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Crazy for Ewe

A Noro rapture

Noro.  There are no halfway emotions about it. You either love it with a white-hot passion, or you hate it so much that you would rather not knit than to use it.  Why the disparity?  I'm not sure, really.  Its detractors cite things like variations in texture, tiny bits of vegetable matter in the fiber, and sections of color that don't seem to belong.  I understand.  Certainly, Noro is not Italian merino.  But then, it doesn't pretend to be.  Noro yarn is something else entirely.  Noro embodies an aesthetic that is very different from traditional Western views of beauty.  This aesthetic is  Wabi-Sabi, which embraces a beauty that is far from the smooth, new, and refined so valued in western culture.  Noro yarns are purposefully rustic.   These yarns have been  minimally processed, so they retain the look and feel of their source material, which is Mr. Eisaku Noro's goal for his fibers.

As for the colors that don't seem to belong, that too is part of the aesthetic - part of the beauty. It's the kind of beauty and color play that you find in nature.  Picture an oriental lily with gaudy pink petals and ruby red spots, and a lime green throat.  But what sets it all off? Those fuzzy anthers of orange brown.  Cut them out, and you lose a bit of the excitement that blossom has to offer.   Think of a huge grey stone with, deep vein of emerald or sapphire crystal lodged deep inside.  There is tremendous energy in that stone - The energy is in the stone's potential beauty, and the thrill of getting to that gorgeous green or blue you know is in there.  For the ancient Buddhist philosopher, Kenko, anticipation is the better part of the beauty of a thing.  Truth is, the colors you might love in a skein of Silk Garden - incredible blue, green and purple - would be rather less interesting without a bit of drab to set them off.  The drab bits make the blues bluer, the greens greener - everything is more intense against those bits.  The anticipation and excitement of knitting with Noro is addictive.  You want to knit and knit and knit just to see how the colors will play out.  Noro is a thrill with every stitch. 

Kenko also wrote, "The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty."  Sometimes it's hard to see that, but truly, how dull it would be if we knew everything that was to come. Try it and see.  

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Gorgeous Bettna

The very lovely Anne Boone wore her new Noro jacket into the La Plata shop yesterday afternoon.  Simply stunning.  Anne selected this Silk Garden (color 349) at our Noro Event last month and finished it in almost no time.

 

Anne's Noro Jacket Anne's Noro Jacket back

This is the colorway that reminds me of a volcano. It's such an energized combination of colors and makes an exciting and bold statement while still being very wearable.  Beautiful work, Anne! Continue reading

F is for Fall

And Fall is for knitting and football and easy, delicious comfort food.  I spent much of the afternoon Sunday on the couch knitting my Noro Ribbed Capelet and watching football.  I've finished my 10" and am just beginning the decreases. I love the way the colors are coming out.

Such an easy, mindless knit, I could devote all my attention to watching the Redskins defeat the Chargers in overtime.  Even if you're not a Redskins fan, it was an exhilarating game, and fun to see such athleticism on both teams.  I could be a couch potato and knit all afternoon because earlier in the day I'd put together a quintessential autumn meal of pasta with Italian sausage, fresh sage, and pumpkin.  It's a beautiful and delicious dish my friend Kathleen had served at book club last month, and I'd been eager to share it with my gang.  I think the recipe had originally come from Rachel Ray here, but Kathleen had made some tweaks and was gracious enough to share her version.

Pasta with Pumpkin and Sausage

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lb sweet Italian Sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-6 fresh sage leaves (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 c dry white wine
  • 14 oz. chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 c canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 c heaving cream
  • 2 pinches cinnamon
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste (I like a lot of freshly ground pepper in this dish)
  • 1 lb penne or shell pasta
  • 4 oz Parmesan cheese, shredded

Brown the sausage in 1 T oil.  Remove sausage from pan and set aside.  Add the remaining 1T oil to the pan and saute onion and garlic till tender and golden.  Add the bay leaf, sage, and wine, and cook 2 minutes.  Add chicken broth, sausage, and pumpkin and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, stir in the cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can make this ahead and refrigerate it until dinner time while you go and knit.  When it's time to eat, cook pasta just until it's al dente, drain, and toss with the sauce.  Stir in the cheese and serve.

Everyone liked this a lot - even Colton.  The pumpkin flavor isn't very pronounced, but gives the dish a wonderful earthy quality.   Thank you, Kathleen, for the recipe and thank you to my foodie friend Mary still has fresh sage growing in her garden.  What would life be without wonderful friends to share recipes, herbs, and knitting?  Enjoy.

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Noro Event is almost here

It has been so hard to keep all the Noro squirreled away in the back! I'm dying to show you the new colors and beautiful new Mossa, a wonderful boucle that needs only the simplest of patterns to be fabulous. This is the weekend - Friday in Leonardtown, and Saturday in La Plata. Join us for the fun.

If you're already a Noro fan, wear (or bring) a completed Noro project and you'll get 10% off your Noro purchase at the event. We can't wait to see all the gorgeous things you've made. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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What is it about Noro?

Holly

What is it about Noro? It's one of those fibers that you either love or hate. I love it. The colors are vibrant and rich, but balanced always by earthy tones. For me, that interplay is like dark chocolate with sea salt. The drab bit makes the bright colors seem even more brilliant. Their colorways are inspired by nature so the palettes really work and are actually quite wearable. I have put several of my favorite colorways here to show what I mean. I think it's amazing how thoroughly each skein captures the colors and energy of its inspiration.

