On a soul-searching train trip through Europe in the early 80’s, a passion for handknitting design was ignited. Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton has spent the last twenty five years knitting with Noro yarns, transforming colours of the rainbow into wearable art. Her latest book release, NORO Meet The Man Behind The Legendary Yarn, showcases forty of her favorite designs, stunningly photographed, along with an inside look into the company that pioneered colour blending and natural fibre into the yarns we all love to knit with today.
We catch up with Cornelia between book signings and sweater designing.
MM: Hi Cornelia, thanks for stopping by for a chat. Lets sit down with a warm cup of tea and get comfortable. It must be such a whirlwind for you at the moment , with the release of your latest book, NORO Meet The Man Behind The Legendary Yarn. Are you currently in the midst of a book tour?
CTH: Yes, I started in England in October at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandria Palace. Then I was off to New York and Atlanta. I am back in Sweden now, but will be attending the TNNA Show in Los Angeles in January, then the Yarn Market News Conference is in the works for March.
MM: How did you come up with the inspiration for this book, combining forty of your exquisite designs with an inside look at Noro, the company and the man behind it?
CTH: As you mentioned, the book is a compilation of some of my most popular designs from previous publications using the beautiful Noro yarns. The inspiration for the book is Mr. Eisaku Noro, himself. His respect for his craft combined with his perseverance in communicating his artistic ideas has been constantly developing for the last thirty years. Noro yarns have always been among the most interesting on the market, season after season. Innovative, creative, a bit whimsical at times, they are always exciting. Since I have been a long time fan and have worked extensively with his yarns, I am very pleased to be associated with the presentation of Mr. Noro.
MM: In this latest book, you describe the ‘ego’ of the yarn. Can you tell us a little bit more about this and how your design process begins?
CTH: My design process begins (and often ends) with the yarn. If it is not sufficiently interesting to me I will leave it alone. Noro yarns suit my way of designing very well. They are very tactile as well as colourful. It is the combination of the texture, the colours, and the spinning that makes them so complex. Each yarn has its own characteristics- its ‘ego’. In order to get the most out of a yarn and to show it off to its best advantage, you have to consider its ego. To do a yarn justice, the designer has to take into account how the yarn responds to being worked with. From there I get ideas about how I can best work with the yarn. Where these come from depends……I just hope they never stop.
MM: When you are at home in Sweden, what is a typical work day like?
CTH: My work day is quite full. Since I make my own hours, I have the privilege of working evenings and weekends, experimenting with different yarns and stitch patterns, and running my own business, Hamilton Yarns. I find that being a handknit designer is a lifestyle not just an occupation.
MM: Since your venture into the world of yarn in the early 80’s, there has been great re-direction and growth towards eco-friendly fibres. What other changes would you like to see in this industry?
CTH: What I would like to see is more experimentation with yarn production. Not just the production of a yarn because it is easy and inexpensive to make, but yarns with more distinction. I think this trend has already started and will bring excitement to the market for years to come.
MM: Did you have any notion early on, that yarn would play such an important role in your career?
CTH: Funny that you should ask……thread, string, and then yarn have all been an important part of my life. I started embroidering when I was thirteen, began to crochet at fourteen, went on to macrame jewelry at sixteen……and finally got to knitting when I was twenty- two and never looked back.
MM: Tell us what is ‘on your needles’ at the moment?
CTH: I have a scarf I am working up in silk. I have a jacket in my own yarn, Heaven’s Hand, being finished. I’m also working on another whole sweater too, and then there is that shawl…….
MM: What is your image of a perfect knitting holiday?
CTH: My idea of a perfect knitting holiday would be to go with a group of knitters to the south of France and stay at a country cottage. I’d divide my days between learning cooking and knitting. Throw in a wine-tasting or two and you’ve got a great week on your hands!
(Images courtesy of Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton)