Iceland should be called Woolland!

Dianne here….fitting in a post between Christine’s. We just got back from 2 weeks in Iceland, driving around the perimeter of the island with another couple and then spending 4 days in Reykjavik, the capitol. My husband has wanted to go for years…for the geology img_1176and for the birds.

As a life-long knitter I had admired Icelandic wool for years and since becoming a rug hooker and hooking some with yarn, I was interested in the possibility of  incorporating their yarn in my hooking. I talked to several friends who had been there about wool shopping and did some internet research.

We prefer stumbling around ourselves rather than tours (we’ll do that when we’re old!), so driving the perimeter sounded ideal. And it was; there are waterfalls galore, volcanic evidence everywhere, glaciers and icebergsimg_1095
img_1058  img_1064



and lots and lots of Icelandic sheep. In fact, folks will tell you there are more sheep than people in Iceland, and with only 300K people (250K of them in Rekjavik), I believe it. The sheep are a specific breed with heavy fleeces, shorn twice a year.  They are everywhere, sometimes in the road and they scamper back to the fields when you honk. There are some fences but many fields don’t appear to have fences.  I was told by an innkeeper that fall shearing is almost here. There will be a roundup where the sheep will be herded to a central, regional place by horsemen and sheepdogs. The sheep owners will then take their sheep home to graze on home turf for a couple weeks before the fall shearing. That would have been fun to see but my husband and friends were pretty tolerant of my wool gazing and shopping as it was; that might have strained things a bit…

One of the great things is how much knitting is done; I saw museum docents, shopkeepers and innkeepers knitting as though it was the most natural thing to do.  Icelandic sweaters, b1767bb7cd30717caeeb9211409b9f0fhats and mittens are legendary, knit with the Icelandic wool called lopi. Its distinctive fibres create wool that is warm, lightweight, water-repellent and breathable. The authentic sweaters usually have the knitter’s name on the label as apparently there are sweaters using Icelandic wool knit elsewhere. I considered and certainly shopped enough for ‘just the right’ sweater but in the end my California climate couldn’t justify the cost. Wool, however was another story. Here is are two examimg_1207ples
img_1213from art museums:



There is one major producer of Icelandic wool, Alafoss and we went to their ‘outlet’ outside of Rekjavik; it was the most complete array of their wool (available in large colorway and several weights from lace to bulky), but prices were not less as outlets are in the US. But, although the cost of most things in Iceland were very expensive, the wool was a bargain. About $3 for 50gm of sock wool; $5 for 100gm of heavy wool.

What was most amazing was where you could find the wool: Here is a display in a discount grocery store! Looks like a vegetable display doesn’t it? unknown-1And in the same shopping ‘mall’, there was aimg_1190 wool shop with many of the same yarns plus supplies and imported yarns. Most interestingly was the unspun, unplyed yarn that is sold in 100gm ‘pancakes’ officially called  plötulopi), about $3.50. They come in every color of the plyed yarn and this is what the Icelandic knitters use to knit their sweaters, usually with 2 strands.  Because the Icelandic wool is coarse with long fibers, especially in this non plyed format, it knits up nicely and fluffs into a warm garment. I bought three pancakes and am already hooking some into braided bowl bases with other yarn and my dyed velvet, planning to braid the velvet up the bowl sides, tho I may experiment with adding some pancake yarn while I braid; who knows ?

We visited a knitting mill which makes garments from the knitted fabric and I purchased a remnant which I plan to fringe with yarn and use as a throw.

Besides sheep we saw a few chickens and roosters. I thought img_1144this guy might be fun to hook….with a red braid around him.

Braid Meeting

Christine here.  This past Saturday we had a braid meeting of the Valley Forge Rug Braiding Guild.  It was Shirley Harrison’s birthday, and Robin Kershaw had a lovely cake for her!

It was great to catch up and see what everyone has been working on.  Here are some photos:


Working on the final butted row of my multi strand

I’m still working on the final, butted row of my multi strand:  here’s a photo of the last row in progress.  I was thinking of going up to 19 strands… but I chickened out at 17.

Debra Weinhold has of course been busy over the summer:  she brought along two wool appliqué table runners and a stool-cover that she’s working on.  It was interesting to realize that, as she gets to the braids along the sides of this square pillow, the need for braiding corners goes away.


Robin Kershaw working on a curtain.


Joanna G works on shoe-lacing chevron strips together


Mary Grove’s pretty strip rug was ruined by an upholsterer who “finished” the ends with glue and a horribly ugly chain stitch over bright blue ribbon. She’s covering the glued/stitched area over with a wide ribbon that is much prettier.


