If you haven’t yet heard of Denise Bayron, you’re in for a real treat. She’s the designer behind the indie sewing and knitting pattern company Bayron Handmade. Outside of her beautiful aesthetic, one of the first things I noticed about Denise is her infectious enthusiasm and her unwavering support of fellow makers in the online sewing community. In fact, even if you don’t follow her Instagram account, you've likely seen her positive and encouraging comments peppered throughout various posts from other makers you follow!
Even her knitting patterns are built to be user-friendly, laden with video links and tips at every step. As a total novice to knitting, I found her first pattern, the Cardizen, held my hand just enough. It got me through the hard parts like creating armholes while still making me feel I accomplished something on my own. And whether you’re a beginner like me or an experienced knitter, you’re sure to find her textured yet minimalistic finesse pleasing.
You’re such an integral part of the community that it’s hard to imagine you started sewing only a little over a year ago. So, let’s start with everyone’s favorite question: can you tell us a little about your sewing journey?
The first fiber art I learned was crochet. I learned from a neighbor at the age of four, but I took an interest in crochet again in my thirties, sometime around 2009. I searched online for courses that would teach me new stitches and techniques, leading me to YouTube, where I discovered that I could teach myself how to knit as well! As they say, the rest is history.
Sewing is a more recent love affair. In early 2018, I attended a monthly “sew and tell” of sorts at my local yarn shop, A Verb for Keeping Warm, in Oakland, CA., called Seam Allowance. Members pledge to make 25% of their own wardrobe by using any and all crafts. The makers who were at the meetup that day were sharing advanced projects like coats and backpacks. Even though I showed up with a giant bag of hand-knit sweaters, I felt like I was missing out on the sewing fun.
That day I purchased the Pants No. 1 pattern by 100 Acts of Sewing and raced home to sign up for an online sewing course taught by Sonya Philip herself. The next day I bought an inexpensive sewing machine and a few basic tools, and I made a pair of pants in a single day. The success I had with my first sewing project catapulted me into binge-learning everything I could about sewing and drafting patterns. I eventually signed up for formal sewing classes and read all the drafting books I could get my hands on from the local library.
Sounds like you really caught the sewing bug! I’m sure many of our readers can relate to the binge-learning everything about sewing after the rush of that first successful garment. What do you think sewing has taught you as a person?
Sewing has taught me that I’m in charge of the image I present to the world. It empowers me to be authentically me and not care about labels or what’s trendy. I can make what I want to wear and have absolute control over the source materials, fibers used, production process, and waste management.
What has been the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome in terms of learning to sew?
Bobbin tension! Haha. No seriously, I’d say one big hurdle is time management. I want to make all the things by yesterday, but real life dictates that making your own wardrobe really is a slow process. I’ve had to learn how to plan my projects so that I can also dedicate quality time to friends and family. I have to remind myself that we call this craft slow fashion for a reason.
How do you stay motivated when life gets in the way of sewing? Do you have any advice for someone who might be struggling to follow through with a project?
I’m pretty self-driven, and like everyone, I always have new ideas about what I want to make next. Motivation hasn’t been a problem for me, but everyone is different. I’d say take it at your own pace. We often tend to gauge our productivity by comparing ourselves to others. Sewing isn’t a competition—it’s an art. Art takes time. Take your time.
"We often tend to gauge our productivity by comparing ourselves to others. Sewing isn’t a competition—it’s an art. Art takes time. Take your time."
Those are some words of wisdom! How do you think your work/life history has made your sewing journey unique?
I worked in the fashion industry for 15 years. My longest-held role was as the VP of a fashion Public Relations agency. That gave me an inside look at the industry, fashion shows, product launches, and an opportunity to learn about design processes and production. Those life experiences certainly inform my work now.
What made you decide to start producing and selling patterns?
I’ve always felt drawn to making—I used to make jewelry, furniture, and paint murals. I was often encouraged by friends to sell the things I was making, in particular, my hand-knits. When I opened my account on Instagram, my intention was to share the things I was making for the sake of sharing, not to sell anything in particular. But I received many comments asking if I would write patterns for my garments, so I tried my hand at patternmaking, and they took off.
