Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace

Few companies can produce consistently beautiful hand-dyed yarns in quantities sufficient enough for large-scale distribution. Lorna’s Laces is one.

The color combinations range from brilliant to bare whispers, with a small line of single colors that still carry subtle variations in hue. Although some catalogs and Web sites manage to represent the color range fairly well, you still don’t get the full effect of the multicolored blends until you actually hold the skein in your hands. Opening a package of Lorna’s Laces yarns for the first time is always exciting.

This lace-weight yarn is named after the grandmother of Lorna’s Laces original founder Lorna Miser. Helen was an impassioned lace knitter. Her namesake yarn is a shimmery blend of wool and silk that comes in hefty 1250-yard skeins. For this review I used a single-color Sage.

Knitting Up

Helen’s Lace has a loose, relaxed spin with only a small amount of elasticity. At some points my two plies were barely twisted together at all. Yet I didn’t have any significant snagging problems.

Overall, I didn’t encounter any major show-stoppers. Occasional small loose tufts of silk presented themselves along the surface of the yarn. If you like that effect, you could leave them. I don’t, so I gently tugged them off.

Blocking / Washing

My swatches relaxed significantly during the wash, adopting the consistency of a wet tissue. There was no bleeding or fading that I could see, although my color wasn’t incredibly intense.

The swatches readily took their blocked form, stretching to form a truly fluid, feather-light flat surface. The swatches can only stretch so far, however, so remember to cast on and off extra loose when knitting lace.

As they dried, a faint halo of fuzz emerged along the surface of the swatches. With some yarns, this may not be a desired effect. For lace shawls, however, it adds a marvelous, cozy effect.

Wearing

Fine knitted lace and rugged wear don’t normally go hand in hand, so it felt a bit unfair to subject Helen’s Lace to my normal battery of tests. Nevertheless, I was surprised to discover just what a tough cookie Helen’s Lace is. The yarn has excellent fiber memory, swatches bouncing back into shape time after time.

With normal friction, the swatches simply bloomed and softened more and more. Eventually a few tiny pills emerged, but the fibers were so short that I could easily pull them off without hurting the yarn beneath. The stitchwork and silk sheen covered up any signs of real wear.

The bigger threat to Helen’s Lace shawls are things like errant Velcro or rough spots on wooden chair backs. Particularly rough friction sped the deterioration process.

The main victim appeared to be the silk, which rose to the swatch surface in fuzz and pills. The stitchwork itself remained in perfect form, however, helping conceal the wear.

Conclusion

Lace shawls have the same calming effect on adults as security blankets do on children. Fortunately, not only are lace shawls socially acceptable, but they normally garner the wearer attention and praise.

Helen’s Lace varies from the competition for two main reasons. First, it’s available in an enormous range of color blends, most of which you won’t find anywhere else. And second, it combines wool and silk, whereas other lace-weight yarns tend to be pure wool. The wool gives strength, warmth, and elasticity, while the silk lends a gentle opalescent sheen to the finished fabric.

The $58 per skein price (up from $44 in 2002 because…inflation) can be hard to swallow. But keep in mind that you’ll only need one skein for a sizeable shawl or two scarves. And if you’re new to shawls, you can use the easy shawl pattern provided on the label’s reverse side.

Fast Facts

Yarn name: Helen’s Lace
Manufacturer: Lorna’s Laces
Fiber content: 50% Tussah silk, 50% Merino wool
Gauge: 4 stitches per inch on US 8 needles, blocked for lace; 8 stitches per inch on US 3 needles
Average retail price: $58/skein
Where to Buy Online: Eat. Sleep. Knit.
Weight/Yardage per Skein: Approx. 4 oz. / 1250 yards
Country of Origin: Fiber/yarn source unknown, dyed in Chicago, USA
Manufacturer’s suggested wash method: Hand wash in warm water. Rinse well. Dry flat.
Review date: 7/18/2002, prices updated 1/11/2017
Color used in review: Sage (#43)
Source of review yarn: Purchased from third-party vendor
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