A skein of Lorna's Laces Green Line DK
Lorna's Laces Green Line DK
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Yarn Profile:
Lorna's Laces Green Line DK

Editor's Update: In mid-February, 2008, we were informed that because of time, cost, and water consumption concerns, Lorna's Laces is no longer able to provide this yarn in naturally dyed colors. The eco-friendly roots of this yarn remain the same, but the colors are now dyed using their standard acid dye processes.

"We have spent the past several weeks diligently working to make natural dyes a part of our new Green Line of organic yarns," explained Beth Casey in an email to her retail customers. "I have finally come to the conclusion that weíre going to have to admit defeat." She noted that what required 7 gallons of water to dye using their standard process took 36 gallons of water to dye using the natural-dye process, and the water had to remain headed for eight hours (whereas the standard process takes 90 minutes per dyelot start to finish).

Where does this leave the Green Line? "I believe it is still a good choice," says Casey. "It is beautiful merino spun from IMO certified wool. Itís dyed in the most environmentally friendly process we can find. Is it perfect? Goodness no! But itís a conscious step in the right direction."

First Impressions
Lorna's Laces may be best known for its stunning brightly colored hand-dyed yarns—exquisite pinks and purples, electric reds and oranges, and deeply saturated greens and blues that are the trademark of a standard acid dye process. The Lorna's Laces silk/wool blend Lion and the Lamb has achieved near immortal status as the yarn featured in Kate Gilbert's colorful Clapotis.

But now Lorna's Laces is exploring the quieter side of color with the release of its Green Line. Introduced at the January TNNA and still not yet in stores, the Green Line consists of a DK- and worsted-weight Merino yarn with distinctly organic roots.

The Merino fibers come from organic sheep raised in Argentina. The fibers are then combed and carded at the only organically certified mill in Europe. Here we lose the "green" trail as the fibers are then conventionally processed and spun—most likely losing their organic designation because of the synthetic oils used to tame static during the spinning process. Finally, the skeins are shipped to the Lorna's Laces studios in Chicago where the yarns are slowly hand-painted using natural dyes.

The yarn is currently available in nine naturally dyed colors, with more expected to follow in future seasons. Each color is based on a single shade that has subtle variations in saturation and hue, giving the skein a gently variegated look. The colors have wonderfully evocative names like Mirth, Hope, Silence, Solitude, Courage, Chagrin, Echo, and the green color you see here, aptly named Growth.

Knitting Up
For this review I swatched the DK-weight yarn, which is made up of three plies. (The worsted-weight yarn has four plies.)

When reviewing yarns that are put up on hanks, I prefer to wind the yarn by hand because it helps me get a sense of the material before ever casting on that first stitch. In this case, the yarn was so orderly and well-behaved that I was able to set the hank on my lap and wind straight from it.

You'll immediately notice the soft and lightweight feel to this yarn. The crimped Merino fibers have been aligned fairly smoothly before spinning, giving the yarn more consistency and steadiness than bounce and elasticity—although it definitely has some bounce to it.

The yarn hugged my fingers and behaved itself during swatching, with no snagging or untwisting and nary a knot to be found. My stockinette stitches did have a bit of irregularity to them, which I hoped would even out with the first wash.

Blocking / Washing
I decided to defy the label and wash my swatches not in cool water but in warm water—probably because here in Maine we tend to avoid cold water baths at all costs in January. My swatches behaved beautifully in the wash, relaxing only slightly and releasing a vague hint of green that rinsed clear immediately.

One of the nicest features of lofty wools such as Merino is that they dry quickly—and my swatches did just that, returning to perfect dry squares without any curling or biasing. There was a very faint bloom, but my gauge remained a steady five stitches per inch.

The natural dye process tends to make the resulting colors slightly more vulnerable to fading when exposed to bright sunlight over sustained periods. This yarn is so new that I haven't had time to fully test colorfastness yet, but I have placed one swatch on a sunny windowsill and will report back if I notice fading. This is really only a concern if you store your sweaters near a bright sunny window. General out-and-about-on-a-sunny-day wear isn't as dangerous.

Wearing
An itch-free Merino suitable for next-to-the-skin wear, Green Line DK also puts up with quite a bit of abuse before waving a white flag. When it finally did surrender, the flag came in the form of low-lying clumps of loose fibers that blended in with the mottled look of the semisolid colors. Subsequent friction produced a general softening, blurring, and low-level pilling across the entire surface of my swatches.

The pills were firmly rooted in the fabric and not happily pulled by hand. To keep the knitted fabric intact and trim the pills as they emerge, I'd recommend prudent use of a sweater-shaver. (Always test a small section of your fabric first.)

Conclusion
Adding a new line of naturally dyed yarns to your dye operation is rather like adding a sushi bar to your restaurant—it represents a whole different way of doing things. I admire Beth Casey for taking such an ambitious step. It's the first major change she has made to the company since acquiring it more than five years ago, and it is a fitting reflection of her own vision for the company's future.

To keep the Green Line company, all 17 weights of the other Lorna's Laces yarns have been shifted to the Purple Line. The two lines represent a fitting yin and yang of color, between strong and soft, bright and earthy.

When you want to catch someone's eyes from across a crowded room, you can stick with one of the brighter yarns in the Purple Line. And when you want to wrap yourself in something calm, grounded, and special, you can choose from one of the quieter semisolids in the Green Line. Either way, you've got yourself a great yarn.

 

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