I love Noro's colors, but I especially love the aesthetic. There's an earthy, genuine feel to the fibers. Noro's entire production effort aims for minimal processing and is geared toward preserving the environment and creating yarns that are as much like the original animal's fleece as possible. All of Noro's animal fibers come from certified organic farms that Mr. Noro visits regularly. Raw wools are sorted by hand and cleaned mechanically rather than chemically then dyed those beautiful colors with from eco-friendly dyes. Noro Yarns reflect a deep love of nature and respect for the earth and its creatures.

As the colors emerge and the textures change, you can feel the yarn's inherent energy, or chi, as Eastern cultures call it. You don't just knit or crochet with Noro, you experience it. Come to our annual Noro event the 25th and 26th of this month and experience Noro yourself. Mark your calendar, because you don't want to miss it.

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New Noro Magazine

 

Okay, you know that I am a hopeless Noro addict.  The colors, the fibers, the whole aesthetic just me.  So, you know I was super jazzed about the new magazine.  This is the Spring Summer issue, and it has so many adorable garments and accessories I just can't believe it.

They've focused on smaller, lighter weight projects using their fingering weight yarns.  While the labels call sock yarns, I think something was lost in the translation, because as lovely as they are, these fibers are not really great for socks.  They are, however, spectacular for lacy shawls like these

 

Perfect for relaxed summer projects, these shawls use only the simplest of pattern stitches, relying instead on gorgeous Noro colors to make the statement.  Fun to knit, fabulous to wear.  All the colors of Taiyo Sock in stock at both stores now!

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Lovin' my Slip Stitch Cowl

I finished up my Noro Slip Stitch Cowl Sunday afternoon after church and before pecan pie.  As you can see, the bound off side is curling up something fierce, so I decided to give it a nice long soak while I baked.

 Filled the laundry tub with a few inches of lukewarm water and about half a teaspoonful of Eucalan and layed it in there.  Noro Kureyon is a single ply so there's lots of air in the fiber, and I had to hold the cowl down in the water until it was wet enough to sink.  You can also tell that the fibers are getting saturated when there are no little bubbles around the fabric.

 

After a nice long soak - I kind of forgot about it with all the pie excitement - it was good and wet.   I didn't stretch it out, any because the fibers were already relaxed and very well behaved.  Also, despite my concerns that I was knitting too tightly, its final circumference  is 56" and its depth 10".  The pattern says it's to be 46" in circumference, but I am just fine with the extra length.  Here it is after a few hours on the board. 


I am totally in love with the pattern, but it's the colors that really blow me away.  I loved the palette shown in the original pattern, but I'm just thrilled at how these two really different colorways played off one another.  You can just see in the photo at right that one is a dark combination of blue, turquoise, and rust, while the other is a very light blend of reddish purple, lime green, and gold.

This was a fun, fun knit.  I can't wait to wear it, and now that it's done, I can start a new project without any guilt at all.  




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Finishing frenzy

Something about being stuck inside that makes me want to finish stuff.  Maybe it's knowing there's no distraction and no escape.  So yesterday and today I finished two very small projects that I should probably have finished weeks - maybe even months - ago.

First is Capucine.  This adorable little hat takes its name, I believe, from a gorgeous French actress.  C'est très chic, n'est-ce pas?





 It's a free pattern that takes one skein of Nadeshiko and about 5 minutes to knit. I'm in love with it because it's totally adorable, and it will keep my ears warm and not give me hat head, which is a major issue in the winter - especially for my daughters at college.  I hope they like it hat because I'm planning on knitting one for each of them.

Next is Saroyan.  This is such a lovely little wrap.  The leaf pattern has always appealed to me, and the yarn is just scrumptious.  Soft and matte, Manos Maxima works up so quickly in this pattern - size 10 needles, for pete's sake.  Still needs a good hard blocking but here it is.

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Happiness is a knitting project

Having just finished last month’s large project, the Faith Jacket, I’ve been a little bit edgy – unfocused. Not unhappy, mind you, just not really happy. And there’s a difference. So, what’s wrong with me? I don’t really know. Then my husband forwarded me an article from the Wall Street Journal about happiness. The article says it’s what we do and not what we have that really makes us happy. Okay, so what do we do to make ourselves happy? First, spending time with friends makes us happy. That’s certainly true. Probably part of the reason I’m nearly always happy when I’m at the shop. Friends old and new are always in for help, a new project, or for just a quick knit and chat. The article’s author cites research showing that there are parts of your brain stimulated only by the presence of other people, thus making you more active, energetic, and engaged. Absolutely true.

I read on about how we need to count our blessings, enjoy a good meal, commute less, focus less on salaries, and set goals and challenge ourselves. To be happy, the author opines, we should spend our leisure time engaged in activities we enjoy, setting challenging but achievable goals. And I realized that’s it! I don’t have any knitting goals. The Horndal scarf is in progress, but I haven’t established a goal for any big new project. So, as I ponder this fact, I consider the various knitting projects available. I could finish my Crayon Box Jacket. I could start the Collar Closing Cardigan. Or I could start one of two beautiful projects in various Noro books. The bottom line is, that it doesn’t matter which project I pick; I just need to get moving and focus on something.

In case anyone's interested, here are photos of the projects under consideration:

 

Collar Closing Cardigan



Silk Garden pullover by Jane Ellison



Kolsva by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton


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