Teacher Corner: Paula Pereira
By: TNNA Editor
With Cleveland, Ohio on the horizon and the 2019 TNNA NeedleArts Summer Trade Show. What better way to get ready for expert-led education than to hear from the teachers themselves? We connected with Paula Pereira, who will lead the class “Take it ‘Ease:’ Understanding the Concept for Handknitted Garments” on Wednesday, June 19, to discuss her passions, designs and what attendees can expect. Pereira picked up knitting 10 years ago and has been taking the community by storm ever since. Read on to learn more about this first-time teacher.
TNNA: Can you share with TNNA readers how you got started on your journey designing knitwear? When did you know this was something you wanted to turn into a profession?
Paula Pereira (PP): At a young age, I worked as a stylist on a street fashion brand. My work involved creating prints and clothes for sponsored athletes. I was selected by creativity criteria — three months of tests and interviews! — and was clueless about the daily routine of the job. Lucky for me, my mentor [Sofia] was the most thoughtful and inspiring machine and hand-knitting designer. I’m pretty sure that [she] opened my heart to knitting.
Life moved on, I got pregnant and I needed a job that could provide a better income. I started working with my dad, creating a new business in the beauty and cosmetics segment. It was the most powerful thing that I [had done]; you know, starting a business from zero, in a poor country, with a recurrent financial crisis and, in my mind, with no room for failure. After all, my dad was giving me the chance of a lifetime.
[For] almost 20 years, I worked 12 to 15 hours a day and never had contact with my daughter’s teachers or could stay at home when she was sick. Do you remember the fax machine? I used to check her homework using it! We succeeded, [though,] and our company won several awards. I’m kind proud of our business model: At the end of the ’80s, we created a store where you could find the most luxurious makeup and treatment brands, side by side with the cheapest things that we all need, such as nail files.
Of course, after so many years working like that, I got really sick and needed to step back. At that point in my life, I was in terrible shape, sick and lost. In 2008, I went to Vancouver for a yoga [instructor] training. On my way to the classes, there was this beautiful yarn store, Urban Yarns, and, in the place where I was living, there was a sweet British lady who used to knit. I asked her to teach me the basic stitches, and after knitting a long stripe (some people can call that a scarf!), I [found] the courage to step into that beautiful store. I saw a sign about a workshop for a mohair lacy scarf with beads [by] the spectacular Sivia Harding. I had no idea how challenging this class would be! I surrendered to the beauty of the piece, and Sivia changed my life; I can say that now, without any hesitation. I started [going to] as many classes as I could with her. [Each] generously taught me to understand the movement, form and flow of the stitches. She shared her love and appreciation for knitting and I took it, with all my love and appreciation, too.
Back home in Brazil, I started to teach yoga and knitting was a hobby. As I began to learn more about knitting, [I assume] you know what happened, right? I decided to go further [with] my knitting and spent my savings on classes, focusing on shaping, construction and grading. Another amazing woman crossed my path, then: Stefanie Japel. Stefanie had a website where she taught online classes. She taught [virtual attendees] how to create top-down pieces and understand the concept of grading. I then attended the very first Vogue Knitting Live and continued attending all of them until three years ago [, among other events]. During this time, I sold hand-knit garments and patterns on Ravelry, and began teaching on Brazilian events. After about five years of studying, testing patterns and teaching, I felt I was ready to start submitting my designs to international publications and decided to pursue a real career as a knit designer. Over the last three years, my work has been published in [some] amazing publications, and I’m ready for the next step!
TNNA: What should attendees of your class, “Take it ‘Ease:’ Understanding the Concept for Handknitted Garments,” expect to learn?
PP: I love knit garments and the empowering sensation of wearing them! And, I’m totally into sharing information so that other people can have the same experience. When talking with other knitters, I often hear about frustration and concerns about investing time and money to knit a sweater that does not fit well at the end. They also talk about their hesitation when choosing the right size.
Since it’s a TNNA event, I thought about store owners and/or teams [when designing the class], and how they could be even more helpful to customers in addressing those issues. The class will focus on understanding handknitted garments with ease so attendees can connect what they see on photos of a pattern, determine the style of a garment, identify what is written on the pattern sizing information in order to choose a size, and base all of that on the way they want to wear the garment. A little spoiler because I can’t wait for it: we will have my new collection, a collaboration with an amazing yarn brand, that will be launched next Fall, as samples to understand ease and style during classes!
TNNA: What is your favorite creative exercise? Do you have a specific activity that inspires you most?
PP: I try to always be aware and open to seeing the beauty in everything. When my mind is too heavy, I do basic Tibetan yoga exercises to reconnect body and mind, balancing energy. I also love music, to soak in the sun or swim in the sea, good laughs with people, and many other things. But, my very first inspiring activity is working on my emotional balance. I think it’s hard to achieve balance on a daily basis, but it’s healthy for me and for others that I interact with. Being balanced, aware and relaxed keeps me inspired for longer periods of time.
TNNA: Your website states that you design “hand knitting garments and accessories, focusing on textures, colors, shapes and interesting constructions.” What is your process in creating something new? Do you have a favorite type of garment or accessory to create?
PP: Generally speaking, I’m inspired by looking at what people are wearing on the streets. I also love to check fashion collections, art museums, architecture, nature shapes, colors and movement. I like to think that all of this beauty and awkwardness from the world has a special deposit on my mind! When I’m creating something new, there are more things to bring to the table. If it’s a submission, I soak in the mood board. If it’s a totally authorial work, it’s harder for me! I have to create my own mood board, based on what I want to communicate and offer to the people who will knit it. Sweaters, cardigans, and shawls are my favorite types of pieces. But, lately, I am falling in love with socks!
TNNA: You learned to knit 10 years ago — wow! What is one thing you wish you had known early on that you’ve since learned? Any advice for someone just getting started?
PP: Oh! This is a hard one! Each one of us has a different way to experience things in life. I can only speak from my own way of doing things and, because of that, my humble advice is being intimate with knitting. Relentlessly swatch with different fibers, needle sizes, different stitches, and understand the architecture of the stitches (as my dear friend Sivia Harding taught me); go deep into studying about fit, shaping and grading (as the amazing Stefanie Japel, and other designers, taught me); and, dominate your craft so you can free yourself to create with confidence and find your own path.
TNNA: Is there anything else you would like to add or comment on?
PP: I think it’s relevant to highlight how many resources are out there for free or in all price ranges, if you are willing to go deeper on any subject. In this aspect, we are living in a very fortunate time!
Check out the full class schedule and register to join us at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, June 19–23.