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Let Noro Be Noro


Dear Kay,

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.



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  1. It was -25 Celsius here this morning. I had dogs to walk, then a morning of cleaning, a quick lunch break and an afternoon ahead of me that will be consumed by a long dull errand. But i read your blog with my lunch, and my long dull errand is a mere fifteen minute drive from my favourite yarn shop and I just might fall down a bit in the Noro aisle.

    Because that blanket is amazing. The perfect combination of plain vanilla garter stitch and gorgeous yarn, like a pie warm from the oven and a scoop of perfect cold beside it.

  2. Testify, testify!!

  3. I have to say that I love looking at Noro knits more than I’ve enjoyed knitting with it, maybe I need to try again. That said, this will be one gorgeous blanket.

  4. You love Noro the way I love Noro. Let the colors evolve! – endless fascination.

  5. Beautiful—We’re parking in the same garage when it comes to the Noro-y goodness.

  6. Oh oh oh…i do completely understand that Noro silk garden mania…I went through so many skeins just to coordinate the crosses in my first Mitered Cross blanket… using the hundreds of small balls leftover as the mainstay of a granny Sq blanket for my oldest when he was off to college. Now I’m using tosh merino dk tart for the crosses and good old#269 for the frames. 12 striped scarves later and I’m still not sick of silk garden!
    Ps… I have a friend who says he knows you! J. Parker.

    • Granny squares in Noro! Heads up, Kay Gardiner! As for J. Parker, here at MDK we know him as the Jack White enabler. Davidson Fightin’ Class of ’85!

      • I know that particular vice. He’s come in handy for our family many times..Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, Bob Weir……

  7. I love to embrace the Noro zen. I let Noro be what it wants to be, and love every minute of the colorful surprises.

    There has been a lot of Noro to brighten this nonstop winter….

  8. COOL!

  9. I love Noro. Here is another great blanket pattern with Noro Kureyon:


    Like yours, 24 squares, one ball each…actually 20 balls with enough left over for the other 4. I’ve got about 7 squares made and each one is more fun than the next.

    This yarn is never boring!

    Your squares are lovely.


  10. That blanket is going to be amaaaazing!

  11. Oh, Noro. So lovely, so….non-predictable! One more thing that works well with Noro: Entrelac. Noro makes it look like you chose all those colors for your little squares. My Infinity Entrelac Infinity Scarf was designed because I came home from Sock Summit with a bag of Silk Garden Lite from the yarn playpen, and needed to do *something* with it.

    I love your squares….

  12. Oh I love this post! I haven’t gone there with Noro myself, I’ve never really been attracted to it, but this post is making me rethink my stance. Thanks so much for the link to the Noro story too. I’m always interested in the how and why of textile people doing their thing.

  13. I’m making my first Noro project right now, a pair of Silk Garden socks that I’d have sworn were going to be shades of rust, brown, and blue. But pulling from the center of the ball has generated a sock that, so far, is purple, green, rose, rust, teal, and lime green. Not at all what I expected, but the color changes make knitting with this yarn totally addictive.

  14. Yes, the only way to enjoy Noro is to succumb to Noro–to the wabi-sabi, the random, and the hot pink:) It is the most untrammeled yarn on the planet.

  15. So much truth in this post! Don’t expect Noro to be something it isn’t and you won’t be disappointed. I love it, but like crochet, red heart super saver, and alpaca, it is only correct in certain applications. When it is right, it is better than comfort food. Your blanket squares attest to this truth. Amen

  16. I love looking at Noro project pictures, and this post is a perfect example of the reason why.
    Ann, speaking of knitting metaphors (knitting=verb), remember your lovely sweater with the wandering, criss-crossy, slightly silvicultural stitch pattern meant to reflect the knitter’s life? Well…what if a knitter made another one of those lovely sweaters, and this one with the added dimension of the meandering colors and texture and philosophical undertones of Noro?
    I mean, you know…what if?

  17. Following up…
    you know where a sweater like that might look really good?

  18. Oh that pea green and brown and blue square! I’m reaching out to touch it!

  19. Oh, come on! I am just about to finish my Mitered Crosses blanket after 3 years and now all I want to do is go buy a whole ton of silk garden and start another blanket…

  20. Shouting an “Amen!” with hands raised to the sky. After all these years, this yarn still captivates. Is it any surprise they spin it on an old-fashioned mule, just like the one still in operation at Bartlett here in Maine? Sigh. (Off to pet the stash…)

  21. I’ve long been a Noro fan and love the randomness of it…even when using it to knit a sweater. Nothing “matchy-matchy” about this yarn – that is the beauty of it for me! Explore and have fun…I promise you won’t be sorry!

  22. “Straightforward teevee knitting” is pretty much why I knit. Because, as some wise women once wrote, “Knitting is spozed to be fun.” I enjoy most colors and all textures of yarn, and always just let the yarn flow on any project, and don’t go in for anything I think of as complicated. (I am a self-confessed Loose Slutty Knitter.)

    With that resume you’d think that I would be all over the Noro. But…as Stephanie B. said, I enjoy looking at Noro more than knitting with it. For me it’s the Knots. I Do Not Like Knots! But I will meditate on what you said and see if I can let Noro be a bigger part of my knitting life. Thanks.

    • So glad to know I’m not alone. I feel a bit guilty that I don’t love it sometimes. That said, plenty of other yarn in my life!

  23. Yes! to all said about Noro. I have a sweater marinating and this will give me courage to just untie the know and knit on.

    My favorite picture in the post is what looks like green leaves out the window on the banner picture. Rilly? They still exist??

  24. So gorgeous. I need to pull out my sock yarn squares and put them together. Can’t wait to see the finished blanket.

  25. As a metaphor for life: “the sudden and inexplicable arrival of hot pink.” Yes, well said!

  26. I think of Noro as crack knitting at its best. I can’t wait to see what color will be next and find myself digging into the ball to see what all is in there.

    I can’t wait to see the finished blanket. It’s gonna be gorge-g-us!

  27. Isn’t it maddening trying to bind off at color changes? The fog of Noro. Like life in that you really do not see change until it’s over. Can’t catch it happening in real time, even though theoretically you are in charge of every stitch.

  28. love the squares. I wonder if squares like that would work if I attached them to a large square of log cabin knitting. I’ve got this blanket that I started on bedrest. and the kid is 6 and in kindergarten now. no blanket for him. I hate knitting it. hate is not a strong enough word for how I feel about that blanket.

  29. Ann, you are awesome. This post and the next one could be part of an ‘Ann’s advice on how to live’ volume. And I would read it and try to live by it.
    Flows well from the Annie Dillard I was reading last night. Taking my cues from people named Ann 😉


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