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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!

About The Author

Sonya Philip is an artist, designer, teacher, and the author of The Act of Sewing. She has made it her mission to convince people to make their own clothes, by teaching classes and selling patterns. When not covered in bits of thread, she can be found knitting another shawl or cardigan. Sonya lives in San Francisco with her family and their scruffy terrier duo, Willie and Hazel.


  • Denise is my new super hero!

  • I tell hesitant new knitters all the time that so much of what we knit is RECTANGLES! Math and geometry, simple and pure. Denise, your garments look comfortable and beautiful and classy. You’ve inspired me today! Thanks to you and Sonia.

  • I also love neutrals and simple shapes I don’t have to think about too much.The Emma cardigan is going in the queue right now!


  • Came for the knitting, stayed for the sewing! The Lou Box Dress in those photos is calling to me, though I haven’t sewed anything in years–

  • Loved the interview, Sonya. I have admired Denise Bayron’s CardiZen and was thrilled to read about her. And start following her on Instagram! A whole new inspirational rabbit hole.

  • LOVE this so much! Thanks for introducing me to Denise!

  • I love Denise’s style! That last photo especially is the way I want to dress every day. I am a very beginner sewist but my goal for spring is to finally make Pants No. 1!

  • Terrific article, so much to think about, so much to admire. More please!

  • I was so taken with Denise’s CardiZen in the March Madness bracket. So glad to learn more about Denise and her design aesthetic!

  • Favorite creative friend! Love this post.

  • I’ve been inspired by this series since Sonya started writing it. I admire her philosophy and style and am looking forward to reading about others who walk their talk this way.

  • I saw the Cardi Zen online a short while back and was taken by it. Denise’s designs are sophisticated and elegant. I love the simple lines. I love the element of surprise such as with Hatdana, which can be used for duel purposes. True inspiration!

  • This was a wonderful article. I’ve followed Denise for a while on Instagram. I love her style. reading the article has encouraged me to not feel that I must use the yarn gauge that is written for a pattern but adapt my own with math. I’m too much a rule follower.

  • Items suit her well..

  • Why would a person makes things that they then didn’t wear? Seems like an odd thing to have to tell someone. But I’m glad these young women are beginning to realize that things can be handmade, stylish, organic and locally sourced. Or not, depending on your preference.

    • I’ve done it plenty of times. Maybe it didn’t turn out the way I had envisioned. Maybe I chose an odd pairing of fiber and silhouette. Maybe the final product was perfect… but not on me.
      But mostly it’s because I make things that excite me, challenge me, stir my artistic visions… and then question whether I’m bold enough, interesting enough, artistic enough to actually wear them. That’s the question that these articles address, because the answer is yes. I am all those things. And maybe… maybe I just need someone else to encourage me that way. To tell me… “Wear what you make.”.

  • So excited to see this interview with Denise this morning! I follow her on Instagram and bought her CardiZen pattern after seeing it in the March Mayhem bracket. I finished my CardiZen and wore it for the first time yesterday for a Mother’s day outing (pics on Instagram and Ravelry) and received so many compliments:) Thank you MDK for introducing me to so many people, places, and things I would have never known about!!!

  • Thank you, Denise, and Sonya. Great interview. Love the box dress. Have wool all set up to knit my cardi zen.
    Follow you both on Instagram and love what you wear.
    Thanks for more ideas and inspiration.

  • I have INDEED been hankering for this column! Thank you, Sonya and thank you Denise <3

  • Oooooo, so in my wheelhouse! Plus, I can claim about 25 accumulated years of Oakland residency. Much affection going out to this post and its writer and her home!!!

  • I love that Denise’s style is minimalist and neutral but also looks relaxed. Minimalist often reads to me as cold and/or drab so it’s neat to see someone who manages to make minimal seem cozy! Love the Hatdana design— I’ve got a marled linen that might make a lightweight summery one.

  • Wonderful! Thank you, Sonya! I loved meeting

  • Fabulous. Inspiring interviewer and interviewee. Great read!

  • The Lou Box dress and Emma cardigan is what I truly want to wear every day – minimal and gorgeous!

  • How inspiring!

    “…learning handicrafts from artisans who made clothing from locally sourced fiber, using traditional methods that left little impact on their land and communities.”

    Sounds like pure bliss to me.

    Thank you Sonya and Denise

  • So inspired by the outfits & styling. Thank you Denise & Sonya.

  • Just wondering why the model looks so dour and depressed? If I were modeling those beautiful clothes I could offer at least a hint of a smile… I have noticed this trend in a lot of magazines and even of people showing off their own work..I think a bit of positivity would reinforce how great the pattern/yarn is – I mean ultimately those photos are about selling products and being happy is a pretty good way to help sell.

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