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The Origami Shawl design by Margie Kieper – Chat with the Designer

The Origami Shawl design by Margie Kieper – Chat with the Designer

By way of introduction, I have to say that I think the Origami Shawl design is really something special. I got stuck on the page in Noro Knitting Magazine 14 (spring/summer 2019) back in the day because I found the effect fascinating. Even then I wanted to talk to Margie Kieper – the designer of this pattern – about it, but now that I’ve knitted her Origami Shawl (see below) once myself, the interview with Margie actually fits even better. But I (Katrin aka Noromaniac) will start with Margie’s ideas before I will show you my version of this wrap.

3 x the Origami Shawl Design by Margie Kieper - Interview with the desginer by Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
The Origami Shawl Design by Margie Kieper shown in Noro Knitting Magazine 14. Photos: Soho / KFI

Chat with Margie Kieper about her Origami Shawl design

Dear Margie, so glad you found time to answer a few questions about your stunning Origami Shawl design. And it makes me very happy to talk to a woman who is also, like me, a big fan of high-quality yarns and also of Noroyarns. Before you do, can you maybe talk a little bit about the design process? How did you come up with the idea for this pattern? What was your inspiration for it?

It’s a pleasure to exchange ideas with you, too, Katrin.

Even though I am going to talk about the pattern process of my Origami Shawl design, I have to first say that color is what often draws me to yarn and I like building combinations of colors.  But there are fewer of my designs that are about combining colors.  In the many pieces I make for myself there is a riot of color.

But because these make use of my personal stash some of which is very old yarn that is not available today, and because they tend to make use of very simple knitting stitches so that the color is the main focus, they don’t lend themselves easily to patterns (see image).

I love yarn and many different kinds of yarn, but one of my real loves is of course Noro as there is not anything like it.

Crochet and knitting from Margie. For her (as well as for Noromaniac) it can't be colorful enough. Photo: Margie Kieper
Crochet and knitting from Margie. For her (as well as for Noromaniac) it can’t be colorful enough. Photo: Margie Kieper

How I understand you, I also love it colorful and Noro anyway. And also I have – like you – a large collection of these beautiful yarns, many of which are no longer produced, as well as the Noro Shiro, from which I re-knitted your design. But how was it now with your Origami Shawl design?

Design inspiration sources

Well, I always felt a need to be creative and design – something I have done throughout my life but mainly in terms of personal designs for myself. And after several false starts I understood how the design process works for me. There always has to be an inspiration and many times an idea that makes me ask, how could this be created?

Wow, that’s like me. I also make most of it for myself. Things that I like myself and would like to wear. Where did the inspiration for your Origami Shawl design come from?

Japanese design for Japanese designer yarn

Issye Miyaki -folded fabric designs - inspiration for Margie's knitwear design. Photos: Issye Miyaki
Pleated fabric designs by Issye Miyaki. Photos: Issye Miyaki

For the Origami Shawl design I was thinking about complex folded shapes that caught my eye (the image in the upper left) and of course that led to thinking about the unique things that Issye Miyaki does with fabric (the other two images). Well, knitting produces fabric. So at first I was looking at things that were too complex, so I kept looking for things on the internet and finally I saw a folded paper image (second image) that looked doable and so my idea was, how do I knit this shape?

Origami inspiration from paper for the knitting pattern. Photo: Margie Kieper
Origami inspiration from paper for the knitting pattern. Photo: Margie Kieper

I wouldn’t even know how to fold that. Do you do origami, too?

And yes I have done origami folding.  One year I made a set of small folded paper boxes to go over a light string and it was really beautiful.  I also have a set of holiday ornaments I made that are folded Japanese robes that I hang on a feather tree.  And I have a collection of different origami papers which I find very beautiful and which can also be used in collage.

I am impressed. But back to the Origami Shawl design again. How did the knitting process go? Did you have to make multiple versions?

From the origami fold to right-left twist in the Origami Shawl design

Noro Knitting Magazine 14 with the knitting instructions for the origami wrap. Photo: Soho / Knittingfever
Noro Knitting Magazine 14 with the knitting instructions for the origami wrap. Photo: Soho / Knittingfever

Yes, there were a number of tries and I realized first that I could design a simple folded fabric of garter stitch with vertical folds. The next step was realizing I could use left and right twist stitches to get the diagonal folds. There were a number of tries before I worked out a pattern which surprisingly turned out to be so simple to execute! But I was not happy with the standard methods of the left twist: they stairstepped and this ruined the symmetry. So what I did was I examined the right twist and created a new left twist stitch that mirrored the end result of the right twist. This worked and I made a point of saying that in this pattern the left twist had to be done in this particular fashion.

