Our Tools, Ourselves: Denise Bayron

Our Tools, Ourselves: Denise Bayron interview

I first met Denise Bayron on Instagram about a year ago when she had just learned to sew and was wowing everyone with her skills. No doubt her experience in knitting and the fashion industry were factors, but it was mind-blowing how quickly she was drafting her own inventive jumpsuit, for instance. And have you seen her knitting patterns? Last year’s chic Cardizen has just been joined by a clever cross between a head kerchief and a bandana cowl, the Hatdana. (Straight into my queue!) With more in the pipeline.

On top of her immeasurable talents, Denise might actually be the friendliest person I’ve ever met. I’ve loved getting to know her better in recent months and am excited to be able to share more of her story through this q&a. To keep up with Denise, follow @bayronhandmade.

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Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I knit, crochet and sew. I learned to crochet from a neighbor when I was 4 years old. I practiced frequently and enjoyed doing it immensely but lost the habit as I grew into my teens. I’ve picked it up again in recent years.

As a young woman living in New York, I worked in the fashion industry as the VP of a public relations agency for many years. The corporate hustle didn’t allow for much making.  Even worse, I absorbed the conflicting message that quality clothing is both expensive and disposable after a season. Fast fashion diminished my self-worth because of unattainable expectations.  So I quit my job to pursue more meaningful work in the personal wellness industry. Ironically, leaving the fashion industry opened me up to making clothes by hand.

A few years later, I moved from New York to Madison, Wisconsin.  I was in a new city, and I had no friends. Within days of moving, I attended a fair-trade festival. The first person I met was a woman who was a knitter and the manager of a local fair-trade organization. I asked her if I could volunteer at her company. I also asked her if she would be my friend. I’m surprised she didn’t run in the opposite direction! I worked part-time for that organization for about 5 years. I was surrounded by items that were made by artisans and farmers from around the world. I grew to appreciate the beauty of handmade things, their longevity, their intrinsic and sentimental value, and the cultural lessons that can be passed down through craft.

Through my volunteer work, I was granted a visa to work with an artisan partner in Thailand. The partner ran a cooperative business comprised of women from the northern Thai hill tribes. My assignment was to teach the women English and marketing strategies so that they could compete in a global economy. These women made magic with their hands. I had much to learn from them too! After our classes, I stayed on to watch them sew, knit and embroider beautiful things. I continued traveling through eight countries and had similar exchanges in Myanmar and Indonesia too. The time I spent learning handicrafts from experienced artisans changed my life and point of view.

When I returned to the US, I continued to develop my knitting skills. Sewing, however, was still on the back burner. This all changed when I moved to California four years ago. I found myself in the San Francisco Bay Area, which has a rich and diverse maker community. I searched for a local yarn shop and found the most charming shop — A Verb For Keeping Warm! It was within walking distance from my home. OMG, two steps away from heaven, right??!! The shop hosts a monthly maker meetup called Seam Allowance. The meetup is a sew-and-tell of sorts where participants pledge to make 25% of their wardrobe by hand. I was floored by the quality of the projects shared in the group, and I was incredibly inspired. I was determined to try my hand at sewing. I walked out of the shop with a pattern by Sonya Philip, the designer of 100 Acts of Sewing. Sonya’s clear pattern instructions and tutorial videos helped me complete my first sewing project — a pair of pants! That success gave me the courage to keep sewing and later try my hand at drafting.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Denise Bayron interview

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

In a dream world, I am a monogamous knitter with one set of wooden needles and only enough yarn to knit the project that I am currently working on. In the real world, I do, in fact, have only one set of interchangeable needles. However, I need more cables to hold multiple WIPs.

In a past interview I vocalized my dislike for the clicking of metal needles. Never say never, because I’ve had to eat crow after working on a recent lace project. I found myself searching online for Addi Turbo Rockets. I didn’t buy them, but my little heart wants them so badly.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

I try to keep my tools to a minimum and buy the best quality and most beautiful tools I can afford. As far as organizing, I keep my yarn stash in two baskets on my sewing table. I also have one bookshelf where I store my fabric and hand knit projects. Next to that bookshelf I keep a couple of bolts of fabric standing upright on the floor. A local friend and shop owner offered to sell me 120 yards of tencel for $100! This offer was a no-brainer, so I immediately broke my own minimalism rules and rushed to her home to pick them up. She also gave me some garment-quality cotton, linen and wool as a gift. It was a total score!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Denise Bayron interview

