Let Noro Be Noro
February 25, 2014
The way I see it, there are two ways to knit with Noro.
You care, or you don’t. You aim, or you don’t aim.
It is possible to impose order on a project made with Noro yarn–Ravelry is awash with knitters who have managed, through patience, yarn-splicing, and white-knuckle courage to end up with a cardigan with matching stripes on both sleeves.
For me, I just accept the worldview that Mr. Eisaku Noro presents, all 100 meters of the mosh-pit insanity living within a skein of, say, Silk Garden.
I need to make a blanket in short order, so I immediately thought of the Fussy Cuts blanket as one of the best patterns for wallowing in the unpredictable, addicting world of Noro yarn. The most sensible Noro patterns are the simplest. With all the wacky color shifts, it’s a waste of knitterly energy to work lace, or cables, or anything other than straightforward teevee knitting.
If you’re new to Noro, I encourage you to spend some time with this 27-page manifesto/behind-the-scenes guide/free trip to Japan, Manufacturing of Noro Yarn: From Farm to Product. This section in particular strikes me:
It can be said that NORO Yarn is created by combining raw materials, creators, tools, ideas and customers.
In order to win the cost race in the Japanese yarn market, manufacturers were encouraged to make spinning machines as ‘long’, ‘large’ and ‘fast’ as possible for mass production. We went against this movement and tried to make the distinctive features of NORO Yarn using the natural properties of the materials. These features are impossible to be produced by mass production methods. For this reason we made our original spinning machine as ‘short,’ ‘small’ and ‘slow’ as possible, which was against the global trend.
The spinning machine produces a sliver (yarn without a twist). A sliver has irregular lines of fibers, long, short, thick and thin which are all well blended. This is the same composition of wool which is sheared from the sheep. . . . When this spinning method is performed there is less friction on the surface of the fibers. With less friction there is less damage to the fibers and the tension and elastic nature of the fibers remains true to nature, with less pills of wool. This allows for the distinct nature of the yarns.
We will keep making our yarns slowly and carefully using a home made machine with the human ‘hand’ and ‘sensitivity’ that has been used from the time of our firm’s foundation.
The only order I try to impose is to anticipate when a stretch of color is about to run out, and I aim to make that color end along the edge of a patch. It rarely actually works, seeing as how one color sometimes stretches far into the next one, like a thought you can’t quite shake. In fact, the whole exercise of knitting with Noro yarn starts to feel like a huge metaphor for life: the knots that blow up a color stretch; the long drab stretches that test your resolve; the sudden and inexplicable arrival of hot pink.
I started this blanket last week. Each square uses one skein of Silk Garden. Three colorways: 275, 203, 378. I’m ten squares in, with five more to go. I am likely to go buy some more. The more I knit, the more I find myself understanding this Norovian worldview. I get it! I don’t want to leave it!
It’s like binge-watching House of Cards, this stuff.