Tag Archives: Noro

Not-so-controlled chaos: my Noro mitts

Elizabeth Zimmerman's mitered mitts in Noro Kureyon 326

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s mitered mitts in Noro Kureyon 326

Regular readers may have noticed that I took some time of knitting and blogging at the end of the summer, and as things geared up in September.  However, the colder weather here turned my mind back to cozy warm knits.  These mittens felt like the perfect project to get my knitting groove back with.  I love this pattern from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s classic Almanac.  It’s beautiful and simple, and with Kathryn Ivy’s excellent modifications, it can be completed without steeking.

This yarn, a new colourway from Noro, called to me the moment I saw. I have a bad habit of accumulating beautiful yarn, without a specific project in mind, but this yarn basically screamed, “Make mitered mitts out of me!”  After completing the first mitt (on the left), I felt like a yarn genius; the yarn and pattern seemed like a perfect fit.  However, when I picked up the second ball, I noticed something, this ball was nothing like the other: the blue, which was barely present in the first ball took up most of the second.  When I finished, my second mitt was blue and brown, while my first was pink and purple.  While I ordinarily love the controlled chaos of Noro colourways, this was too much, they looked like a completely mismatched pair.  (and the blue and brown, with a hint of orange was pretty awful to be absolutely truthful.) Fortunately, I had a fair amount of purple and pink in the scraps, so I cut off the tip of the right hand mitt (ironically, I had used Kathryn Ivy’s directions to avoid cutting into a finished project, but no matter).

While messing with a Noro colourway feels a bit like cheating, I’m very happy with the finished look.  They look great on my growing pile of Christmas gifts.  My only concern? I have two more balls of manlier coloured Noro Kureyon waiting to be made into mitered mitts for my husband…

Sunshine in mitten form

Mitred mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

“Of course you knit those in February.  It’s like you tried to make sunshine in mitten form,” was my husband’s response upon seeing these mitred mittens, from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac. He is definitely on to something.  Winter still has us in its icy grips, but I am ready to bid adieu to slippery sidewalks, grey skies and slushy streets.  Fortunately this Noro Taiyo (#11) was leftover from my Paintbox Blanket, and it looks like spring.

_AWN2208I loved the way the Noro worked out on my previous experience with mitered knits (Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise jacket), so this pattern and the leftover yarn seemed like a perfect combo.  As I’ve written before her patterns are timeless, but often inscrutable.  These instructions are described by Zimmerman as “pithy,” and they certainly are.  The pattern also includes the nerve wracking instruction to cut a hole in the mitts, unravel a few stitches and knit the thumb.  I don’t have the nerve to take scissors to an otherwise completed piece of work. I was sure this was going to result in an unraveled sloppy mess.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's mitred mitts in Noro Taiyo 11

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s mitred mitts in Noro Taiyo 11

Fortunately, it was ravelry to the rescue, many knitters had used Kathryn Ivy’s excellent set of instructions for a gusseted thumb to make these mitts.  The instructions are clear, and they result in a perfectly fit thumb, without any scissors.  The reccommended needle size (US 6) was way too big for me though, these were made on US 5.  The needle size is a little small for this yarn, but that’s perfect for mittens since the finished product is really quite dense, and I used nearly every yard! Now, until spring, I’ll have warm hands, that remind me sunny days are just around the corner…

Toddler Surprise Jacket

Toddler surprise jacket 2.0, in various scraps of Noro Taiyo

The print on my maxi wrap dress

Walking past all of the midtown stores, on our way home from Argo, last date night, I realized something: the 70’s are having a moment.  I couldn’t be happier; I love the long hair, the cords, the wrap dresses, the maxi wrap dresses, the intentionally ugly colours…

Inspired by the movie and the 70’s inspired fashions in Yorkville, I turned to one of the few 60’s and 70’s pattern designers whose books are still widely available: Elizabeth Zimmerman.  My first experiment with retro patterns was her 1968 Baby Surprise Jacket.  Named “surprise” because it is knit in one bizarre piece, then miraculously folds into a sweater for your baby or toddler.

The differences between contemporary patterns and Elizabeth Zimmerman’s go way beyond the groovy style.  The surprise jacket is not at all technically challenging, it is mostly just knit in garter stitch with a few simple increases and decreases.  It is however, mystifying from a reading comprehension perspective.  Zimmerman’s writing style approaches stream of consciousness.  She writes long paragraphs and asides and switches vocabulary midway through the pattern (switching from “rows” to “ridges” to “decreases”).  If like me, you usually rush headlong into patterns: STOP!  You need to read the whole pattern, and count out the rows before it is too late.  For example, when she writes “At 114 sts,” it’s good to know that means 12 more rows.  I found doing the math before hand, and annotating my pattern to be much less time consuming than counting stitches.

The Surprise Jacket, some assembly required

She is also quite vague about gauge and sizes.  She doesn’t suggest a size of needles or give any specific yardage.  The pattern simply offers that a gauge of 6 sts to the inch will yield a present for a newborn and that 5 sts to the inch will be right for a “1-year-old or older.”  There are, however, thousands of projects on ravelry that can offer some suggestions in that direction. As someone who is trying to find new challenges as a knitter, I really enjoyed her open ended style.  I felt like I was sitting down with someone’s fantastically talented grandma for a little chat about knitting, and that she figured I knew enough to put my own stamp on things.  However, I imagine that her style might be frustrating for a beginner.