True. It looks confusing at first, but when you do it, you get it right away. I was very surprised how easy to knit it is. I already got the hang of it after the first row with these twists. But insane how long you tinkered with it.

The Design Process

That’s right, a lot of people don’t realize that process, so thank you for the opportunity to mention it here.

But these things don’t get much notice since what I term the “takeover” of the knitting consciousness by social media and the resulting sad state of knitting today, characterized by simplistic patterns, no emphasis on fit or originality, and this trend that every knitter wants to “be a designer and sell patterns” usually with limited or no skillset in both knitting techniques and in clothing design, and a lack of creativity – this in spite of the fact that there is no big money to be made in this field. This trend was first seen in the “100 Acts of Sewing” which promoted the idea of wearing a literal gunny sack dress. All of this is really more about the social media aspect than it is about the craft. There is very little love for yarn or the design process, only in how many patterns can be shoved into the machine and sold.

Margie, you speak from my heart. But I’m especially annoyed by the floppy things without fit, I agree with you. As for the patterns, I’m not quite so strict, because today many also knit as relaxation in the evening in front of the TV and just want to create something with their hands and then prefer „Easy Knitting“ projects. I also always have to have something in my fingers, sometimes more complicated, sometimes easier. Luckily with Noroyarn you don’t have to knit such complicated patterns either, as you also mentioned above, as it’s mostly the colors that are the focus.

As for social media, I’m also ambivalent, it’s annoying but on the other hand you can find new friends who share your hobby, just like I found you on social media. 🙂

But I’m also in several social media groups and when you show something there, often the first question is ‚whether you can have the instruction‘. And then when you say it costs something, the questioners fall silent and are gone. Design work gets too little recognition, even though it’s what gives things their beauty and functionality in the first place.

Abstract illustration of folds and creases in white and turquoise - illustration for the article by Noromaniac

The craft of needlework …

When I grew up it was pretty normal to be proficient with a sewing machine. I learned to sew on my mother’s machine, a brand new Singer Silver Touch and Sew, when I was eight, and by the time I was thirteen, I was making pocket money by sewing clothes for other students, and modifying purchased Singer and McCalls patterns for myself. It was an outlet for my creativity, but sewing many clothes from paper patterns also taught me a lot about fit and clothing design, over time. All these naturally-acquired skills built over the teenage years have been lost in current generations. The young women of today had mothers that did not sew or own a sewing machine, and would take a dress to the tailor if a hem came loose. Very different from my generation.

… and the longing for the individual item

Mmh, I think that does not apply to all. I think there is today just with the very young people again a return and they start to sew or knit, even if they have not seen it from your parents, perhaps also just thanks to social media.

I, for example, did start sewing because I saw my grandmother doing it and she was always sewing us fancy clothes. And it’s really funny how many parallels there are with us. I didn’t sew for other students, but later for colleagues. I originally come from the GDR and there was not so much and especially not so much chic and individual. That’s why I started sewing. And then my female colleagues asked me if I could sew them skirts that fit and brought me a piece of fabric. That was fun to enjoy so much recognition and I earned some extra vacation money.

I started knitting completely independently, because I wanted to make myself something that no one else had.

My grandmother had taught me knitting at an early age and my mother taught me crochet. My first sewing project was a hand-sewn “dress” for my Barbie doll that was a long rectangle of fabric folded in half with a hole cut for the neck and side seams leaving holes for the arms – no hems LOL. I was so proud of it. I think I was five.

How cute, a great little story 🙂

Crochet or knitting? Both!

Crochet was very popular when I was growing up and I did a lot more crochet then.  You could purchase many crochet magazines at the supermarket. I had a pair of hip hugger bell bottom jeans in high school that I embroidered all over and wore to school a lot of days. People used to stop me in the hall and ask what I had done on them recently. When they got too short I sewed this six inch wide gaudy black velvet trim with machine embroidery on it to the bottom of the legs.

