Greetings, dear readers.
If, like us, you’ve been missing Sonya Philip’s Wear What You Make series in recent weeks, we’ve got fantastic news: Sonya is back, and she’s taking Wear What You Make on a field trip. In this and upcoming columns, Sonya will be interviewing makers about how they wear what they make. As always with Sonya, there will be as much show as tell.
Today, Sonya begins the new series by talking with sewist, knitter, crocheter, and designer Denise Bayron.
—Ann and Kay
Sonya: In many ways, we are wardrobe opposites. You gravitate towards neutrals and solids, leaning much more towards minimalism. I think it’s important to see there is no one way to wear what you make. How have your tastes evolved and was there a progression to defining your personal style?
Denise is wearing: Emma Cardigan by Cocoknits in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter; Lou Box Dress by Sew DIY.
Denise: My tastes have definitely evolved with time. I’ve always been drawn to basics: foundational, simple shapes that are appropriate for everyday. As a young woman, I would experiment with bold colors and prints. Like many of us, my life gradually became filled with more responsibility, more stress, and more chaos. In response, I found myself gravitating towards minimalism and simplicity in all aspects of life—including my wardrobe. I wanted a wardrobe that was fun and aesthetically pleasing, yet low stress. It had to be versatile, pragmatic, and color coordinated so that it was easy to construct. My new style added ease, not stress, to my life. I said goodbye to long nights pre-planning outfits, hours sorting laundry over the weekend, and packing multiple suitcases every time I travel—all those little things that take up our time. Eventually, this developed into my signature Bayron Handmade style.
What handmade item do you find yourself reaching for again and again in your closet?
Nuuk Pullover by Jonna Hietala in Jill Draper Makes Stuff Kingston; Pants no. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing.
One of my most worn sweaters is Nuuk, a raglan-style pullover designed by Jonna Hietala. I wanted to knit a cozy sweatshirt, so I modified the short-sleeved pattern to add full length sleeves. I knit it using Kingston, a 3-ply tweed yarn from Jill Draper Makes Stuff. I love how resilient the yarn is. Even though I’ve worn that sweater to death, it has minimal pilling and shows few signs of wear.
Nuuk Pullover by Jonna Hietala in Jill Draper Makes Stuff Kingston; Hatdana by Denise Bayron in Stone Wool Cormo.
I’ve also been wearing my Hatdana every single day! My own design, it’s a small, lightweight, versatile accessory that I can wear on my head or around my neck. It keeps me cozy when I have a chill and also holds my hair back away from my face when I’m feeling warm. It takes up minimal space in my bag, so it has become a never-leave-home-without-it accessory.
Your designs really reflect your aesthetic. Do you find that you design primarily for what you want to wear?
Hatdana by Denise Bayron (worn as a cowl).
I really wouldn’t know how to do it any other way. I design what I don’t already have in my wardrobe, garments and accessories that I daydream about. I stay in my lane, don’t follow trends, and hope that like-minded makers will enjoy my patterns.
You crochet, knit, and sew, making you a textile triple threat. Were you always drawn towards fiber and cloth?
Emma Cardigan by Cocoknits in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter; Lou Box Dress by Sew DIY; Pants No. 1 by 100 Acts of Sewing. Crochet cowl (personal pattern).
Yes! I learned to crochet when I was four. I‘ve been sketching clothing and modifying existing pieces for as long as I can remember. I worked in the fashion industry as the VP of a public relations agency for many years. This afforded me the opportunity to learn from designers and see their processes. I also travelled across the globe to learn about textile production and handmade crafts directly from artisans all over Asia. In essence, I took the long road toward designing my own patterns. However, I’m grateful for the many learning experiences I’ve had around fiber and cloth. Each one has taken me one step closer to delivering the sort of fine-tuned, well-constructed, and aesthetically pleasing garments that I strive to make today.
Can you talk about how important your local yarn store and community is to you?
I live in sunny Oakland, California, which has a thriving and diverse maker community that is a constant source of inspiration for me. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of A Verb for Keeping Warm, a local yarn shop that also sells beautiful fabrics, patterns and accessories. Verb has a natural dye studio in the back garden, and they produce drool-worthy farm yarns. The staff also represents the community that they serve, and they are knowledgeable and friendly to everyone.
It was through this community, and events held at Verb, that I learned about your 100 Acts of Sewing patterns! My first sewing project ever was Pants No. 1. I’ve since made another pair, and they are well-loved and well-worn. You are my original sewing teacher, Sonya, and I’d like to formally thank you, because the skills that I learned from your patterns gave me the confidence to try my own hand at drafting.
I was listening to an interview you did with Selvage Knits and practically yelled out loud when you said “Fashion can be handmade and high quality and locally sourced and organic.” Can you tell our readers what in your life led you to this discovery?
My experience working in the fast-fashion industry taught me that high-quality clothing is typically expensive and (somewhat ironically) mass produced overseas by makers who are unfairly compensated. To make matters worse, the industry uses unsustainable production processes that damage our planet. They also promote the idea that clothing is disposable after a single season! This leads to constant consumerism and production waste. I felt burdened by these standards and quit my job to find more meaningful work.
After leaving the fast-fashion industry, I did international volunteer work. I spent time in Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia, learning handicrafts from artisans who made clothing from locally sourced fiber, using traditional methods that left little impact on their land and communities.
My hope is that my designs encourage makers to knit and sew their own fashionable clothing. And if they can source fibers that are grown and produced ethically and locally regardless of where they live in the world, then all the better. Every little bit helps!
I get a sense that you have an inquisitive mind and that kind of curiosity can feed creativity. What inspires you?
I’m inspired by math and geometry. I know that is an offbeat reply, but I often imagine garments as shapes and numbers in my head and think about various ways to construct them. I love using spreadsheets to figure out how to grade a sweater to multiple sizes. I’m a visual learner and a tactile designer. This means I’m also a professional mess-maker! I spread out my supplies and work on an idea until I sort out the construction. There is nothing more rewarding than when the numbers match, the purl stitches line up, and the seams are perfectly straight!
I hear you about professional mess making! What do you have coming up?
I have a new knitwear design being published in Issue 8 of Laine magazine that will be released on May 31. I’m also currently working on a design inspired by a trip to Hawaii. My partner surprised me with a trip to Oahu this month! When I thought about packing a handmade wardrobe, that triggered a multitude of design ideas. Lastly, I am working on a couple of sewing patterns that I’m truly excited about. Thank you for allowing me to share my ideas with you, Sonya!