Helpful in deciphering this pattern was this wonderful YouTube series:

Experienced knitters won’t need to watch every episode in its entirety, but it helped me make sense of some of the more inscrutable directions (her pattern literally includes the phrase “Hope you’re still with me”).

I originally made this sweater for my two year old niece on size 5.5 mm needles in Noro Taiyo.  I was sooooo pleased with the funky, psychedelic result that I made a second from my stash of

Toddler Surprise Jacket 1.0

Noro. Both sweaters remind me of girl’s sweaters I spotted at Benetton and the Baby Gap this fall. I think the purple colourways (I had lots of tiny scraps, and just used anything purple-ish) turned out even better; it’s not quite the bold statement the original was.

I’m definitely looking forward to my next adventure with retro patterns Zimmerman’s Baby Sweater on Two Needles from the Knitter’s Almanac for my sister-in-law (due in 3 weeks, we can’t wait to meet our new neice!).  I’ll keep you posted as the baby and the sweater arrive…

Turkish Delights and Noro Inspirations

The Hagia Sophia

Our travels often influence both my own personal style and my knitting; but no trip was more inspiring this way than our 10 day sojourn in Turkey.

The surreal fairy chimneys of Cappadocia

In the spring of 2011, we had planned to visit friends teaching in Cairo.  Fortunately, we looked at our tickets, and decided that our 48 hour layover in Istanbul could be easily extended to fill the entire trip.  After long negotiations with Turkish Air (I’m reasonably certain at this point that our travel agent winces when we call) and extensive perusing of our Lonely Planet, we had a new itinerary.  Our friends met us in Istanbul, and we spent 10 days in what has become my favourite travel destination.  Our trip was limited to Istanbul and the surreal landscape of Cappadocia, but the seacoast and East remain on my bucket list!

Turkey is a feast of colour and texture for fashion and textile lovers.  The streets, clothes and buildings are a wash with soft yellows, oranges, blues and greens.  As a knitter, the gorgeous chaos of Istanbul’s bazaars was awe inspiring.  Sandwiched between piles of pottery in saturated mosaics, and artfully arranged spices from across Asia and the Middle East are some of the most beautiful, hand crafted textiles and accessories I have ever seen. On the way home, our bags were packed with scarves in pinks, greens and turquoises for our moms and friends, and colourful silk ballet flats and earrings.  A rug was mostly definitely not within my maternity leave budget, but I went home dreaming of thick, handcrafted swirls of burgundy and gold to rest my feet on.

The view across the Golden Horn (Istanbul)

Turkey is geographically quite spread out, but domestic flights are very reasonable, and we were able to escape the bustle of Istanbul, and visit Cappadocia.  A long history of bizarre geology (the fairy chimneys) and human habitation make it a fantastic place.  People are extremely friendly, the food is terrific, and everything is waaaaay cheaper than Istanbul.  If you make it to Cappadocia, do not miss the eight story underground cities, used by ancient Christians to hide from Romans, or the magnificent local cuisine – I’m still dreaming about the tomato soup!

The shops of Goreme

Since the trip, I’ve thought about designing a scarf pattern inspired by the intricate colourwork of Turkish rugs and scarves, but may, in the end, have to leave that to the experts.   However, one of my favourite yarns has given me an outlet for all of this Turkey love: Noro Taiyo.  The combinations of earthy and saturated colours bring me back to the Spice Bazaar, and the uneven, organic texture is reminiscent of Cappadocia’s surreal hand carved architecture. Since coming across this yarn shortly after our trip, I’ve been using it everywhere.

The yarn itself can be frustrating to work with.  It’s thickness is purposely inconsistent; which can give your work a beautiful organic texture, but can also be an absolute pain when a particularly slim section pulls apart in your hands (full confession: I’m a tight knitter).  Each multicolour colourway contains a clear outlier, a colour that looks nearly ugly in its contrast to the rest of the yarn.  In the right project, the outlier makes the entire work more beautiful, but it in the wrong project, it can make an intricate pattern or adult sweater look plain wacky.

My top Noro successes have been relatively plain patterns that embrace it inconsistency and 70’s colourways.  The Paintbox Log Cabin blanket (available for free at Katherine Keyes’ blog: Get Your Hook On) was designed with Noro in mind and it shows.

The Spice Bazaar

My log cabin blanket

This blanket took months to make (and upwards of $100 in yarn), but was worth every minute and penny.  Katherine Keyes used Noro Kureyon, while I used Noro Taiyo, it is less expensive per yard, and a little easier to care for.  This caused a major overestimate in the number of skeins required, and I’ve been experimenting with remainders ever since.

Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Baby Surprise Jacket has eaten up a few of the leftovers.  I used the 1968 pattern to make one for each of my two year old nieces, on 5.5 mm needles, it’s a perfect fit.  The pattern is technically really easy, but difficult from a reading comprehension perspective, and I highly recommend the 6 episode YouTube videos for anyone unfamiliar with her patterns.  It’s knit in one very strange piece, with a single pair of seams across the top of the shoulders.  The wacky colours and uneven texture make for really beautiful, obviously retro sweater.  The great thing about toddlers is that they can get away with a fashion statement this bold!

Amelia’s toddler surprise jacket

Finally this really simple Entrelac cushion cover is now a staple in our living room.  The variety of Noro colourways makes it easy to match any couch, or living room and I’ve since knit cushions for half the family.

Entrelac cushion