Friday, July 27, 2007

The Seductive Siren Song Of Noro

Now that I think about it, the wonderful lady who ran that dyeing workshop at Heritage Arts in Texas was called Lorelei, and the Lorelei were beautiful maidens who sat on rocks in the river Rhine and lured sailors to their doom with their exquisite song. White water you'd probably call it now, but beautiful maidens sound rather more pleasing. Those mythic maidens were only trotting after Noro, though. When that Japanese beauty calls, who can resist?

But I'm ahead of myself. I hadn't realised that when I returned, DH had not only been tracking my flight all the way across the Atlantic, but had positioned himself so he could take pictures of my plane at last coming into view, and then landing.

Somehow I found that very touching indeed. You were wishing me home, sweetheart.

We breakfasted near the Flying Boat Museum on the banks of the Shannon at Foynes. And on the way home, as often happens on the winding green roads of Ireland, we found a bovine escapee merrily frisking towards us. He'd been part of a school outing (or so I imagine, since he was definitely underage, so not going on a pub crawl or anything) being escorted to inspect the culture of a different grazing field, but had let the excitement go to his head, and set off to explore on his own.

Everyone of course stopped their cars dead; but what amused me was that while most of the drivers leapt out into strategic positions, to head Brightbrain off from collision with an articulated truck, DH leapt for his camera. Shows the training, I suppose. Eventually the truant was reunited with the rest of Class 3B and rollicked off into the distance, telling his adventures as he went.

And then there were the dogs waiting to welcome me home.

Tasha may look frightfully bored, preferring to have a scratch rather than offer effusive delight, but in fact it's because she knows the other (bigger) two would simply beat her up if she tried to muscle in. She waits philosophically until they've finished and then comes for a cuddle.

But treats were ahead! Angeluna, bless her thoughtful heart, had sent not just one but three toys for the girls. And they weren't long in discovering them!

Tasha, the brains of the outfit, was first to discover the treasures -

- followed immediately by a wildly excited Muffy.

Angeluna, if you had any doubt that Tasha enjoyed her gift, just look at this. She's leaping off the ground with sheer delight. I sometimes think she imagines she's a mountain lion pouncing on prey.

However - SOMEONE was a little nervous of returnees bearing gifts...

I told Sophy it was safe, it was harmless, it was meant to be fun. I told her it had been chosen with love by a dear friend in Texas. No good. Her tail remained obstinately tucked between her legs, and she backed away to go and rest in a darkened room, sucking her thumb. It takes all kinds...

(Muffy has now commandeered all three toys and has tucked them into her private basket. It makes it a little difficult to clamber in herself, but that's OK. Just as long as she has them all.)

Tuesday was to recover (as well as writing frantically to meet deadlines) and then bright and early on Wednesday morning it was down to Kenmare and the LYS in the Far West to see a real, genuine, live Noro representative!

I was so excited I barely paused to check the window display.

- before heading in to meet the man himself.

This is Ian Watt from Designer Yarns in Yorkshire. They've been handling Noro from the beginning and Ian's hoping to go over to Japan next year and meet Old Mr. Noro and Young Mr. Noro and all the rest of the Noros in person. It's still a family concern and the father still carefully oversees all the dyeing which is, as Ian says, how they manage to keep up those superb standards.

It was dizzying to be able to look through those swatch books with the colourways shown in full length. I wish Noro stockists could have these on display always, so you really knew what you were getting in a ball. But then, that's why we buy the Noro pattern books isn't it? (And yes, sharp-eyed Ambermoggie, you certainly did see some of those in my trip haul - experienced hunter Angeluna found some marked down to half price for me.)

I had to remind myself now and again that I didn't own the shop and I wasn't paying the bills, so it wasn't really my show. But Jean and Jo were very sweet and allowed me to express an opinion ('What? But you must! You gotta have that one! Oh wow! And this - and this - and you can't miss that...') The only drawback was that it will be several weeks before the new stock arrives. Noro is in serious demand everywhere and for some lines Ian Watt said you simply wouldn't get a large order even if you wanted it. The good news is that Spin a Yarn is going to stock Silk Garden Lite. It hasn't been seen at all yet in the UK or Ireland so this will be a first. Angeluna and I saw it in Yarns Ewenique in Fort Worth last week, but I avoided buying any because I wanted to get it here. What will I make? What's that got to do with it? I want the yarn, I want the yarn, I want - ok, calm down, calm down. (Noro always does this to me.)

