Dye One, Purl Two: An Interview with Bristol Ivy

I feel like I don’t need to introduce Bristol… she is well represented in the design community! I can’t believe I had the chance to interview her- truly a dream come true. Bristol is a knitwear designer based in Portland, and she designs innovative, modern, well-fitting designs.

Let’s get on to the interview! 
How did you first get started designing?

I’ve never been particularly good at following the rules, even when it comes to knitting patterns! When I first picked up knitting again at the age of 17, after about a ten hiatus, I didn’t have access to a whole lot of resources.  I was away at college and the library there wasn’t exactly overflowing with knitting books! So I learned to either make do with the resources I did have (patterns from my local yarn shop back home, Knitty.com) or start improvising on my own.  Even after I got hooked into Ravelry and the greater blogging community, I did a lot of tweaking of every pattern I knit, until it just became easier for me to start from scratch.  It turned out that I loved what I could achieve with forging my own path!

What are your favorite tools?

I love my Knitter’s Pride Nova Platina needles, both fixed and interchangeable.  Metal needles with a pointy tip and a smooth join are essential for me! I also love my collection of tiny stitch markers.  I tend to prefer pretty unobtrusive ones, maybe with just a bead to help me see where I am in the row.  And scissors! I collect little lovely scissors and bring them with me everywhere.  I also have a really healthy collection of project bags from people like Splityarn, Fringe Supply Co., and Madder Root. I love them!

How do you organize your supplies and WIP’s?

My yarn is split between my studio and my home, with the stuff I’m planning on working with next at my office and the rest of my collection at home.  I usually only have one project going at a time, so it’ll live in whichever project bag is my favorite at the moment. 

What does your average day as a designer look like? 

There is, unfortunately, no average day! If I’m home, I try to be in my office by 10 (with mixed results sometimes) and will work there until 5 or 6.  That may entail answering email (there’s a lot of answering email), working on the math for a pattern, proofing a pattern, laying out a pattern, working on a class, or brainstorming a submission.  I get to do some knitting during the day, but it’s a rare treat when I get to do that.  I’ll often knit in the evenings when I’m hanging out at home with my partner and our cats.  I also travel a good deal to teach, and so get to do a good bit more knitting during the journeys there!

What is your design process?

Most of my work starts off from a visual inspiration.  I may see a combination of stitches used together that I love or a shape that I want to try to recreate in knitting.  This can be from other garments, from architecture, from woodwork—anything I see around me.  I’ll take a quick picture or save the image, then start brainstorming what yarn in my stash might work with it.  From there, I start swatching and doing the math, and then I write the pattern.  I try to get at least a bare bones pattern down on paper before I start because I’m notoriously bad at taking notes as I go and often yelling at myself about it later when I try to write the pattern! 
What’s your favorite place to craft?

I love the couch in my studio.  It’s under two huge windows that face southeast, and there’s light all day.  It’s also above the busiest street in Portland so I can knit and people watch to my heart’s content, and you can also see a tiny sliver of ocean off in the distance. I love it! When I’m at home, I love curling up on my bed.  It’s tucked into a nook in my apartment underneath more windows, and I love feeling like I’m in a cocoon of light while I craft.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a shawl for a festival I’m teaching at later this fall.  I’m also thinking about what items I need in my wardrobe for fall and seeing if I can make some time to work on a couple pairs of socks for the winter.  I live in handknit socks come wintertime!

What are your favorite aspects of running a design business?

The freedom! I love the ability to follow threads and explore different concepts without worrying that I’m not doing my job.  I’m good at being self-directed so I still try to get the hard stuff done before I play, but the fact that there’s room to play and to daydream is such a joy.  I also love seeing how people interpret my designs as part of their own wardrobe!

Any tips for someone looking to get started as a designer?

Read as many different patterns from as many different designers as you can.  Even if you don’t actually knit any of them, seeing how different people approach knitted fabric and the pattern writing thereof is instrumental for getting a feel for how to word your own patterns.  Sketch or record every idea, but maybe only work with those that still excite you after a week or so.  Think hard in the begi

nning about what image and brand you want to present, since having a cohesive presence from the beginning can be really helpful.  And don’t forget to keep the joy of it! It can feel like a rat race sometimes to have to continually be producing new work, but I find that taking the time to only do the things that make your heart sing will come across to your customers.  

Where can we find you? 

My website is bristolivy.com, and you can find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Ravelry at @bristolivy.
This is the last post in the Dye One, Purl Two interview series! I hope to resume it next year- but there are lots of new series coming! Let me know in the comments what you want me to write about next.

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