Shirley Paden’s Pea Coat KAL – My Journey

There are a handful of acclaimed designers in New York City, and Shirley Paden is one of them. I knew of her when I was living in New York, but had never met her.

I became acquainted with Mari Tobita in 2019 at a knitting meetup, and kept in touch even after I moved to Memphis. When Mari, who is one of Shirley’s protegees, told me about an upcoming KAL (Knit-Along) of Shirley’s cabled Pea Coat hosted by none other than Shirley herself, I was initially hesitant and intimidated.

Cables are textured decorative stitches with twisting and crossing that result in rope-like columns on a fabric. Many years ago, I tried cabling and made a hat and a scarf, and decided that cabling was not really for me. The stitches were very tight and awkward (It felt like I was choking yarn), and I had trouble reading and understanding chart symbols. Ever since, cabling was something I would usually avoid.

My dislike of cables eased a little when I test knitted Fraternal Forever Scarf by Mary W Martin in July, 2020. Mary’s beautiful design incorporated marled garter-stitch fabric and relatively simple cables on top of it, creating double-sided reversible fabric. But Shirley’s Pea Coat was like cables on steroid. I had never made such an intricate piece of this scale. What if I failed miserably and made a fool of myself? But I decided to turn my fear into a challenge, and enrolled in the KAL.

Kick-off Call

The KAL had 130+ participants, 4 moderators and a multimedia coordinator. A member-only website and a Ravelry forum were created to share and exchange information. A kick-off Zoom call was held on December 18th and 19th, 2020. Since about 15% of the participants were located in Asia Pacific, the first call was held at 9PM EST (11AM Japan Time). Many were designers themselves and die-hard fans of Shirley’s.

3 prizes for the KAL were announced, First to Complete, the Most Innovative Design, and the Newbie. Each winner would receive a cash prize of US $500. I felt a flicker of fire in my internal engine.

Yarn Choice

The suggested yarn was Merino VIII from Trendsetter Yarn. But to knit a large coat, the yarn itself would have cost $280, which was outside of my budget range. So I went to my LYS (Local Yarn Store), Yarniverse in Memphis to shop for more economical yarn (Shop Local!). After consulting with people who happened to be at the community table, I narrowed it down to 2 choices – Brown Sheep Co.’s Nature Spun and Universal Yarn’s Deluxe Worsted Tweed. After swatching extensively, I decided on the Nature Spun.

Sprint Marathon

The KAL would have lasted for 16 weeks, till the end of April 2021. But I was possessed by the prize money. I casted on my project on January 9th, 2021 and casted off on February 13th, and was crowned as the winner of First to Complete.


Sample yarn purchase
Cast on
Back piece complete
Left front complete
Right front complete
Sleeves complete
Button backings
Edging complete
Final blocking /drying
Finished Object photoshoot

Dec 5, 2020
Dec ~ Jan, 2021
Jan 9, 2021
Jan 22, 2021
Jan 29, 2021
Feb 1, 2021
Feb 9, 2021
Feb 11, 2021
Feb 12, 2021
Feb 13, 2021
Feb 14-16, 2021

Recovery from Mistakes

We all make mistakes. It is crucial to know how to recover quickly from mistakes. Thanks to the tips from other KAL participants, I leveraged the following techniques to prevent major roadblocks and delays.

  • Lifelines made it easy to rip back to “Last saved as” point without messing with the complex cables.
  • Duplicate Stitches were most useful to effectively “cover up” the mistakes.
  • Laddering down made it possible to rip only the targeted columns.

Thank you’s

I would like to thank Shirley and the moderators of the KAL (Lisa Hoffman, Mari Tobita, Trudie Joseph and Tracey Rivers) for the encouragement to keep on knitting. Your prompt response and feedback were immensely helpful for me to complete the KAL. I’d also like to thank other KAL participants for the inspiration and tips. I learned so much from each of your journeys. Lastly, thanks to Cindy Nuttall for effectively promoting and communicating the fun experience.

See more FO pictures on my Instagram or Ravelry page.

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