Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Knitting Norah with Noro

Norah Gaughan has long been one of my favourite designers, but astonishingly, I have not knit any of her patterns - until now. This is partly because she mostly publishes in Berroco booklets, which are not readily available in the UK, and are also not available for online download.

Apparently this is because Berroco believes they should support local yarn shops. Which is laudable, but why can't they support yarn shops in the UK? Actually, I think Loop in London carries Berroco yarn and patterns books. But I didn't know that the last time I visited, so wasn't on the lookout.

But never mind, I finally got my first Norah booklet when a friend picked one up for me on a trip to Australia. I was particularly eager to acquire this booklet, the first in her series, because I want to knit just about every single item in it. This is unusual for me - and I'm more of a single pattern shopper for this very reason - because when I buy books I end up only knitting one pattern, or even less. (Which is why I have resisted buying Norah's lovely pattern book 'Knitting from Nature'.)

But this booklet is definitely going to change that habit. I'm almost done with my first project and I already have yarn on hand for two more garments. I've decided to make 2012 my year of Norah - I'll try to always have at least one of her patterns on my needles, and we'll see how far I get!

What is it I like about Norah? Well, her garments are always a little out of the ordinary. She uses asymmetry, shapes and texture to create funky yet wearable garments. The garment that started my Norah obsession is Kukka, an asymmetric draped top that can be worn tied up at the waist or trailing down over a skirt. So simple and clever.

I'm going to do mine in linen/cotton for summer. I'm waiting to start that until later in the season (when I set aside wool). Right now I'm knitting Aamu in Noro silk garden.

So, you might ask, what possessed me to knit a top in Noro silk garden? Well, I do love Noro, and the silk garden (45% mohair, 45% silk, 10% wool) was on super sale at my yarn shop (£2 off per skein, plus 20% staff discount). But as anyone who has worked with Noro knows, the striping is tricky to work with. There are colours hidden in the skeins that will surprise you, the colours are distributed unevenly so don't know what colours will dominate, and inevitably at least a couple of skeins in a pack will have non-matching ends grafted together! The only thing it has going in its favour is that it is easy to spit-splice. Oh yes, and also the glorious colours.

Noro is definitely not for everyone. As I already hinted, the colour combinations are not standard. The first skein I worked with, many years ago, I thought was just browns, greens and reds, until suddenly a purpley-pink appeared. But somehow it worked. If you use Noro you should try to trust their designers, because they do know what they are doing. And I've found if I am ever dissatisfied with a skein it is usually the black or neutral I cut out, because I want as much of that glorious colour as possible.

For Aamu I picked out six skeins of what I thought would be mostly blue-green Noro (scrutinising the colour numbers - you can never be too careful with Noro). But when I started knitting I quickly realised it was mostly tan/red/grey Noro, with a touch of blue-green. Fortunately I started with the blue-green, so was able to reserve the colour for the ribbing and use the tan/red/grey for the body.

Clever fold-over construction - remarkably similar to my Ziggurat dolman sweater

This has called for a LOT of spit-splicing, but I'm quite pleased with how it has turned out. It reminds me of rock formations, in particular the Sideling Hill road cut on interstate 68 on the way from Maryland to Ohio (which I passed through many times on my way to visit my sister when she lived in Athens Ohio).

Sideling Hill  ©Jimski

And.... the completed Sideling Hill - I love this top!

Finally, I'm going to try to fit in one more aran wool jumper before it gets too warm to knit wool. I have a pile of orange Debbie Bliss Fez from a wrap I frogged, and I plan to knit Kaari, a oversized pullover with three pockets around the body. It should knit up snuggly and divine in super soft camel/merino Fez.

Phew, that should keep me going for a good few months. I'll let you know how my Norah knitathon goes.