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

I live in a tiny apartment in Oakland. I don’t have a dedicated studio for my work. My bed is two feet away from my workspace. I’ve placed two long Ikea desks side-by-side to make one long surface along the wall. That’s where I cut fabric, sew, knit, work on my laptop and drink hot coffee. Multi-tasking sometimes means that there is fabric on the dining table, yarn in baskets under my favorite armchair, and scrap paper on the bed. It’s not always pretty, but stuff gets done. I have to thank my partner who is the most organized person I know. He does the cleaning and sorting while I cuss at the dropped stitches on my needles and grade my patterns.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

The tools I use the most are my Lykke interchangeable needles, Gingher shears, and Merchant and Mills snips. I love the Cocoknits stitch stoppers. I also use the black Magpie stitch markers that look like big safety pins as progress keepers. This year I also invested in a new knitting bag. It is the Twig and Horn crossbody project tote. I have the Fringe Supply Co. Field Bag in a matching toffee color and the Fringe leather tool pouch. Now everything is matchy-matchy and beautiful.

Having said that, I used to keep my projects in a Ziploc bag inside of a ratty Fjallraven backpack. Although I love a pretty bag, and sharp shears are essential for cutting fabric, I want to avoid repeating the negative messages I received from the fast fashion industry. More isn’t always better.

Do you lend your tools?

Not really. Not because I’m cheap, but because it has never come up. My maker friends all have beautiful tools of their own!

What is your favorite place to knit/sew/spin/dye/whatever?

I do most of my making at home. My home is tiny but cozy. It’s clean, quiet and smells nice. My new favorite candle is Teakwood by Wax and Wool. I’ve tried knitting in cafés and in the park, but really, my home is my haven.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Denise Bayron interview

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I knit year-round. Some knitters complain about working with wool in the summer, but I live in California. We get chilly coastal winds at night which is the perfect climate for knitting. I tend to sew mostly in the spring and summer. This year I want to try my hand at sewing a swimsuit. I have my eye on the Sophie Swimsuit by Closet Case Patterns.

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

No dark secrets. Quirks? Loads of them! I love neutral colors and work with them almost exclusively. If there is a pop of color in my stash, it is probably for a gift. I also look for yarns and fabrics that don’t shed much. I am careful to avoid lint because my hair is styled in locs. As a result, I stay away from mohair and alpaca. I realize I’m missing out because the “halo” is beautiful, but I don’t want fibers to get stuck in my hair!

What are you working on right now?

At this very moment, I am editing how-to videos for a new knitting pattern called the #hatdana. The Hatdana is unique and versatile accessory that is both practical and beautiful. It works as a bandana to hold your hair away from your face, but it is slipped on like a hat. It can also be worn as a cowl with the bandana in the front like a kerchief.  I’ve been sharing sneak peeks on Instagram every day this week in anticipation of the release. I am so grateful for the positive reception it has gotten so far.

I’ve just wrapped up testing for another pattern, and I have several other designs in the queue. My proverbial plate is full, and my heart is happy. Thank you for allowing me to share my ideas with you.

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Thank you, Denise!

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PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Izznit

Photos © Denise Bayron, used with permission

Elsewhere

I’m out of town for a bit for a family function but I’m leaving you with some nice meaty links to explore while I’m gone—

— First off, you know I’m gonna love a log cabin blanket made from leftovers of hats knitted for a bounty of friends

— Must-read interview with Whitney Hayward on the economic realities of trying to make a living as a knitting pattern designer— i.e., why knitting patterns should cost more than they do

— There is a really fantastic discussion on Jacqui Cieslak’s post about the implications of the word “handmade”

— “People who would never otherwise talk to you will engage with you about what you’re doing,” she says. “They come to see that the people who are out in the street [knitting] are very nice, and that we are openly talking about race and racism. The group provides a path into the movement that people aren’t even looking for.”

— What happens when you try to give men the obnoxious What not to wear after 50 type of advice? Backlash.

— Have you seen @thegentlemanfelter? (thx, DG)

— Or lucky lady @chakamartinique, whose husband makes all of her clothes? (via Mac)

— And totally off topic, but this is a whole ‘nother level of commitment to one’s craft

Have an amazing weekend, everyone!

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Queue Check — March 2019: A whole new queue

Queue Check — March 2019: A whole new queue

Having wrapped up multiple projects for others lately and said “see you next year” to the bulky cardigan I started in December and won’t need till next December, I’m at a rare moment: A clean slate. And rather than rushing into anything that hadn’t been sufficiently thought through (which resulted in No. 2 below), I’ve been taking my time making my plans. But this is how they’re crystallizing:

1. The shawl-collar vest
After some deliberation (and discussion with you all) about using mismatched wool from my stash versus acquiring a more wearable cotton blend, I decided on the latter. I’ve bought a handful of skeins of Rosa Pomar’s Mungo — 50% recycled cotton and 50% recycled wool, all preconsumer mill waste — swatched a couple of ways, and am ready to cast on. The fabric is nothing at all like the Balance I know and love — it’s much more summery, more cottony, lighter — even though they’re both 50/50, so I’m eager to see how this goes.

