A skein of Louet Signature Series Paco Vicunas
Louet Signature Series Paco Vicunas knitted up
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Yarn Profile: Louet Signature Series Paco Vicuņas

First Impressions
The first in Louet's new Signature Series of what it's calling high-quality yarns from premium fibers, Paco Vicuņas is an exquisite lace-weight yarn that blends Optim, SeaCell, and Paco Vicuņas fibers. If those words have you scratching your head, here's a little secret: the three are actually cousins of plain ol' Merino, Tencel, and alpaca, respectively.

Optim is a fine grade of Merino wool fiber that has been permanently stretched. As the fibers are stretched, the crimp is smoothed out, the scales flatten, and the fiber becomes much closer in look and feel to silk. The diameter reduces by several microns, producing a fiber that is finer and, thus, softer.

SeaCell is composed of 95% lyocell fiber (better known in the U.S. under its trademark name Tencel) and 5% seaweed. The fiber has a bright lustrous quality and provides seaweed extracts and a few other trace elements—magnesium, calcium, and vitamin E, to be exact.

And finally, Paco Vicuņas is actually a specific type of alpaca that displays "phenotypic attributes" of the Vicuņa. In other words, it's an alpaca that has been selectively bred to produce fiber similar to Vicuņa (a wild and extremely skittish cousin that lives in the Peruvian Andes and produces the world's finest fiber) while maintaining the more easy-going personality of the alpaca. These fibers come from the Switzer-Land Alpaca Farm in Colorado.

The yarn is a collaborative creation between Louet founder Trudy Van Stralen and Abby Franquemont. The Optim is dyed in a range of succulent gumdrop colors chosen by Van Stralen, while the SeaCell and Paco Vicuņas are left in their natural white and off-white colors (respectively) and blended into the mix—giving the yarn a somewhat swirly look. It was unveiled at TNNA last month and is not yet available in stores. When it does show up, try not to dilly dally—just a few thousand skeins will ever be produced.

Knitting Up
Normally a 70% Merino yarn would have good bounce and elasticity, but this Merino has been stretched to the point where most elasticity is gone. Instead, my hands had to work a little harder to maintain an even tension with the yarn. It flowed smoothly through my fingers, never snagging or causing problems on my Addi Lace needles.

I encountered just a few irregular spots and loose tufts of fiber as I worked. Many of them were rooted fairly deep in the yarn and I had to be careful when pulling them out.

Blocking / Washing
My swatch instantly relaxed in its warm sudsy bath, surrendering like a wet tissue. There was an initial cloud of light blue in the wash water, but it quickly rinsed clear. My lace swatch blocked easily, stretching to create a smooth, fluid piece of patterned fabric. The dried swatch showed no sign of diminished color saturation.

The concept of "wear" is almost a non-issue because this is a shawl yarn. It is all about softness and drape and halo and glisten—with a powdery hand reminiscent of silk. It is not about durability and abrasion resistance. It is not a yarn for socks (ok maybe a really luxurious pair of bed slippers), nor is it a yarn for sweaters.

Yes, any yarn needs to hold together—and this yarn does that quite nicely. But its main goal in life is not to withstand being shoved into a pair of shoes. It wants to be knit into a lace pattern, blocked, and wrapped around your neck and/or draped over your shoulders.

Visually, this yarn is somewhat reminiscent of Louet's equally luxurious Mooi, which is made from bamboo, cashmere, and bison. The two yarns were actually spun at the same mill in Prince Edward Island, Canada, although their fiber compositions are totally different.

The Signature Series Paco Vicuņas represents an artisanal approach to yarn that I deeply appreciate. It's a well-crafted yarn with which you can create a beautiful knitted fabric that's soft and warm, lustrous and hazy. And yes, at $60 per 350-yard skein, it's a little pricey—although the cost is clearly justified by the fibers themselves.

One-skein projects will be your friend. That's why I consider this yarn a prime candidate for Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's beautiful cowl, when she releases the pattern—and I confess I'm hoarding the leftovers from my review for just this purpose.

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