At fourteen I got a job at the local five and dime which had a fabric and craft department and I did almost every needle craft imaginable. I did macramé, made braided rugs and hooked rugs.  I did embroidery and crewel work and cross stitch. I had learned smocking as part of my sewing skills. I regularly mended clothes on the sewing machine and once I had my own place I sewed for the home and I quilted.

I was more into crochet through the 1980s but after that I got back into knitting.  Nowdays I do more knitting but I do always have a crochet project in the works.  I’m always surprised that there are not more projects that use both skills and was very glad to see your recent design that did so.

Two designers reveling

Oh thank you very much, I’m glad to hear that.

I am, as you can see from the Origami Shawl, a big fan of your designs. I have already checked off the Origami Shawl on my project list. I still like your knitted sweater Squared from Noro Kureyon, your crocheted Trapezoidal Shawl from Noro Silk Garden Sock and the open shoulder warmer Ripple Shawl from Noro Kureopatora. There’s quite a bit of you on my project list, in addition to my own ideas, some of which have been floating around in my head for years.


Screenshot from the DIY network Ravelry with three projects by Margie Kieper - Noromaniac
Screenshot from the DIY network Ravelry with three projects by Margie Kieper

I feel the same way. Nowdays I only want to make a design if there is an idea I have and if it is something unique. That is very important to me, to do something that has not been done before. Consequently I don’t feel the need to turn out designs.  I don’t do too many designs because these kinds of ideas are hard to come by, and because I am content to play around with them for years. I often end up creating special stitches to accomplish an idea, such as the Quilted Block Cowl I did for Knit Simple and the Zara Cowl for Knitting Fever. The former was a stitch pattern I created many years ago in the 1990s, the idea of raised squares resembling a quilted fabric, and for the latter, two ideas. First is there a way to make a knitted garter fabric that has both vertical and horizontal indented lines, and second, is there a way to decrease three stitches to one, and increase back to three stitches in only one stitch (to create an X).  So these were fun puzzles to figure out.


More projects from Ravelry by Margie Kieper - Noromaniac
More projects from Ravelry by Margie

Then I wish you many more good ideas. I am already excited about your new designs and thank you for your time.


*** End of the Interview about the Origami Shawl design and Conclusion:

Awesome. I actually just wanted to chat with Margie a bit about the Origami Shawl Design … now you’ve gained lots more insight into both her and my creative life. But now it’s time to show you what I made from Margie’s Origami Shawl Design …

The Origami Shawl design featuring Noro Shiro

As I wrote above, I was immediately intrigued by the Origami Shawl design. I found it unusual and very elegant, a real design coup. As you now know, it was made by Margie Kieper, who I just talked to about her work and about being a designer and a needleworker. Now I’m going to show you the Origami Shawl design in my version, which I finally tackled myself, a full two years later.

The Origami Shawl design here made from the yarn Noro Shiro color #2 in beige, gray, black and turquoise casually thrown over the back of the chair, also looks good so as home accessories. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
Here you can see the Origami Shawl Design already made from the yarn Noro Shiro – Noromaniac’s version

At first the pattern seemed very complicated to knit, but when I started it wasn’t that difficult. But since the pattern goes over 35 rows, you still have to keep looking at the instructions, but the knitting is easy because there are a lot of right stitches and only once in a while a purl or two stitches to cross. So actually pretty simple. But you had to come up with it first. Margie came up with it and her inspiration was the fascinating folds of the origami technique and a Japanese designer, as she told me in the interview.

But before we take a closer look at the Shiro version, let’s first take a short trip to the source of inspiration …

Origami – The art of paper folding

Origami, the millennia-old art from the Asian region of folding paper into three-dimensional objects such as animals, flowers or other things, is now known to everyone and many have also tried it. The most famous object is probably the crane. This classic origami figure has almost become a symbol for this paper folding art, also because the crane stands for a deeper meaning: a long life as well as happiness and peace. In Japan, this folding art has become a true art form. If you want to learn more about it, I find this article from Japandigest quite helpful.

Here are a few examples: An origami ball or a large flower. The butterfly, which is the symbol of love in Japan. And of course the crane …

Colorful ball made of many different patterned and colored pieces of paper typical of Japan's folding art. Photo: Pixabay. Illustration for the article by Noromaniac Butterfly made of paper in black and white. Photo: Pixabay. Illustration for the article by Noromaniac Folded crane made of patterned paper. Photo: Pixabay. Illustration for the article by Noromaniac

You can also find happiness and peace when knitting the Origami Shawl desgin, so now it’s on to the needles …

Origami Shawl design- The art of knitting folds

I repeat once again … to me, the Origami Shawl design really looks incredibly sophisticated. It consists of pleat and zigzag sections and contains right and left twists, creating this three-dimensional look, just like folding paper. Of course, in this case, you must not block the scarf, because otherwise this great effect goes to waste.