And another exciting bit of news - Designer Yarns, Ian told us, has now taken over Araucania Yarns in South America. Or is taking all the yarns Araucania can produce for the UK anyway. You know, those wonderful natural kettle-dyed yarns in amazing colours?

Spin a Yarn is going to take some of the handpainted sock yarn, and some other utterly delectable ones too - there was a chenille-like silky one that I just wanted to snatch and take away with me. I tell you, this shop is going to be one in a million (yes, they're going to get round to Net ordering, they've got the website so they're on the way, and in the meantime I imagine if you emailed and asked, they'd be delighted to post anything).

After all that excitement it was still only 10 am so I took DH for breakfast in Kenmare (he had an omelette, I had a Wee Irish - well it's half the size of a Full Irish, what do you think?) A happy morning.

Had one of those funny in-between moments yesterday, when suddenly I couldn't think of any projects I wanted to make (QUIET there at the back, and stop laughing you at the side!) Yes, there are UFOs aplenty, but usually there is something exciting tugging at my sleeve and following me around the house pleading for attention, and it wasn't there. That worrying state lasted for all of ten minutes, I think (or it may have been nine). I realised that the eagerly-awaited pattern for the Icelandic Shawl had been posted by Knitting Daily while I was away -

Then Interweave Knits posted a cunning preview of the Fall issue - oh help, this one is a real winner - normally I consider myself fortunate if there is just one item that I'd quite like to make, but here there are at LEAST half a dozen - and socks - and cables - and - oh when will it arrive? Goes on the newstands August 14, that's almost three weeks away - my copy usually comes fairly promptly - have you seen the preview yet? Go look and then come back and tell me what you'll KAL on with me!

And then I started thinking yet again about that crop cardi which was supposed to be made this summer and wasn't. It's the kind of useful wearable that I really wanted and needed. I'd planned an Aran, but nothing was quite right. Then, while in Texas, I saw a pretty cropped lace version in one lace book I don't possess, called, I think, Katharine Hepburn. I took down Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge and looked for something that was starting to tug at my skirts...

See that? It's called Gazebo Lace, and although it's an edging, the pattern could continue right up a cardigan. It would give a slightly ribbed effect too, ensuring the jacket wouldn't gap or sag too much.

I have a very nice, very fine, merino mousse yarn in my stash in blue (I also have it in red, two shades of orange, two pinks, grey, and several greens, if the truth be told - who cares, I'm not in Ravelry yet, nobody knows the extent of my stash, hahahahahaha!) On its own it's about sockweight, doubled it's - well, slightly thicker, but not enough for a cardigan with a bit of body to it. Quadrupled, it knitted up beautifully on 6.5mm needles (don't try this at home, I'm a loose knitter, go for a 7 or 7.5mm unless you, like me, create lace without even trying).

I think this would make a stunning crop cardi. The bobbles on the end are quite sturdy and will weigh it down just the right amount.

The skein of merino-tencel for Rho has been dyed and is drying. On its way to you soon, Rho, and I expect to see the results posted on your page (nothing like a bit of pressure and bullying to take the pleasure out of a gift, is there?) And then - oh it can't be that date already? Got to get going on the next designer yarn - Lunasa 2007. I think August or Lunasa is my favourite month, not just because DH and I have birthdays on adjoining days, me on the 7th and 'im on the 8th, but because in childhood this was summer holidays which meant long days on the beach or on the heathery mountains, and golden meadows with haystacks and the scent of barley blown on the wind and poppies crimson against yellow straw and picnics and - oh everything. In ancient Ireland it was the time when the hay and the harvest were safe enough to be left for a short while and so they held their great fairs and races and gatherings now. Wild dances would go on far into the night as they celebrated the Celtic feast of Lunasa.

I just hope I can do justice to it with my yarn. Down to the basement stash for several days of throwing stuff everywhere and swearing wildly as I search for just the right, the perfect combination...


Angeluna said...

Oh, how exciting. Noro. New projects! But how sweet to see the girls with their new toys. And Muffy ecstatic. Guess she remembers how to play after all.

Anonymous said...

My first comment after some months of reading your blog, to say how much I enjoy it and your husband's wonderful photos. Of course, when I first encountered the blog I read all of it to catch up, so to speak. You were right to tell the DH not to crop the picture of the young fox in the big world. And have you finished that lovely grey sweater from the VK Fall 2006 issue-- I didn't catch a post sying you had? I ask because I admire the garment, of course, and also to point out the quirk of dialect that makes the US's "fall" issue the "autumn" issue in Canada and the UK. Just another linguistic oddity.
Let us know when you plan a return to California-- the SF bay area this time, please! Meanwhile your news and views of Ireland refresh my memory until I make a returm visit.
PS: I've made myself THREE sweaters of Noro Silk Garden. Had to declare a moritorium. Be warned!

