We continue our designer spotlight series with our friend and fellow Mainer, Bristol Ivy. Bristol has designed two patterns for Swans Island this fall, the Offshore V-Neck from the All American Collection and the Mt Katahdin Cowl in Natural Colors Merino Worsted.
Bristol Ivy is a knitting designer from Portland, Maine. Her work focuses on the intersection of innovative shaping and technique with classic tailoring and clean lines; in addition to her work with Swans Island, she has been published with Quince & Co., Brooklyn Tweed, Knitty, Twist Collective, Interweave Knits, Knitscene, knit.wear and knit.purl, PomPom Quarterly, and number self-publications. When she isn’t knitting or thinking about knitting (which doesn’t happen frequently), she can be found working behind the scenes at Brooklyn Tweed, cooking, baking, watching way too much British TV, and going for long walks on the crooked brick sidewalks of her neighborhood.
SI: How did you get started knitting and then make the transition into designing?
BI: It’s been a long road! I was homeschooled all the way through, and part of our curriculum when I was around 6 was that my mom would read aloud to us. I was a huge fidgeter then (and still am!), so mom taught me how to knit to keep me sitting still while she was reading. There was about a ten year gap in interest, but when I went off to college I just got obsessed with it and never looked back. Designing was a natural extension; I’ve never been someone who follows other people’s rules super well, so I was always tweaking patterns to get what I wanted. After a while it just became easier to write my own!
SI: Can you give us a peek into your day-to-day as a designer? Do you design full time? How much of your day do you spend knitting?
BI: I currently work full-time as the operations coordinator at Brooklyn Tweed, so design work gets squeezed in around that. Nights and weekends are my prime designing time! I don’t get as much time to knit as I’d like, just because the computer work of design often takes precedence, but if I get a day where there’s nothing else on my agenda but knitting, I’m a very happy lady!
SI: What inspired your designs for Swans Island?
BI: Swans Island’s yarns themselves are a huge source of inspiration! The work that Jackie and her dyeing crew do is magical, and the bases that they work upon are some of the best on the market. Working with a local company also gave me the opportunity to focus on some of the things here in Maine that inspire me–the nautical tradition, the history of Portland, the native flora, and so on.
SI: What excites you most in knitting?
BI: The “what if?” moments. I tend to design based on technique, putting together a final piece that utilizes a skill or concept I wanted to explore in wearable form. So for me, when those lightbulb moments of “oh my gosh, what if I used that there, or what if I turned that 90 degrees, or what if I used that stitch pattern to do this?” occur, it’s so exciting.
SI: What makes Maine special to you?
BI: Oh goodness, where to start? There’s just something about this place. I’ve tried to move away many times (I reeeeally don’t like being cold), but something about it always draws me back. I love the history of it–I love that my walk to work in the mornings is the same path people have been treading for over two hundred years. I love the fact that most towns on the coast still have working waterfronts. I love that you go ten minutes outside of Portland (our biggest city) and there’s farmland. I love that Portland has so many people who unabashedly enjoy music, art, and food. I love most everything about it–though I could probably skip the cold in winter and mosquitoes in summer! It’s truly an amazing place to live, and I feel privileged every day that I get to do so.
You can’t miss Margo Moore Interiors. Driving North on Route 1 into downtown Camden, the shop is one of the first points to catch your eye. Its ever-vibrant, ever-changing street-front window display room engenders a distinct joie de vivre that is the mark of the Margo Moore sensibility.
Walking into the shop gives one a complete picture of the breadth of its offerings: boldly colored home wares, elegant furnishings, bedding, carpets, lighting, soaps, gift trinkets, and more can be found for sale on the first floor of the shop. Also on the first floor is their famous display room usually showcasing a thoughtfully laid out and well-curated bedroom or cottage dining room. On the second floor is an interior design studio complete with thousands of fabric swatches, a textile library, trims and wallpapers, and other design samplings. The desks of Marcy Van der Kieft and her daughter, Megan, also live on the second floor.
It is a family affair, with Marcy at the helm, her husband Peter focused on the marketing and the designing of the window displays, and Megan instilling her own personal touch as a partner in both the interior design aspect of the business as well as in the curation of the shop’s offerings. On this particular day, Megan and staff are rearranging displays on the first floor. Marcy is tending to her golden lab, a friendly fixture at the shop.
We’ve long been fans of Margo Moore Interiors, which has been a staple of the community for more than 40 years. We were so thrilled when they started to carry Swans Island blankets, so we decided to stop in one day and hear a little more about the history of the shop, which we were surprised to learn started neither in Maine nor in interior design. The seed was first planted with Marcy’s mother (and the shop’s namesake), Margo, who opened a women’s clothing shop in Darien, Connecticut. Margo’s passion for fashion and clothing and her keen sense of style greatly influenced daughter Marcy, who went on to a career in textiles and fashion, which included a stint as associate fashion editor for Mademoiselle. Marcy took over the Darien shop but eventually moved headquarters to Camden and shifted her focus on to interiors. Ever since then, Marcy and Co. have established themselves as authorities on the Maine style vernacular — transforming houses into homes by incorporating their distinct warmth, meshing old traditions with new, refreshed styles, and elevating simple elements with pops of color or with unique twists on pattern combinations. All the while ever respectful of and highlighting the beauty and splendor of Maine.
“This is a very special, magical place,” says Megan. “I’ve traveled to a lot of places, but there’s nothing like Maine. And the sense of community you find right here in this pocket of the midcoast is something we don’t take for granted, not in our personal lives nor in our work.”
Indeed they are designers who pride themselves on their ability to listen to their clients and to balance this with their own respective design philosophies, which, as you can imagine for a mother and daughter, are slightly distinct from one another. Marcy favors traditional styles and bold colors. Megan, who grew up in Camden and graduated from the Wentworth Institute of Design, has a more understated and modern palette. Yet they work together in complementary ways. And their experiences have offered them an intuitiveness and a knack for what patterns and styles will go well together.
“I was working on a woman’s bedroom and she grabbed a bunch of blankets that she then laid out on the bed for styling,” says Megan. “They looked completely fine and beautiful, but I had a sense that I could elevate that warmth and sophistication.”
So she made a suggestion: Replace the blankets with Swans Island blankets. Immediately, Megan says, it changed the setting of the bed and the space, giving it beautiful, understated hues of color and a style that was both classic and modern.
“It just looked so elegant and perfect,” says Megan. “When Mom and I believe in something, we can sell it. When we understand and know the product, like we do Swans Island blankets, there is an organic way in which we are able to incorporate those products into the style of a home. What I love about Swans Island is its natural look; it’s not overly colorful or pretentious. There is a natural touch and feel that is unique to these blankets.”
“Part of our job is not just to make a room distinct but to also make it feel like home. When you add in accents of Maine, it really transforms a house into a home.”