2. The Luft mystery project
In the absence of any specific plan or outcome, and the presence of this swoony black Luft, I’ve been knitting it into a garter-stitch triangle, which may become a rectangle or a square, or may simply be ripped out. Only time will tell. But no moment spent with this yarn flowing through my fingers is wasted. It’s a therapy unto itself.

3. The navy pullover
I haven’t even so much as swatched, but I’m pretty certain the ultra-plain little navy pullover I’ve been wanting will be knitted from two strands of this deep dark blue Bummull. As it will probably be a simple stockinette top-down — a good pick-it-up-anytime project — I’m thinking of casting on and planning to knit it here and there between now and next fall, when I’ll be wanting it again.

4. The “kimono” jacket
While multiple brands have renamed their “kimono jackets” to the more accurate “haori,” the fact remains that this Assembly Line pattern I’ve purchased bears the name Kimono Jacket. But name aside, I’m super obsessed with this pattern, the shape of this jacket, and am planning to sew it up in navy linen, which I have a lot of in my stash from Eliz Suzann’s $2/lb garage sale a couple of summer ago — I’m just waiting for the pattern to arrive at my mailbox. This will be an excellent all-purpose garment throughout the year.

5/6. The pants
As previously noted, I’ve been thinking for a long time of sewing a pair of woven Hudson Pants, and think the guinea-pig fabric might be that stripe in my stash. (I still have those Jenni Kayne pants in my head.) But there’s also still the goal of the Carolyn Pajama pants in navy linen with black piping, for street wear. Not sure yet which will come first; either/both will be awesome with the jacket.

That should keep me busy for a little while!

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PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: January 2019

Q for You: What’s your favorite pattern source?

Q for You: What's your favorite pattern source?

I became a knitter in the age of Ravelry, but sometimes I ponder what it was like before. My personal historical equivalent would be going to the fabric store with my mom when I was a kid, sidling up to the long tables stacked with giant binders full of sewing patterns, and beginning the often tedious task of turning every single page in as many of those books as possible to find what I was after. Then locating the actual pattern envelope in its cross-referenced file drawer — that makes me so nostalgic just typing that.

In the days before Ravelry — which created a means for self-publishing — the only way to get a pattern published was through a traditional gatekeeper: Someone publishing patterns had to likes yours and include it in a publication, which might have been a magazine, a book, or a booklet put out by a yarn company. But of curse in the days of Ravelry and other websites, all of those traditional outlets also still exist. It can be a pretty dizzying world of too many choices, and I’m sure we all have our different go-to’s when it comes to filtering through the hundreds of thousands of patterns out there.

So that’s my Q for You today: How do you find the patterns you knit? Are you high-tech or old-school? Do you keep your eyes on a certain designer or brand that puts out collections? Do you start with the vintage pattern booklets or stack of magazines you have at home? Do you go to the library and pore over books? Ask friends for recommendations? Browse hashtags on Instagram? Or do you start with the Ravelry search box and narrow your search from everything to just-the-thing? I’d love to hear about your sources and your methods — and what makes it work for you.

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Are you a holiday gift knitter?

Maker Crush: Mac Housley

Maker Crush: Mac Housley

On my sewing list for quite some time has been the Hudson Pants pattern from True Bias, with the intention of sewing this ostensible sweatpants pattern in a woven fabric, as I’ve seen many people do. But Mac Housley has put me over the top on it — she tells me she’s sewn at least 6 pairs, ranging from flannel pj’s (for the whole family) to the sage green pair above, among others. I’ve mentioned Mac twice in Elsewhere lately — in the context of @meetmakersofcolor and her fantastic Love to Sew Podcast interview (please tell me you’ve listened to it!) — but today I’m here to tell you I have a Maker Crush on her, straight up. It’s not just the Hudson pants, but her energy and openness and apparent willingness to dive right into whatever tempts her. Mac stopped crocheting (hopefully not forever) after her grandmother died fifteen years ago and is eager to learn to knit, but she has taken up sewing in just the past few years and is already a powerhouse thanks to that aforementioned diving-in mentality. 

In addition to her joint ventures @meetmakersofcolor and @sewalteredstyle, and the blog of the same name, her @macsmakespace account has become one of my favorites in recent months, and I particularly love her ongoing IG Stories wherein she checks in regularly about works in progress and so much else. If you’re not already following her, I’m sure you’ll find her as relentlessly inspiring as I do.

For pattern details, see her captions on the top photo and bottom photo.

