For the book club this month, we're reading Circe, a novel by Madeline Miller, based on one of the lesser goddesses of Greek mythology. A textile artist who wove on a loom built by the legendary craftsman, Daedalus, Circe is best known as the witch who lured sailors to her shores and turned them into swine. In this work, Miller clothes the bones of Circe's myth with lovely flesh, casting her more as a mortal, who works the ground with her very hands. She tends her garden and harvests the flowers and roots to make her potions. In a way, Circe is reminiscent of the wise women in other books we've read who know the secret ways of herbs and teas to help and heal. She hones her craft through trial and error gaining understanding as she goes. She says, "I learned to listen and watch and began to trust my intuition to see where each plant hid its secrets and how to best coax them out." Maddeningly, as painstaking as her efforts are, still she finds that there is no absolute. Each potion, each blossom is different -- some need to be boiled, some dried, others crushed -- but she relishes the process. "The work was patient drudgery, but it was pleasure, because it was power."
Knowledge and understanding are power, and such is the power in the humble swatch. As knitters we must listen to the yarn and learn how to best coax out its particular beauty. Listen. Is the yarn choked and strangled at this gauge, gasping for air and a larger needle? Is it flopping lazily in need of a smaller needle for structure and discipline? In the swatch you will hear how the yarn feels about stitch patterns and whether or not you've honored its colors and textures. Is this yarn's gift its smooth and even texture that looks best in silky stockinette? Is it a nice round yarn whose best quality is its ability to show off your fancy cables? Is its luxuriant drape perfectly suited to lace and happy to submit to a good hard blocking? Or is it a diva? Beware, always, the tempting diva yarn - dazzling and enticing, yet so full of ego she takes up all the air in the room and leaves not a speck for your beautiful stitchwork.
More than almost any other yarn, Noro must be swatched. Even then, it is loath to give up its secrets. The colors may work one way in your 30-stitch swatch, and be something else altogether across the 75 stitches of your sweater. The color run will likely be different in two colorways of the same yarn. Once you get the feel of it, you'll be lulled into a false confidence. Try to predict exactly what will happen with Noro, and you will probably be wrong. Wrong or right - it doesn't matter, because whatever happens will be beautiful.
Where then does Noro fit in the yarn taxonomy? Is Noro a diva? I suppose it could be, given that it's perfectly happy to let its beautiful colors take center stage, but I think it lacks sufficient ego to be a true diva. Noro doesn't overshadow your stitch work, but showcases it - the undulating waves of your lace patterns are more pronounced in Noro. The intertwining blocks of your entrelac are enhanced by Noro's natural colorblocking. Is it a basic then? Maybe. Noro certainly has a way of turning miles and miles of stockinette into an exciting experience -- like mining a rich vein for precious gems. That beautiful brilliant color is just one row away - how long will it last? What is the next one, and when? Compelling as an addiction, Noro is ever-changing and restless as the wine-dark sea, these yarns will never lose their fascination.
Interested? Join us for the Noro party and have a chance to swatch all the Noro you like. I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table. You are always welcome here.