Today we have Paola Albergamo in our Spotlight. Paola lives in Rome, Italy and I know you’ll enjoy learning more about her and seeing her fascinating designs. (Pattern links go to Ravelry, yarn links go to The Loopy Ewe. Discount code is available via her Ravelry shop and her Payhip shop at the end.)
Loopy: Hi Paola! Thanks for being in our Spotlight today. How long have you been a knitter and who taught you to knit?
Paola: Hello! Thank you for interviewing me. Happy to be here. I learnt to knit relatively late, at 15. I broke a leg in a scooter accident and I had to spend the entire summer in bed. I already knew how to crochet and embroider, but for some reason no one wanted to teach me to knit, even if I already asked to. So I thought that this was the right time and insisted with my mother, until she agreed. I must also add that none of my grandmothers knit (or crochet, or embroider), so my interest in these kinds of activities isn’t something that has roots in my family.
Loopy: You must have had a natural, inborn curiosity for such handwork, if you didn’t grow up seeing your relatives doing these things! What is your favorite type of item to knit?
Paola: I love to knit almost everything, but my favourite item to design are shawls. Actually, I wasn’t even aware that shawls were a thing until I started designing, but now I’m addicted. They are relatively easy to shape and they are like big canvas where I can freely express my creativity using colors, textures, stitches and different constructions.
Loopy: That’s what I think when I see your beautiful designs – you have made the most of a large canvas. They are wonderful. What is the most challenging thing that you have knit to date?
Paola: Probably my Nereid Shawl or my Pavone Stole . The complexity of the first one is due to its unusual modular construction with frequent changes in the knitting directions, while the second one has a straightforward construction, but has very long pattern repeats that are impossible to memorize. But I love both to pieces! They were very long to write, too, but I think they were worth the effort. To me, they are more like small pieces of art than knitting patterns.
Loopy: They are both beautiful. That seems like a good step for a knitter to take when they want to move forward on their skills – knitting a pattern that changes all of the time. Great idea. When did you start designing, and what spurred that interest?
Paola: As many other designers, I designed before I was even aware of doing it. Immediately after I had enough skills to knit a sweater, I “designed” my first one. Meaning that I knitted one without following a pattern. (Below – a picture of me in one of my first designs.) In fact, my mother didn’t love to knit, but she sewed, and I knew how a garment looked when made in pieces. I always had good skills in math, so it seemed easy to me to convert the shapes into stitch numbers. Nowadays, though, my garment pieces are all seamless. I began publishing my designs in 2014, when my work as a freelance software developer started slowing down. With time, I abandoned my old work for designing full-time.
Loopy: It’s wonderful that you have been able to do this full time for awhile now. Do you have a favorite pattern that you’ve designed?
Paola: When I’ll have a favorite pattern, I’ll stop designing. The favorite one is always the one that is still in my dreams, not even the one in the making (actually, sometimes I hate the design I ‘m working on, because it doesn’t let me devote all my time to the new one).
Loopy: Let’s hope you always have dreams of the next one in mind, then! What is your favorite part of your designing? And your not-so-favorite part?
Paola: The favorite part of my work is the dreaming, planning, swatching, looking for the suitable yarn part. I quite enjoy the knitting part, but I must confess that with time it’s turned more into a “job” than I thought because it takes a lot of time. I’m trying to add back joy and pleasure to this phase by learning to knit while I read. I also have a lot of fun with math, and with charting, test knitting and photography (I love editing pictures!). What’s harder to me is actually writing the instructions into something that others understand.
Loopy: You look like you have a lot of fun during the photo shoot phase! That really draws people into the photo and your work. Do you do this business full-time, or on the side? And is that hard?
Paola: At the moment, I’m designing full-time and yes, I find it hard. It’s certainly much more complex than my previous profession because it involves a lot more skills than programming does. And it pays less, compared to all the time required for producing a pattern. But it’s still an incredibly fascinating job, with lots of possibilities to explore, a wonderful way to express creativity. And I love the possibility to establish relationships with passionate and talented knitters and designers from all around the world.
Loopy: It’s really wonderful how sharing a love for knitting can foster friendships all over the world, isn’t it? That is definitely a benefit of being in a creative role. Are there other hobbies that you enjoy?
Paola: I enjoy a lot of fiber and textile related activities, such as crochet, embroidery, sewing, quilting and macramé. I’m always tempted to include them into my knitting patterns, but I’m afraid that it will turn writing instructions into a complete nightmare. I also tried jewelry making, papier mache and collage, but they are not so satisfying for me. Anyway, I rarely have spare time to dedicate to other hobbies, since knitting takes up all my time.
Loopy: I feel like embroidery is becoming more popular and would be fun to add to knitting patterns. But you’re right – more instruction writing when you add extra things in. What would be your favorite way to spend a day off?
Paola: I’m a city girl and I loved going out with friends, attending concerts and events, especially with live music. Since the pandemic hit, I’m finding myself spending a lot of time cooking when I take a day off from designing. This made me gain some weight, but it’s so fun to do and I love it! I’ll think about my shape when the pandemic is over.
Loopy: I think that’s a good plan! When the pandemic is over, we will all be out and about and moving around more. Last questions: Morning or Night person? Coffee or Tea? English or Continental? Solids or
Paola: I’m definitely a night person. I cannot even define myself a person in the morning and I’m productive only in the afternoon-evening. I love espresso coffee when I wake up, but drink tea (well, mostly herbal tea than “real” tea) the rest of the day. I learnt to knit English, passed through Combined, then Continental styles. Now I’m a continental knitter and I’m learning Portuguese style. I love both multicolors and solids, but find that my design ideas usually work better with solid or tonal yarns.
Loopy: Thanks again for being with us today, Paola! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Paola: Thank you again for having me! It was a pleasure answering your questions.
Have a great weekend, everyone!