As already mentioned, the knitting itself is quite simple. It’s just a bit tedious, because this shawl is more of a stole due to its dimensions. It measures with me, knitted from the Noro Shiro, lying 42.5 cm in width and 198 cm in length. In the original, the Origami Shawl is from Noro Silk Garden and measures 46.5 cm by 183 cm. In my Shiro version, I knitted one pattern set more in length than in the original, because according to the pattern sets given, it was still too short for me. I also deviated very slightly from the instructions and knitted two rows more in the pleat section. The needle size I left unchanged.

The color repeat of the yarn Noro Shiro Color #2 with beige, gray, black and turquoise "live" in the knitted scarf. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

I started knitting it about a month ago, right after I found a bargain on the great Noro Shiro. Almost immediately after the yarn was delivered, I had to start. I really love the Noro Shiro with its cashmere content and have already made a scarf and a hat out of it (from color #6 – you can see it here). When I had the color #2 of the Noro Shiro with its beige part here, I thought it could be just the right Noro yarn to finally knit myself this special Origami Shawl. Thought – done! And here is my version …

Noromaniac’s Origami Shawl

Once again the starting yarn, the Noro Shiro color #2
The yarn Noro Shiro color #2 with beige, gray, black and turquoise in the ball. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

The original by Margie Kieper from the Noro Silk Garden #269 and the beginning of my Origami Shawl from the Noro Shiro #2.
The Origami Shawl design from Noro Knitting Magazine 14 along with the yarn Noro Shiro Color #2, from which Noromaniac, knitted her stole in beige, gray, black and turquoise. Photo: Katrin Walter

And below you can admire the complete color gradient of the Noro Shiro #2 in the Origami Shawl. My scarf is long enough to wrap it around my neck twice and wear it as a big neck flatterer
You can also wear this knitted stole as a scarf made of Noro Shiro, wrapped twice around your neck. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

It goes especially well with my new vest from the Noro Haunui with Noro Tennen and Noro Madara (right on the chair, but there will be an extra article on that)
This wide scarf made of Noro Shiro in beige, black, gray and turquoise goes especially well with my vest made of Noro Haunui, Noro Tennen and Noro Madara also in beige-gray. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

The Pattern of the Origami Shawl design once again close up …

The Origami Shawl design up close, you can see here hut the knitted folds. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac The construction of the knitted design is easy to see, the straight stitches knitted on the curly right and slanted to the right and left, mimicking the fold of origami paper. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

… and the Origami Wrap from the Noro Shiro in its full glory

The stole in origami shawl design in its full glory on the dressmaker's dummy. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
Like a wrap, this stole made from Noro Shiro yarn in an origami shawl design wraps you up and warms your shoulders and entire upper body. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
Scarf or stole, that's the question here? You can style this wide wool, cashmere and silk throw (Noro Shiro) in so many ways. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
The Origami Shawl also makes a good figure from behind, just like that, thrown loosely over the shoulder. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
The Origami Shawl can also replace a small blanket. The Noro Shiro of wool, cashmere and silk is wonderfully soft and warming you can also just throw over your feet. Here in beige, black, gray and turquoise. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac. Origami Shawl Design: Margie Kieper
Wrapping deluxe with the Origami Shawl design from Noro Shiro made of wool, cashmere and silk. Pure luxury. Photo: Katrin Walter - Noromaniac
The Noro Shiro knitted in the wide stole, called Origami Shawl design and three skeins of this Noro yarn. Photo Katrin Walter - Noromaniac

Click here for the german version of the interview with Margie Kieper about her Origami Shawl Design

I hope you had fun reading it, as we did with our dialogue. Feel free to leave a comment about the Origami Shawl Design, or about knitting, crochet, or your creative process in general when you tackle something. Do you just knit away or do you prefer to work from instructions? Write what you come up with! I’m already curious. 🙂

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Photos origami examples and abstract: Pixabay. Remaining photos to the Origami Shawl, if not otherwise indicated directly with the photo: (c) Katrin Walter – Noromaniac.

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