditional pattern stitches onto the silhouettes of the trends that I like most. In this way I feel that I both chronicle the time that I am living in (which I see as a designer’s job) and continue to keep the antique cloth-making arts fresh and relevant. One example would be my poncho that was featured in the ”Wrap Style” book published by Interweave Press. There we see a current silhouette (a poncho) made with a series of older lace patterns.

5. What does your studio look like?

It is a part of my home. The most important aspects of it are that there is a large window where I can see outside, and that I have a large worktable where I can spread out to draw, write, and meet and work with other knitters.

6. What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
My favorite place to do all of my needlework is at my worktable. I have a very comfortable chair there with built-in back support and a wonderful light.

7. Do you spin your own yarn?

8. Do you belong to a knitting group?
I am a member of the Big Apple Knitting Guild (BAKG) here in New York City.

9. Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with knitters who knit your designs?
I have taught Design classes for many years. Many of my students have gone on to become successful knitwear designers. They are all friends. Most of them are constantly in touch with me. We are all always working on different projects. It is truly an inspirational creative network. I am also friendly with other designers who live in the New York City area.

I only use local knitters. When anyone is working with me on a design I usually meet with them once every week. Between meetings, the working method is that they send me photos of the work via computer as it is in progress.

This photo was taken at the "Knit Nation" Conference in London this past summer. Alice Yu is one of the Knit Nation organizers. She is a sock designer. She lives in London.

Tracey Rivers, Stacy Charles, and I at the annual "Stitch 'n Pitch" event at the Mets Baseball stadium here in new York City. Stacy is co-owner of the Tahki/ Stacy Charles yarn company. Tracey Rivers is the moderator of the "We love Shirley Paden" group on Ravelry.

Nicky Epstein, Lily Chin, and I. This photo was also taken at Stitch 'n Pitch. As you know, they are both designers and authors.

Tanis Gray and I. That photo was taken after TNNA at the airport in Long beach California. Tanis is a well-known designer.

10. Where can we see your published designs?
My designs have appeared in all of the major printed knitting magazines over the past 14 years. Over the past 3 years they can be seen primarily in Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits. I have also recently had a reference book on hand knitwear design published by Interweave Press. The name of the book is Knitwear Design Workshop. The 4 designs featured in the book have been very well received. The book is #5 on the 2010 top 10 best-sellers list for Craft Books. It is the #1 selling knitting book on that list.

11. Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
Over the last 18 years I have taught a variety of classes in a number of different settings, primarily in the New York City area. However, since the release of Knitwear Design Workshop this past March, I have taken my classes on the road. I have been traveling and teaching in different cities for the past 8 months. Although this year I have been teaching primarily the Design Master Class and the Finishing Class, the full summary of the classes that I teach with their accompanying descriptions can be found on my website in the Events and Lectures section.
Members of the Sand and Sea Knitting Guild during my Design Weekend Retreat in Los Angeles. They all took me out to dinner.

12. What do you tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skillful enough to knit some of your designs?
It is my belief that knitters at all skill levels can knit most design projects. The key to successfully completing a design will depend on how willing the knitter is to take the time to carefully plan their work. I recommend carefully reading through each section of the pattern before they ever consider picking up their needles. Once that is done, I recommend following these 5 steps. 1) Study the pattern until they understand clearly how all of the parts are constructed and how they fit together. They should highlight any sections that they do not understand. Techniques research may involve going to their Local Yarn Shop experts, going online and/or referring to their reference books for the areas that they highlighted. 2) Practice any techniques that they are unfamiliar with or do not quite understand on a swatch. 3) Study and double-check all measurements (based on the given gauges) for the size they are making. This is done to make certain that there are no technical errors in the pattern. 4) Knit a large swatch using the pattern stitch. This will help them to become comfortable with the construction elements of the fabric. 5) Check the Ravelry pattern section to see if others have completed the project. If they have, utilize those knitters as a resource for explanations of the areas where they have questions. If they take the time to complete the planning phase they will feel totally prepared for and confident about knitting any project.

13. What are your plans in the near future?
I plan to continue teaching and designing. They are my passions.

14. Can you share with us some of your latest designs?
My latest magazine designs include an off-the-shoulder pullover that is featured on the cover of the Holiday 2010 issue of Vogue Knitting. It is made with a beautiful yarn that is an angora blend. The angora gives it a soft and very feminine feeling which is perfect for a holiday piece. I also have a Fair Isle cardigan (“Winter Wren”) featured in the Winter 2010 issue of Interweave Knits magazine. Again, it was designed with the holidays in mind. It too is a very feminine garment. It is bordered around the neck, bottom and sleeve edges with small bell ruffles. The yarn is a beautiful blend of alpaca, cashmere and silk. I am also currently working on a lace project for the Spring 2011 issue of Danish Needlework magazine. I have been invited to speak and exhibit my knitwear designs at their annual Needlework conference March 25th-27th in Middlefart, Denmark.

15. Would you like to add anything about yourself?

I have said pretty much everything. Thank you for inviting me to be a part of The Designer’s Studio interview series.

With Vanna White at the opening of the Lion Brand Store in New York City. They also launched the "Vanna's Glamour" yarn line that evening and Vanna gave a speech. I designed the lace pullover that she was wearing. It was made with the Vanna's Glamour yarn.

FG: Shirley, thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions with so much information. Also, I want to thank you for your work. It is a truly exemplary and dedicated work and it will inspire people for many years.

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