The Ravenswood Art Walk is more than just a free Chicago cultural event; it is an opportunity for artisans along the Ravenswood Avenue corridor between Irving Park and Montrose to show off not only their wares, but their creative processes as well. Many artists will be selling samples of their work in addition to showing off their methods. One such group is the creative team behind Lorna’s Laces, an internationally-known purveyor of hand- and custom-dyed yarns.
After current owner Beth Casey purchased the company from the original owner and founder, Lorna Miser, in 2003, she relocated the company to Chicago from California. Lorna’s Laces has been participating in the Ravenswood Art Walk for several years, with their die-hard customers looking forward to what unique finds they may encounter every year.
While Lorna’s is a wholesale-only operation, it typically keeps Monday-through-Friday business hours to accommodate their retailers. This weekend, the doors of their facility will be open to the public during the Ravenswood Art Walk. While customers will catch a glimpse of the dyeing process, Lorna’s is also running a Mill End Sale to allow a chance at buying their “seconds” – manufactured yarn that falls short of first-retail quality, including skeins with knots, colorways that never made it to retail availability, and mill ends that did not skein properly – at a deep discount. While retailers charge an average of $18.00 for a worsted-weight skein of their wool to up to $60.00 for a 1,250-yard skein of laceweight yarn, Lorna’s Laces will be offering mill ends for approximately $10.00 to $30.00, and will have every yarn weight available when their doors open on Saturday.
The six-member company (including Casey, manager Amanda Jarvis, two dyers, and two more indispensible employees) is a close-knit group, and two employees will be on-hand all weekend for the Mill End Sale. Approximately four times per year, members of local knitting guilds will take a scheduled tour of their facility. Since Lorna’s Laces does not participate in any trade shows as a retail offering, the Ravenswood Art Walk is the only time all year where general members of the public can sample their unusual yarns directly from where they are manufactured.
Known for their colorway-of-the-month affiliation with online store Jimmy Beans Wool, and their Shepherd Sock and Helen’s Lace yarns, Lorna’s offers yarn in every weight class and offers their colorways in any yarn they sell. Their newest yarn, Solemate, is a blend of superwash merino wool, nylon, and a substance called Outlast, which is a temperature-regulation material used in textiles. Outlast’s website refers to their product as a “not too hot, not too cold, but ‘just right'” textile material, which makes it perfect for a sock yarn.
Custom-dyeing offerings include ideas generated both from Lorna’s Laces and from their retailers. Twisted Yarns, a yarn store in Spring, Texas, offers sock yarn by Lorna’s Laces in both Texas Longhorn and Texas A&M Aggies custom-dyed colors.
Professional sports are not excluded, either. “We have a customer in Wisconsin who carries yarn in Green Bay Packers colors, but they also carry Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears colors as well,” says Jarvis. The custom dyes are store-exclusive, so while some customers request colors for sports, their store logos or event-specific dyes can also be created specifically for the store or event.
While this is only a two-day opportunity for the public, the Lorna’s Laces website offers a store locator so the nearest store to its customers can easily be found. In addition to selling to yarn stores in all fifty states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, the company yarns can be found all throughout Europe, Australia, South America, and even Russia.
Hand-dyed yarn enthusiasts can take advantage of the opportunity to see inside Lorna’s Laces During the Ravenswood Art Walk this Saturday October 1 from 11:00am to 7:00pm, and Sunday October 2 from 11:00am to 6:00pm. As the sale is a Mill End Sale, the yarn is sold on a first-come, first-served basis. It is a rare chance to see the inside of a hand-dyeing facility, in addition to being a great opportunity to purchase Lorna’s Laces directly from the manufacturer. Art is not just something to place on a wall or table, and Lorna’s Laces will show people the first-hand proof this weekend at the Walk.