Angeluna said...

Ooops, just looked at the dog's photos again and it is Tasha, the wise one, the old girl, who is leaping like a puppy! Atta go, girl. Off to look at Interweave Knits preview!

Holly said...

It is so nice to be welcomed home by one's canine family.

They don't even expect presents, you are enough to make them happy. Doesn't mean that they are not going to be thrilled, but still...

Reaching for the camera? Hey, all of us appreciate the photos!

Jeri said...

I sure know what you mean about the yarn "tugging at your skirts". I feel a bit dis-jointed today, with some swatching (that's what I've taken to calling bits of new projects that don't feel quite started). I need to check my list and finish something before I start three more things...

Anonymous said...

Ahh Noro! I totally lose all sense of stash responsability when I get near the Noro. Some people don't count sock yarn as stash aquisition but for me it is Silk Garden, Silver Thaw, Cash Iroha and all of the other super yarns from the Noro mill. I have a very nice collection going and my LYS has a Noro sale on now. Woohoo!
Is not the Icelandic shawl a beauty? I am eager to see what your yarn choice is for this project. I haven't anything in my stash that will do so I shall have to do some shopping.
It seems you have been having a wonderful busy time. What a wonderful gift from your DH.
The girls look so adorably fierce with their gifts and very happy to see their Mum back home.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Noro - I agree, when you buy a skein, you are not always sure about all the colours and I am not sure the LYS owner wants knitters tearing the skeins apart!!
Love the photo of you and the dogs and their toys. Our Isla is the stand off girl, as Tibbie is so pushy!
I think you will enjoy the Elizabeth Zimmermann Baby Surprise Jacket that you plan to knit for gifts. When you make the first one, just knit and try not to figure out where you are - it magically works!!

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

I knew I'd seen Noro:) Can't wait to see what lammas or lugnasa looks like:) Have a birthday in 3 weeks, might drop a hint to my daughter on what to get me.

Charity said...

What excitement and adventure in your world, Jo! :0) I agree, the preview for IK is too amazing, all those cables!

Dez Crawford said...

How sweet! Toys for the kids! I just love the pictures of the dogs. Mountain Lion indeed.

Your comment on an Half Irish Breakfast made me smile. My Irish grandma used to make what she called "Irish breakfast" on Sundays, which involved sausages AND eggs AND thickly cut bacon AND pan-fried potatoes AND thickly sliced, toasted, buttered bread AND oatmeal! You would eat breakfast and drink lots of strong sweet tea, and then, drunk with cholesterol, you'd stagger off to church to digest it.

Your fellow Noro junkie here truly and deeply envies your preview of the actual swatches! Though I have to give Noro kudos for excellency in color accuracy on their website, it's just not the same as an actual swatch. I have what I call a "jeans shawl" made with Silk Garden -- actually a bag of leftovers of various colorways from Ray Whiting's garage sale when he moved to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. It's on my blog aways back. It came out looking like a deliberate colorway, using my method of enforced randomness for oddball garments: I shake the basket of oddballs, reach in blindly, and I =must= use the color I grab.
The result was the perfect simple garter stitch sweater to wear with jeans and a turtleneck or other simple top in the chilly months.

I am drooling over that gorgeous sock yarn! The green is calling to me loudly (surprise, surprise!) and informing me that it wants to be a sweater.

The Icelandic shawl is too much.

Angeluna said...

Thanks for the heads-up on the IK. Looks good.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo,

The yarn has arrived but it will have to wait a bit to become a pair of socks. I will keep you posted. It is FAB!!!!! Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Jo , "Kangaroo" have silk-garden lite listed today .I wrote to Designer Yarns suggesting they ask "Noro" to consider a book about the history of the company.

Emily Scott Banks said...

Jo! You were at my LYS in Fort Worth, TX last month, and I didn't even know!! Boy did I miss out. That's what I get for working this summer, lol! Darn. Anyway, I certainly hope that you enjoyed your trip to Texas, and that the welcome was warm and wonderful.

I just shared your husband's beautiful forest glade photos with my husband, and his response was, "Why don't we live there??" ;)

All my best to you, and I hope you come back to Texas again, or we make it to Ireland.