Eisaku Noro

Eisaku Noro is the ge­nius be­hind the glo­ri­ous hues of Noro Yarns. Juliet Bernard spoke with him about his life and work

The Knitter - - Contents - Dis­cover the en­tire Noro range of yarns and pat­terns at www.de­sign­er­yarns.uk.com

We meet the leg­endary cre­ator of Noro’s spec­tac­u­lar yarn colours

THE YARNS cre­ated by the brand Noro are more than just some­thing to knit with. They are a com­pletely im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, com­bin­ing amaz­ing colour com­bi­na­tions and fi­bres. Ev­ery mo­ment you work with a Noro yarn is com­pletely unique, as is the project you are mak­ing.

No won­der, then, that knit­ters all over the world be­come ad­dicted to try­ing and buy­ing Noro. My own stash of Noro is pretty sub­stan­tial. I’m not sure what I am go­ing to make with it, I just know I am in­tox­i­cated by hav­ing the yarns. Of course, other spin­ners do pro­duce var­ie­gated and self-strip­ing yarns, but none has man­aged to achieve the amaz­ing blends of colour and fi­bre that founder Eisaku Noro creates.

Mr Noro is a real master of his craft. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Mat­suzaka tech­ni­cal high school in Mie pre­fec­ture, on Ja­pan’s main is­land of Hon­shu, he worked for 18 years with two dif­fer­ent spin­ning com­pa­nies. Both pro­duced spe­cial­ist

woollen yarns, and he gained ex­pe­ri­ence across all as­pects of each busi­ness, from the ac­tual pro­duc­tion pro­cesses to man­ag­ing peo­ple. He had a deep de­sire to cre­ate his own yarns and de­velop his own cre­ativ­ity, how­ever, so he de­cided to es­tab­lish his own com­pany.

From vi­sion to re­al­ity

I asked him how he goes about de­vel­op­ing a new yarn such as Noro’s lat­est of­fer­ing, Hakone, and how he de­cides on which fi­bres to use. “First, I al­ways try to cre­ate new yarns that we have never cre­ated be­fore,” Mr Noro says. “I want peo­ple to be sur­prised or feel a sense of fun when they see Noro yarns.

“‘Beau­ti­ful­ness’ when a fi­bre is dyed is the most im­por­tant thing to me, and this in­forms my de­ci­sion-mak­ing when I se­lect fi­bres. Each type of fi­bre has many at­tributes, such as length, thick­ness, colour and so on. I can blend them in my brain with­out phys­i­cal tests, us­ing my 60 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in this in­dus­try, and de­cide what to use to re­alise my images and ideas.”

Once Mr Noro has set­tled on his fi­bre se­lec­tion, his thoughts turn to colour. “It is very hard to de­scribe in words, but I cre­ate colours based on my feel­ings. Let me ex­plain my his­tory: I liked to paint when I was a child, and I still do. My first year at a ju­nior high school, I won the gold prize in a draw­ing com­pe­ti­tion in which all of the stu­dents took part. This gave me a lot of con­fi­dence in my paint­ings. Dur­ing va­ca­tions I spent most of my time paint­ing at home.

“My art teacher tried to per­suade my par­ents to en­cour­age me to be­come a pro­fes­sional pain­ter, and I be­lieve my sense of colour is ex­tra­or­di­nary. I may not have taken up this ca­reer, but years ago a French man came to me and told me that my yarns were paint­ings in them­selves.

“What in­flu­ences my colour sense? I must say it is the great nature of my birth­place. I grew up in one of the most un­spoiled ar­eas in Ja­pan, so from a very young age I was able to learn not only its colours, but its sounds, tastes, smells, touch and its scenery. I am quite sure these ex­pe­ri­ences are still the source of my cre­ativ­ity.”

Tech­ni­cal chal­lenges

One of Noro’s most pop­u­lar yarns is Silk Gar­den, an eclec­tic blend com­bin­ing silk, mo­hair and wool. Each fi­bre takes the dye in a slightly dif­fer­ent way, giv­ing the colours mul­ti­ple lay­ers in each shade. There is a range of yarns in the fam­ily, from the orig­i­nal aran-weight Silk Gar­den to a 4ply and DK, and Sock and Solo solid colours which are lightly heathered. Silk Gar­den is now 20 years old, and Mr Noro re­calls the chal­lenges he faced bring­ing this yarn to the mar­ket.

“I wanted this yarn to com­bine the lus­tre of mo­hair and silk, with the soft­ness of wool. Mo­hair and silk do not have scales on their fi­bres, so it is dif­fi­cult to get them to bind to­gether when you spin them. I was told that to spin a yarn like Silk Gar­den, which con­tains mo­hair and silk in such high quan­ti­ties, was im­pos­si­ble - that was the ac­cepted knowl­edge in our in­dus­try. How­ever, I was sure noth­ing was im­pos­si­ble, so I started to cre­ate my own way to spin these fi­bres. It was a tough chal­lenge in­deed, but I was able to find a com­pletely new tech­nique by look­ing at it from a dif­fer­ent an­gle. It has been over 20 years since we launched Silk Gar­den, and part of its en­dur­ing ap­peal is that there are no sim­i­lar yarns avail­able.”

With his 60-year ca­reer, Eisaku Noro can be called a master of his craft. What does he re­gard as his par­tic­u­lar suc­cesses? “I have to say ev­ery­thing that is em­bod­ied in the Noro brand. I was able to hold fast to my prin­ci­ples and de­velop an orig­i­nal way of spin­ning, an orig­i­nal way of run­ning the com­pany, and an orig­i­nal way of ed­u­cat­ing young crafts­peo­ple. I still have plenty of ideas which have not been re­alised. I am go­ing to im­ple­ment these step by step, and I am sure those will be worth the wait for Noro fans,” he tells me.

Some­thing for us all to look for­ward to, then, and maybe some of us will get to meet this in­cred­i­ble man in per­son. “I do not have any con­crete plans at the mo­ment, but I hope I will be able to visit the UK in the fu­ture. I am only 80 years old now - there are still 20 years to be 100 years old.”

Eisaku Noro over­sees colour se­lec­tions at Noro’s HQ in Aichi, Ja­pan

Eisaku Noro has been work­ing in the yarn in­dus­try for 60 years Bales of vi­brantly dyed fi­bre at the Noro fac­tory 1 ‘Ygritte’ from the Game of Hues col­lec­tion 2 Sixth & Spring has pub­lished a range of pat­tern books us­ing Noro yarns 3 A colour­ful de­sign...

Noro has de­vel­oped new spin­ning tech­niques 5 Kure­opa­tora is a light and lofty DK wool 6 De­signs from The Mi­rai Col­lec­tion show­case the lovely silk-vis­cose blend 7 Pat­terns in The Art of Colour book ex­ploit the strik­ing colour changes of Noro yarns 8...

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