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 and 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 icebergs
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, hats 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 examples
from 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? And in the same shopping ‘mall’, there was a 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.