Birthday girl Shirley Harrison is working on a fleece rug


Mary Grove’s continuous strip rug, in which one long straight braid flips over at either end.


Jane Ober brought a pillow she made: the bottom is almost identical.


Debra Reinhold brought a stool cover she’s working on.


Although braided corners are needed for the top of this stool cushion cover, the sides will be straight braids.















At the meeting, we reviewed that Pody Vanderwall will be the speaker at the next braid in (May 4-7, 2017, Bethlehem, PA) and that she will be talking about her great grandmother, who was a famous silk braiding artist in the early 1900’s.  Her great grandmother was Jessie Catherine Kinsey, whose work is still on display at the Oneida Community Mansion House and Museum, in Oneida, NY.  We also talked about suggestions for the teaching program next year; I’ll be formally asking for class proposals from any interested teachers.  Last year, all class proposals were accepted and placed on the schedule, so if you have any desire to teach … let me know!


One of Debra Reinhold’s pretty wool appliqué runners

College Rug and Braid Gauge


College dorm room (there are 4 tall sunny windows along that far wall, which helps)

Christine here.  We moved my daughter back into Dickinson College a couple Saturdays ago. Her room is tiny tiny tiny, but one wall is all windows and the sun was streaming in on move-in day. Given the heat and humidity, that amount of sun would have been awful, but as an upperclassman she gets an air-conditioned dorm, so the sun was a good thing. (Since moving to Pittsburgh 24 years ago, I have realized the importance of sunlight for a good mood and positive outlook).

We joined the long line of other sweaty parents hauling laundry baskets full of hair dryers and desk lamps and printers up and down the flights of stairs. We glanced at each other in commiseration as we held doors open for the next set of parents to troop through. Our load was lightened slightly by Katie’s boyfriend, who moved back in the day before, and who was instrumental in moving the furniture into a more functional arrangement. (Yes, the boyfriend is still around).

The last time I wrote how my daughter asked me to make an 8’ X 11’ rug for her college dorm room… 10 days before she left for school. Obviously, this was impossible. But, I was able to enlarge a 5’ X 7’ rug to 6’ X 8’, which – given that a good portion of her tiny room was taken up with bed, desk, and dresser – made it look like a room-sized rug.

Adding onto a rug a few years after its making is an interesting problem, and there are certain details that I’ve chosen to defer for a newsletter article with some diagrams (my newsletter will be starting up again in January: more information about that in the coming months). But one aspect that I’ll talk about here is: matching fabric.

The original rug was a hit or miss, so matching a fabric color was not exactly critical, although the general color theme had to continue. I was lucky enough to have a big bag of scraps left over from the original rug, and many of the scraps had already been torn into strips, so I was ahead of the game. I needed only to find a few more gray tweeds and herringbones for two of the strands, and a mix of pinks and reds and oranges for the other strand.

The thing I didn’t remember was…there was a reason that I didn’t use those strips before. Those strips were left over because they were lighter weight than the rest of the rug that was already braided. I didn’t realize it because the strips are the same weight as what I work with currently (medium-weight), so they felt perfect. I just didn’t remember that I had chosen to work with coat-weight wools for the rug.


Hard to see, but the “gauge” of the old rows is different from the new rows

If I had actually compared the new braid to the rug, I would have seen this. But, I braid on the first floor and the rug was up on the third floor, and I had decided (due to a bunch of appointments with long times in waiting rooms) than I would braid as much as I could before starting to lace, and I didn’t bother to drag the rug down until I wanted to lace. So the difference in braid-size wasn’t immediately apparent.

In retrospect, this was doubly stupid, because if one wants to enlarge a rug as rapidly as possible, wouldn’t you choose heavier weight fabric and bigger braids anyway?

As soon as I started to lace, the difference in gauge was clear. I had to make many increases, even on the straight of the rug, just to get the new braid on without stretching it. I wasn’t able to continue the “dot” pattern on the straight sides that existed in the rest of the rug.

So, dinking along with my comparatively skinny braids…I did manage to get an additional foot on all around, which was accomplished by totally focusing on braiding and lacing and neglecting all family members and pets for 10 days.

Whenever my husband talked to me, I complained about how I had screwed up and I would never manage to get enough rows on to make a size difference (it takes a long time to lace around a rug that size). My husband laughed at me and told me not to be ridiculous: I was obviously having a great time working on that rug for our daughter. He was right, of course. Boy was that fun!