Paula Pereira — the Master of Textured Knitting
Paula Pereira’s Textured Knits is a thoughtfully curated collection of contemporary and timeless handknits. It includes 20 patterns: sweaters, cardigans, shawls, and a pair of socks. Paula is a Brazilian knitwear designer currently based in Luanda, Angola, where she lives with her husband.
We asked Paula to tell us a bit more about her book, her work and her inspiration.
Tell us your story as a knitter! How did you learn your skills?
After working in the fashion, beauty and health industries for almost two decades, I was looking for a more meaningful way to make a living. I had been practising yoga since I was a teenager, so I made plans to have a degree in Vinyasa Yoga. In 2009, I moved to Vancouver, Canada to pursue that idea.
There turned out to be a beautiful yarn store called Urban Yarns on my way home. As I walked past the store every day, I became more and more attracted to the yarns and tools in the window. The owner of the place I was living in happened to be a knitter, so I asked her to teach me. After finishing a long garter stitch scarf full of imperfections, I felt encouraged to visit the store and take part in a workshop. I had the best teacher called Sivia Harding who taught me what I think is the foundation of knitting: that it is most important to understand the construction of the stitches and to undo the work until you understand your mistakes. She opened my heart to knitting in a unique way.
How did knitting become your profession?
Some time after my first workshop, I found another knitter and designer that rocked my knitting world: Stefanie Japel. She was teaching an online class about fit, construction and grading. Learning these fundamentals with her was amazing!
At this time, I was starting to teach yoga, but I was totally hooked on knitting. I decided to invest in my knitting knowledge before starting to promote my work professionally. I had some savings, and I participated in several Vogue Knitting Lives, Interweave events and all the classes that I could. Back in Brazil, I started to collaborate with Brazilian indie dyers and even taught classes at local festivals. In 2015, I felt that I was ready to show off my work to magazines.
I still study knitting and other techniques, looking at them like a researcher, always excited to find a better way to make pieces that are cool, beautiful and creative.
Describe your design style! What aspects are important to you in your work?
There are some questions that are always in my mind when working on a piece of knitwear. Can I modify a stitch pattern to make it more interesting and unique? Is the idea that I’m excited about doable and worth the work? Is it going to be beautiful, interesting and exciting?
And, most importantly: will it generate a positive knitting experience for fellow knitters? I really love it when a garment or a stitch pattern looks intricate or gives you that “wow” effect, but in the end, it is only a good combination of basic stitches! It’s difficult to say this without sounding cheesy, but from my little corner of the world, I’m always looking for ways to provide not only a garment or an accessory, but an overall positive feeling for the person who is making it.
Your book features inventive ways to combine different textures, such as cables, colourwork and embroidery. Tell us more about the techniques you use!
One of the techniques that I treasure is called “embroidery as knit”. I once saw a crochet stitch that I loved, so I worked on it until I found a way to do it using knitting techniques. I created instructions and charts and tested them with friends until I felt that it was fun and clear to make.
In the cabled patterns featured in the collection, I played, for example, with colours to create a subtle marled effect (such as in the Cobogó cardigan), with slipped stitches to elongate the lines (such as in the Cestaria cardigan) and with different yarn weights (such as in the Oiticica sweater).
In the Espedito sweater, I worked with stripes in lots of colours, creating interesting movement and subtle textures. In the Lina sweater, I loved the idea that by only changing the stitch colour sequence, and adding a simple wrapped stitch here and there, we can have two completely different knitted fabrics.
In Textured Knits, some designs have an all-over textured fabric, in others, the texture can be a detail, and sometimes the texture is used to enhance the garment’s construction.
Many of the book’s patterns are inspired by architecture and Brazilian art. Are these your passions?
I believe that subconsciously, we are influenced by everything that surrounds us. Sometimes we all need to take time to stop, recharge in nature and admire and appreciate art. Even the mundane beautiful things can change our mindset. So, I love working surrounded by books, art, music, photographs, knits and so on. They are like my friends.
But I wasn’t previously aware that references to Brazilian architecture and art were so strong in my core! I’m happy and grateful that Textured Knits brought these influences to the surface.
What are your other sources of inspiration?
I get inspired really easily! In fact, I feel the need to open myself up and see beauty in everything. I would say the classics: all kinds of art, music, dance, nature, people, kids, animals, the colour and texture of a yarn from my stash… Anything to keep my mind awake and my heart at ease!
The book’s photos were taken in Finland, thousands of kilometres away from where you are. Yet, there was still something familiar to you in them. Tell us about this!
Oh! This was like magic or serendipity. The photo location, a house called Toukolaakso, looked so familiar to me: all the art, the books, the light, the plants! I could swear that some of the furniture and objects could have been from Brazil.
Another wonderful detail was that the Finnish graphic designer, Anna-Mari Tenhunen, had been to Brazil many times. The sensibility of every person that worked on Textured Knits somehow affected the collection. It felt as though we were connected from beyond the kilometres.
Textured Knits is your debut book. Has making it been a long-time dream for you
In 2019 I had the special opportunity to meet Sini and Jonna, the founders of Laine Publishing, in person at an event in New York. They gave us a very inspiring talk, sharing the news about Laine becoming a book publisher. My dream started at that very moment. I knew I would love to tell a story through a collection of knits, and that I wanted to do it with them. I feel that Textured Knits is cool, innovative and beautiful because we are telling this story together.
What is the meaning of knitting to you today, now that it has evolved from a hobby to a profession?
Knitting is both my profession and a form of expression. When we make things envisioning that eventually others will make them too, those people are included in the design process. That, to me, is amazing. Knitting continues to excite me, it drives me forward and gives me energy. And I still see myself as a kind of a beginning professional knitter, so I have tons left to explore, to learn and to see!