Friday, April 22, 2011

Dining With Wisdom

I recently received a one-of-kind invitation to dine with Shirley Paden! For those who may not know her, she's a world-renowned knitwear designer. Getting a spot in one of her workshops is a feat. A dinner invite is "beyond, beyond". Of course, I accepted.

Memorable conversation can be had around any dinner table and that evening was no different. We had fun and good fellowship as we laughed and talked about everything from husbands to make-up. And of course we talked knitting.

Of the four of us, I was the newest knitter, having started about four years ago. We asked Shirley several questions and she graciously and honestly answered them all. I sat back and drank in the opportunity as I listened to her share her perspective on the shift in the fiber retail industry. She talked openly about the business of knitting, including her long-lasting relationship with Interweave and Vogue Knitting. She spoke of her students and those who work for her.

She told us stories of her early beginnings as a designer and her recent trip to Denmark. I asked about her fabulous pieces and learned that they are knit one time only. As I listened, I realized that the knitting community, while vast, is really small and that the giants in the field are generally welcoming and accessible.

After a couple of hours had gone by, I sat back in my seat as revelation whispered in my ear. You are dining with wisdom. It is said that when you want to learn about something, you find the best in that field, whatever it may be, and you learn all that you can from them. I was in the midst of a golden opportunity. And I'll never forget it.

Shirley was in town conducting her Finishing Workshop. Taught with the organization and attention to detail that is a Shirley Paden trademark (take it from a trademark attorney), it was a great investment of both time and money. She provided us with everything from the darning needle and contrasting scrap yarn to the miniature garment pieces that we practiced on.

We learned to see the details in the knitted pieces. They became like fabric in our hands as we eyed the patterns in the stitches. We became familiar with recognizing stitch direction and learned the proper way to seam for optimal strength. We even got a taste of her Casting-On Workshop when she shared four different cast-on stitches and the kind of edging produced by each.

I absolutely love knitting. I left the workshop armed with a new perspective on the craft. I now see hand-knit garments with a different eye. And I understand, a little more, the adage "the devil is in the detail". Thank you, Shirley, for giving me all that I need to conquer this knitting devil!

Until next time...


bird said...

I have had the treasured experience of both learning from and spending time with Shirley. I am so glad you had the opportunity to experience her soulful attitude and expert techniques firsthand. She is a constant inspiration in my life and now she is in yours. Kudos!

Sima Brason

Cheryl said...

Thanks so much, Sima, for taking the time to both read and write. Your words describe her perfectly. She is truly an inspiration.

Denise C. said...

Thanks for having your blog address in your e-mail....I will 'follow' you from now on. I love blogs, mostly follow those in the adoption community but I love YOU so will follow you too : )

Champagne/CrushParty/StitchPoet said...

Ok, I'm sufficiently jealous! Of you and HER! Every knitting teacher in the world would love to have students that appreciated their teaching style as you do Shirley's and to really go home with what she taught you. I think every new knitter should take a class like this! They would never put down their needles if they learned these skills early on. Too many knit the pieces and quit because they don't want to learn the finishing techniques or they put it together poorly and hate their finished product... xov!

ForMyKnittas said...

I fell in love with Shirley Paden's work before I knew who she was...a lace dress of hers was in the background of a Knitty Gritty episode. I bought the book JUST FOR THE DRESS! LOL. I was a new knitter back in 2006, and didn't pay attention to who designed what with whom :)

It wasn't until I took a finishing class with her that I found out that she was the designer...OMG it made me appreciate her even more.

I love that she is a sister in the business doing it better than most...she is most definitely one of my knitting inspirations and I can't wait to take another class with her.

Cheryl said...

@ ChampagneMaker

The details really do make the difference!

@ ForMyKnittas

It's a Shirley love-fest.