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PREVIOUSLY in Maker Crush: Llane Alexis

Photos © Mac Housley, used with permission

Elsewhere

Elsewhere: Knitting, sewing, slow fashion LINKS list

This is a short but meaty installment of Elsewhere and I hope you’ll spend some quality time with it!

— I love every single thing Mac Housley had to say on the Love to Sew Podcast about why a diverse feed is important and so much more — please take time to listen to that this weekend, if you haven’t already. And see also the Harvard document she mentions, Suggested Norms for Cross-Cultural Dialogue

— I love this piece by my collaborator-friend Jen Hewett (above) on being a creative and a recovering perfectionist. For me, being one too, this bit about her great grandmother is the perfect tiny life lesson: She was a talented cook, but sometimes her cakes didn’t rise properly. “My mother never called those failures,” Auntie Maude said. “She’d slice that cake, pour some cream on top, and call it a ‘pudding.’ And we loved those puddings.”

— And I LOVE Dana Williams-Johnson’s piece about her 164 sweaters, and lol’d at her responses to the questions she receives (did you see the one I got to borrow?)

— Also: this Log Cabin situation

This groovy top

— and peeping what people are doing with that fascinating Junko Bouquet pattern

Happy weekend, everyone. I’ve been on overload lately and am looking forward to some quiet time with my mini Sólbein. Hope to have it to show to you next week! What are you working on?

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PREVIOUSLY: Elsewhere

Photo of Jen Hewett © me for Fringe Supply Co.

Craftlands: QuiltCon

Craftlands: QuiltCon - Peppermint Twist by Irene Roderick

This past weekend, I had a house full of guests and several action-packed days surrounding the first occurrence of QuiltCon in Nashville. It’s an event I’ve wanted to attend for several years and never get to, but what could be more convenient than it happening in my own backyard?

QuiltCon is the quilting equivalent of a Stitches event for knitters, except in addition to the convention-center rooms full of classes, lectures and vendor booths, there are also over 500 modern quilts on display. It’s pretty dizzying. The marketplace area is fairly small compared to a Stitches event (though still plenty vast) but try to picture rows and rows of pipe-and-drape “walls” hung with that many quilts. It’s a lot to take in! And it took us two visits to see it all.

Craftlands: QuiltCon - Exit Wound by Audrey Bernier

I snapped photos of all of my favorites (too many to share) and of those only Exit Wound by 17-year-old Audrey Bernier was one of the official prize winners. It was among the Youth quilts, an area that was robust with social-justice quilts done in conjunction with the Social Justice Sewing Academy. Exit Wound is a statement on gun violence in the US, and the design was inspired by the fact that the exit wound for an AR-15 is the size of an orange. It is a mix of strong concept and subtle details, and a collage of patchwork, appliqué, embroidery, hand- and machine-quilting. Truly powerful work.

If I could have brought any one of the quilts home with me, I would have chosen Peppermint Twist by Irene Roderick, pictured up top. There were lots of quilts in the show that used tiny little strips of fabric, which was mind-boggling to me, and this one just really struck me as both technically amazing and visually stunning.

Or maybe I would take the quilt called Six Pairs of Pants by Sherri Lynn Wood, who was the featured quilter for this year and had about three aisles of quilts on display. She previously did a residency at the dump in San Francisco and made art and quilts from some of the discards. This one is literally made from six pair of pants, which takes you a minute to realize. I also loved the dress shirt one, where she’d left the buttons intact.

Craftlands: QuiltCon - featured quilter Sherri Lynn Wood

Of course, the best part was seeing old friends and meeting several new ones. In particular, I was thrilled to find out Karyn Valino was in town for the event. When I first got back into garment making, Karyn (aka @make_something) was a huge inspiration — I basically just wanted to sew every pattern I saw her sewing, and still do. (I definitely quizzed her about every garment she had on and added a couple of things to my list.) So it was great to get to meet and spend some time with both her and the lovely Jaqueline of Soak, who she was here with.

Craftlands: QuiltCon - Karyn Valino and Sandra Johnson

And in the aisles at the show on Friday, a woman walked past me wearing a fantastic hand-quilted, shibori, haori-style jacket. When I said “I LOVE your jacket,” she spun around and showed us her hand-stitched jeans and bag as well, then quickly told us her name, what all and where all she teaches, and that we could follow her on Instagram at @sandrajohnsondesigns for more, which of course we promptly did! Sadly, we didn’t get to see her quilted pants in person.

That’s barely skimming the surface of the incredible display of talent that is QuiltCon. Photos don’t begin to do the quilts justice, and if you get a chance to see a future batch in person, I definitely recommend it. I believe next year’s QuiltCon is in Austin TX.

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PREVIOUSLY in Craftlands: Slow fashion retreats