A few months back an order came in for Bowland DK. I thought nothing of it at the time, packaged the order and shipped it off. A little while later Lori Versaci, of VersaciKnits made contact to let me know that she had used it in a new pattern that would be released early in 2017. The launch coincided with Stitches West this past weekend and in honour of that, Lori very kindly agreed to an interview with me about the vest and her background amongst other things.

The pattern for Summer Fog is available to purchase on Ravelry and although supplies of Bowland DK are limited at the moment, I think it would be just as fabulous using any of our DK yarns that works up with similar gauge and drape. If you would like to find out more about VersaciKnits check out the website: www.versaciknits.com

ECY: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to make the change from the corporate world to publishing your designs?

LV: This morning I was reading Kate Davies blog post about her stroke and the impact on her life. My transition from management consulting to knitwear design, while less dramatic, was very similar. As with so many things in life, my journey from management consulting to knitwear design was the result of “the realities of my personal life” clashing with “the realities of my work life”; the needs of 4 kids and an aging mother clashing with the travel and work demands of a management consultant. Something had to give. So the question became, what would my work look like if I let go of my current job? The answer was clear to me. A new career was launched!

Fun fact: I have an MBA in Finance and Accounting! Some may think that this is so incongruent with knitwear design, but the truth is that many of today’s successful knitwear designers come from a math or science background.

ECY: What’s the landscape like where you are based? Has this influenced your designs?

LV: I actually have homes in two different locations and I haven’t really thought about it before, but each influences my designs in different ways.

My primary residence is in Princeton, New Jersey, which is one of the most beautiful “college towns” in the United States. It is an historic location, the site of one of the key battles in the Revolutionary War and, for a short period in 1783, Princeton hosted the Congress of the United States. It is also equidistant between New York City and Philadelphia, so its metropolitan influences are very strong. I think that the modern, clean lines and fashion aspects of my designs are informed by this location. My SISTERHOOD collection is the ultimate “shout out” to the Princeton influence, both in the garments’ names and looks.

But my second home, on a very small working island in Maine, rustic, fishing community, influence the practical aspects of my designs. The island is self-reliant by necessity (6 small ferries run to the mainland each day, weather permitting), full of beauteous nature and surrounded by very cold ocean waters. My more pragmatic, relaxed designs seem to be hatched from this local: MAINSTAY, GRANITE ISLAND, THE REACH and SUMMER FOG are great examples. While I think I have been successful in maintaining clean lines and a modern feel, to me, they are real workhorse pieces that can be worn everyday and are mainstays in any wardrobe.

ECY: Where do you get your inspiration from?

LV: The inspiration for any one garment might come from virtually anywhere, but my sense of style I attribute to my mother, Nancy: mother, gallery curator, modern art collector, painter and gardener.

She was always fashion conscious and, while my classmates shopped at the stores in town where I grew up or in nearby Providence, RI, we went to Boston every fall to buy our school clothes: Bonwit Teller, Filene’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Paraphernalia (for all of our Mod needs)… And this was back in the 70’s when only major department stores carried designer clothes. My sister and I wore Pucci underwear (one never knows when one might be in a traffic accident), Marimekko dresses, Lily Pulitzer bathing suits and patent leather over-the-knee boots! To this day, I look at the Fashions section of the NY Times before anything else!

ECY: Do you have a yarn that you prefer to work with? What makes it so good to use?

LV: I LOVE yarn! For the most part, I use only 100% natural yarns, although I will once in a while use a yarn that has added nylon or another synthetic fiber for stability. I think my favorite fiber is cashmere, but who doesn’t like a good cashmere, but it really isn’t ideal to knit with, so I tend towards fibers from other animals.

I would say that historically I have been a luxe yarn girl! But more recently I have made a foray into more “rustic”, less processed yarns and yarns sourced locally and Indy dyed.

After years of feeling compelled to work with yarns produced by major yarn companies (both for marketing/promotional reasons and so that my knitters can easily find the yarns that I have used), this year I have decided to explore the yarns of a number of independent producers/ dyers, most of whom I have been following for years. In point of fact, this is how I came to use Eden Cottage Yarns. It has been such a rewarding experience, as I have had the chance to connect with so many artisans and learn so much about herd specific yarns that I would not have explored otherwise!

ECY: Talk me through the process from idea to published pattern, where are the difficulties and what is the best part of this work?

LV: If only I had one process, things would be so much easier for me, but I will give it a try!

There is always a point of genesis, which is the idea! It might be an actual design, it might be a pattern stitch that I have seen and want to try, it might be a technique, and sometimes it is a yarn. Only once in a while does that turn into an actual drawing and schematic. Usually it becomes yarn on needles that seem to knit themselves.

Let me take the case of SUMMER FOG! I found myself wearing a thin down vest in my studio when it started getting chilly and realized that I had never designed a vest. At the same time, I had ordered your Bowland DK yarn AND had found an old sweater of my mother’s which I love and wanted to knit a tribute to which was knit in broken rib (one of my all time favorite pattern stitches. And, there you have it: a full-blown idea.

I cast on, knowing that I wanted a fair amount of positive ease, so that I could throw the vest on on-top-of whatever I was wearing on any given day. As I knit, I got the notion that I really wanted to be able to have a pocket for my phone, since I use my phone for almost everything all day long. But I only needed 1 pocket. Little details like the neck band (did I want to work it as I went or did I want to add it later and how deep did I want the v-neck to go) were decided as I went and… That was it!

ECY: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add (do you have any projects in the pipeline for 2017 – that sort of thing)?

LV: I am still on my journey exploring indy dyers’ yarns.  I have published designs knit with The Uncommon Thread, VIOLA, A Verb for Keeping Warm and now your yarn, Eden Cottage Yarns (and I have Oakworth DK on my needles right now). Still on my needles or lined up for knitting include yarns by House of A La Mode, Skein Yarn, Julie Asselin, Lichen and Lace, Miss Babs, Bumblebirch, and White Barn Farm. I think that should pretty much take me through the rest of the year!