My life has changed dramatically! Within one year, I had 15K followers, several knitting patterns on the market, and several sewing patterns in the making, which are not yet released. One of my sweater designs was published in Laine Magazine, a leading knitwear publication based in Finland with global distribution. You can read about my work in The New Yorker, the Fringe Association Blog, Mason Dixon Knitting, and several in-person interviews on other platforms.
In the coming months, I have another design being published in a magazine that I can’t quite share yet. I’ll also be traveling to teach at Vogue Knitting Live in Austin in November, and I have signed a contract for a project with Bluprint, a division of NBC. Whose life is this anyway?! I’m so humbled and honored to be on this journey.
Wow! You have so much on your plate! How do you juggle your work-life and play-life?
I struggle in this area. I’m adapting to the unexpected growth of my pattern, making business, and learning to make the necessary lifestyle choices to prioritize my physical and mental wellness. I’ll confess that sometimes I don’t sleep enough, I often forget to eat, and I spend a lot of time sitting.
My outlet is fitness. I get into the gym at least five times per week for weight lifting and cardio. On the weekends, I try to do at least one physical activity with friends. That can sometimes be a hike or taking a hip hop dance class! That way, I get to be social while I take care of my body.
When you’re designing patterns, what do you want your customers to experience while they sew? And when they are finished with their garments?
I strive to make my patterns user-friendly, laden with video links, and tips at every step. I want anyone who makes my patterns to feel at ease and confident while making the garment or accessory. I further hope that when they wear the garment out into the world, they feel like a million bucks! Because isn’t that what you would wish for any maker?
Your enthusiasm and confidence in life are infectious, and you have such a loving and supportive energy. What does that look like in terms of being that person for yourself if you’re going through a challenge?
I try to live with a positive mindset. I tell myself that I can do anything, and I focus on the follow-through. If I start something, I finish it. I also monitor my internal voice to ensure I’m not overly critical of myself when I fail because failing is a huge part of trying anything new.
Because this formula has worked for me in all aspects of life, I try to be a source of encouragement for my friends and acquaintances too. I strongly believe that every single person is capable of incredible things if they are willing to put in the work and follow through to the end.
Can you tell me a little bit about your newest knitting pattern, the Droplet Capelet?
The #dropletcapelet is a design concept that stemmed from a personal experience. I found a lump in my breast earlier this year while I was on holiday in Hawaii. I worked on an early version of the capelet while I was traveling, but it wasn’t working out. The stress that I was suppressing was very evident in my failed knitting project.
When I returned home to California, I sprang into action and scheduled multiple doctor appointments. It took weeks, many tears, and lots of testing before I could get a diagnosis. I’m relieved to share that my sizable lump was diagnosed as benign, and it was removed.
In the weeks following, while I recovered, the Droplet exploded onto my needles. It’s shaped like a drop of water to represent my happy tears and feelings of gratitude I have for the excellent medical care that was available to me when I needed it. The stitches also change direction as you work around the circumference of the capelet, much like I had to find a new direction with this particular project. In keeping, I decided to donate ten percent of the launch week sales of the pattern to the Susan G. Komen foundation, a charitable organization that directs 80 cents of every dollar towards breast cancer research, screening, treatment, and education.
What an inspiration! Thanks for sharing such an intimate story with us and for being so generous in supporting breast cancer research. Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
I am currently working on the #ripplejacket, a bomber-style knitwear design that I started last December but got pushed down the pipeline. I am also working on two sewing patterns that I am making slow, but measurable, progress on.
Tell our readers where they can find you!
My website is bayronhandmade.com and my Instagram page is @bayronhandmade.
I’ve made introductory videos for a couple of my designs, which you can take a peek at through the Bayron Handmade channel on YouTube. I also make YouTube tutorials to accompany all of my patterns, but those can only be accessed through links that are embedded in the pattern files.