September 30, 2023 3 min read 4 Comments

It’s October, which means it’s Noro season. I love Noro, but not everyone does. I get it.  It’s different.  

A lot of knitters are attracted by the colors but are put off by the feel, the uneven texture, and its tendency to have bits of whatever in the fiber, not to mention knots that show up in random places and disrupt our perfectly planned and executed color sequence.  

I’m not selling it very well, am I?  Stay with me here.  

It might seem like all those things are defects - some skimping in the processing, carelessness, or a lesser grade of raw materials.  But it’s actually the exact opposite.  Those characteristics I mentioned are precisely what Noro is all about.  Strange, huh?  It’s Wabi-Sabi, and Noro is the very definition of Wabi-Sabi.  

What is Wabi-Sabi…and what’s it doing in my yarn?

Derived from Buddhist teaching on the nature of our existence, Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophy that cherishes three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is complete, and nothing is perfect.   Wabi-Sabi has rustic simplicity and subtle elegance. It speaks to the beauty of  aging, transition, and imperfection.  The visible signs that an item has been used and loved over its lifetime are very Wabi-Sabi as is the beauty of cherry blossoms after they have dropped from the tree, or a much loved sweater worn threadbare.  

The concept of Wabi-Sabi defines the traditional Japanese world view and as an aesthetic, it pervades every aspect of Japanese culture, from high art and literature to everyday life.  Wabi-Sabi aesthetics of asymmetry, unevenness, and impermanence are as much a part of the Japanese worldview as symmetry, stability and perfection are a part of the Western world view

From this perspective, it is easy to see why no one feels half way about Noro.  One either sees it through the lens of the Japanese aesthetic and embraces it in all its Wabi-Sabi glory, or view it in contrast with traditional Western values and eschew its minimal processing, rustic texture, and uneven spin.

Noro is unapologetically Wabi-Sabi with its generally rustic look and feel.  It’s impossible to create Noro colors in a plied yarn, so Noro is almost always a single ply yarn. The result is irregularity of the yarn - an unpredictable thick and thin texture that drives some knitters crazy.  But for those of us who appreciate this aesthetic, it is wonderful.  

These yarns are asymmetrical and imperfect.  The fabric you get from Noro’s thick and thin fibers is anything but even.  The stitches are not all the same size or shape, even if you’re an expert knitter.   With Noro, there is a texture in plain stockinette that is complex, organic, and beautiful.  

Wabi-Sabi is understated and quiet, a serene beauty patiently waiting to be revealed.   Take a look at Kashirukuru, one of Noro’s most luxurious yarns with 40% silk and 20% cashmere - it doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me, I’m fancy!”  Kashirukuru is quietly elegant, revealing its beauty only to those who take the time to look and swatch.  

Noro has taught me much over the years, as you know, because I’ve been writing about itforever. It has taught me not just about knitting, but about Wabi-Sabi and what a beautiful approach it is to life,  

Here are a few things I am working on and try to keep in mind as I move through the world:

  1. Imperfection is okay. It is natural, unavoidable, and actually quite endearing. Be kind and accepting, especially with ourselves.  
  2. Nothing is permanent.  There is rain, and there is sun.  We have good days and bad ones.  Each will pass and we must live in the moment, accepting both as part of life.  
  3. There is quiet beauty all around us waiting to be discovered. We just have to look for it -- in things and in people.

Tell me your thoughts on Noro in the comments.  As always, whether in the shop and around the table or online, I look forward to connecting. You are always welcome here.


If you are local, join us October 28th for the Noro Party. If you are not local, have a Noro Party sent to you. 

4 Responses

Mary Lou Clary
Mary Lou Clary

October 14, 2023

I would love to join your Noro party. And I love Noro yarn & your newsletter. Thank you for all of the inspiration!


October 04, 2023

I love Wabi-sabi philosophy so much! I want to knit some throw pillows with Noro but don’t know which one to use. I feel like I need to go and see it in in person rather than shop from a tiny picture on my phone screen. That is the only reason I haven’t purchased it yet.

Lee Ellen Brown
Lee Ellen Brown

October 03, 2023

Ellen I love the way you express yourself.

I am a “Noro Wanna Be”. I have loved this yarn for years but have not knit with it. I have been put off be the feel, but I love thick and this, I love texture and I love the Noro style and amazing colors. I love your comment that Wabi Sabi is an understated quiet beauty waiting to be revealed. I love rustic and I like the idea that nothing is perfect, nothing complete, just beauty all around waiting to be appreciated. I want to become a knitter with Noro. A new passion to explore. I love it.

Anne Smoot
Anne Smoot

October 03, 2023

I also love Noro’s care for the environment , from start to finish. It’s a most satisfying yarn! 🧡

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