Bristol Ivy is an incredibly talented knitwear designer that just released Knitting Outside the Box, a book that gives insight into her design process and teaches you to explore the endless possibilities in knitting while encouraging you to push your boundaries. Bristol will be joining us in June to teach a class that focuses on different forms of inspiration and different ways of thinking about knitting while exploring methods and theory to bring those ideas to reality. We are endlessly inspired and in awe of Bristol and we just know that you will be too (if you aren't already!).
Tell us about yourself. How did you get where you are and what made you fall in love with textiles?
The road to textile obsession has been long and complicated! I grew up in a total maker household—my mom was a quilter, sewer, knitter, macrame-maker, basket-weaver, and more. I dabbled in it all, but I found my own arts instead: photography, bookmaking, mixed media. I never thought textiles were for me until I left home to go to college. I went totally crazy with knitting when I got there! My next door neighbor in my dorm knit, and it was like a switch flipped. Even though it had always been around me, I think I needed to find it for myself; textiles had always been my mom’s thing, and so having it be something that I found on my own through my peers brought it to me in a new light. From there I started weaving, then spinning, then dyeing, then sewing, then embroidering—gradually figuring out that all the things I had rolled my eyes at when my mom did them were actually pretty cool. :) Right now I’m lucky enough to be able to do this as a full-time job: I work as a knitting designer and knitting teacher, and still play with all the other textile art forms in my spare time.
What inspires you to make and create? How do you keep inspired after so many sweaters, scarves, mittens, and shawls?
I totally love pushing boundaries. Knitting is almost exclusively a “what if” for me—what if I try to recreate that woven fabric pattern with knitting? What if I try this technique in this way? What if I start this sweater from a completely different place? One of the big things I talk about in my book and my class Knitting Outside the Box is that knitting has traditions, but it doesn’t have rules. We have all these preconceived notions about what knitting has to be, but when you look closer, the logic just unravels. There’s no big reason why! So I find it endlessly fascinating to unravel (forgive the pun) the structure of knitted garments and see if they might be put together in a different way. There is no right answer in knitting—just that that gives you the fabric and the garment you want.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
I travel to teach knitting about twice a month at the moment, though I’ll be slowing that down a little bit soon so I can spend more time at home working on creative stuff. Because I travel so much, I don’t have a truly “typical” day! When I’m home, I have a studio about half a mile from my house where I do all my admin work (emails, class prep, pattern writing, layout, and tech) and also where all my yarn and fabric are. I’m in the process of moving my huge floor loom there, too—my cat likes to use any fabric I’m weaving as a hammock so I can’t leave anything on the loom with him around. :) I try to spend about half the week on that admin computer stuff, and half the week working on creative stuff—either working on current design projects, experimenting with new ideas or sewing or embroidering. I’ve found recently that it’s super important to give myself time for that creative play; I can’t be a robot who only ever focuses on the deadlines and the emails and the schedules. To be able to move forward as a maker, I need to give myself that time to explore. Some weeks are easier than others, but I’m giving it a go!
Do you remember the very first project you ever knit?
I do! My mom taught me to knit when I was around six, and my first project was a doozy: a neon variegated acrylic garter stitch headband. I wish I still had it!
What is the one tip/trick would you give to people looking to customize and create their own patterns?
To go for it! Knitting is so forgiving—at the end of the day, if something didn’t work out, you can rip it out and start again. You have the same exact materials that you started with, and MORE knowledge. And it’s more time you get to spend knitting! (This is what I tell myself when I have to rip out for the fifteenth time.) Don’t worry about what everyone else in the knitting community has done or thinks is easy or difficult—find what you love, and figure out a way to get there.
What is the next horizon for you? Do you have any dreams to expand into new or different areas?
I’d love to open up my business into other textile arts. I think publications like Taproot and Making have done a lot to encourage multi-craftual diversity, and there are so many amazing makers out there who don’t just do one thing. I’d love to take how I think about knitting and bring it to sewing or embroidery or weaving. . . if only someone can add a few more hours in the day. :)