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Interview: Bristol Ivy


Today’s Gift-A-Long interview is with Bristol Ivy, a designer known for her use of unconventional shaping.

Bristol Ivy

How did you get started designing?
I’ve always had a tendency, once I picked up an interest, to go off on my own path with it. So when I read, I wrote. When I danced, I choreographed. Knitting was no different–it didn’t take long before
I was tweaking patterns to suit my needs, and then not long again before I was starting from scratch with my very own ideas. It helps, too, that I’m just really bad at following other people’s directions!

What inspires your designs?
I love catching random glimpses of garments in everyday life–either walking down the street, on TV, on Pinterest, and so on–and deciphering how I might reinterpret them in knitting. I also love designing based on technique and creating a wearable garment from a desire to play and explore how a certain skill or technique might work in a specific context. My favorite is when the two of those combine: when I see a ready-to-wear inspiration and use interesting techniques to construct it in my own personal way.

Triangulate Cowl

Triangulate Cowl

Which comes first – the yarn or the inspiration?
Almost always the inspiration. If I’m asked to work with specific yarns, I’ll analyze them in terms of structure–how will the ply and twist handle texture or cables? Would it be good for lace or colorwork? How will it drape?–and tailor the designs from there. But often, I’ll come up with parameters for a design and try to find a yarn that fits. I’m SO picky about that when I’m mulling over options! I think my friends have learned to run for cover when I start asking for yarn suggestions, because it takes me a long time to find the perfect one!

What characteristics do you try to incorporate in your designs?
Because a lot of what I do focuses on unconventional shaping, I try to keep the fabric itself very simple. Both in terms of the experience for the knitter AND the look of the finished garment, I like there to be a balance of complexity and simplicity. So I tend not to use a whole lot of stitch patterns, unless they’re there to convey a mood or to shape the fabric themselves. Otherwise, I just try to make sure that, no matter how off the rails I’ve gone in terms of construction, that the garment is still something you’d feel flattered by and comfortable in.

Wainwright Cardigan

Wainwright Cardigan

What is your favourite type of item to design?
I love sweaters! There are so many cool ways you can play with shaping in them. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface on what you can do with them!

Your desert island yarn? (if you could only knit with one yarn from now on which would it be?)
Oh my gosh! I have to choose?! Okay, I have to cheat and pick two: one for hot days–Quince & Co.’s 100% linen Sparrow–and one for cool nights–Shibui’s cashmere and silk tweed, Pebble. I could legitimately
knit with either of these yarns forever and be completely happy.

Stria Cardigan

Stria Cardigan

What’s your “comfort knitting?”
I’d have to say stockinette in the round. It’s just so cozy and calming!

Which is your most under-appreciated design?
The one I probably wear the most is also probably the one that flew the furthest under the radar, my Alewives cowl. It’s texture and a teeny bit of lace in the most gorgeous earthy yarn, Clara Parkes’ CVM 1.0. I wear that sucker probably three times a week!

Alewives cowl

Alewives cowl

Which three GAL designs are top of your list to cast on?
Oh wow, too many to count! I am for sure casting on is Sarah Roncetti’s Alec XL. I’ve owed my incredibly knitworthy dad a sweater for two Christmases now! I am also eyeing the Mittens that are on the list–I’ve not had a proper pair of mittens for a few years now, which is a serious problem here in Maine. The two that I’m wavering between are Reykjavik by Carol Sunday and Jazz Age Mittens by Elizabeth Elliott. Totally different designs–one’s very traditional and the other is very graphic and modern. It’ll be a tough choice! (ETA: I just bought them both and might combine the two. We’ll see what happens!)

Continental or English?
Kind of a modified English, halfway between a lever and a throw.

Hrim shawl

Hrim shawl

What’s the best thing about knitting?
Hands down, the community! It’s been a delight to get to meet such amazing and interesting people from all walks of life. I’m endlessly fascinated!

What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to share with other knitters?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You’ll learn the entire time you do, and even if you have to rip out, you’re still left with the two sticks and string you started with, as well as a host of new

Metropolis Mitts

Metropolis Mitts

Any knitting/designing New Year’s resolutions?
I haven’t made any yet–I should probably get on that! 🙂

View all of Bristol’s patterns here. All photos are copyright Bristol Ivy. All images used by permission.

What is the Gift-A-Long? The GAL is a big knitting and crochet designer promotion with prizes and more than 5,000 people participating in a giant KAL/CAL. Come join the GAL group on Ravelry!

posted under interview, Knitting

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