Around this time last year I was on vacation in Iceland. It’s one of the few places I’ve been where I decided I had to come back, and soon, as soon as I returned home. What an amazing country! It’s remote, sparsely populated, has incredible landscapes and seascapes, good food, and it’s easy to get around. Everywhere you go, there is yet another unusual vista, or a steaming volcanic vent, or a glacier, or fjord, or black lava field, or rolling field, or waterfall, or geothermal pool, or geyser…
There’s a huge knitting culture in Iceland (however I’m told that the ‘traditional’ Icelandic sweater was really only popularized around the 1950’s). I think there are probably more knitting & yarn shops per capita in the capital city Reykjavik than anywhere else in the world. You can buy lovely wool cardigans, sweaters, shawls and dresses just about anywhere you go, mostly made from the traditional Icelandic yarn Lopi. As Knitting Iceland, which is “a place to knit” and runs knitting-themed tours of Iceland, puts it on their website, “On every corner you’ll find people wearing Lopi sweaters and sheep are never too far away and you’ll even get yarn and knitting needles in most grocery stores around the island.” True dat. I even saw yarn-bombed objects such as telephone poles in tiny little hamlets just about everywhere I went. I’m pretty sure that on the third day of being in Iceland I declared to my husband that I had found my spiritual homeland!
I have a friend who used to knit a lot with Lopi because it has good water-repellent properties. Secretly I thought she was nuts because Lopi is — let’s face it — the scratchiest wool in the universe. But I was inspired to try knitting with it during my visit in Iceland. So I went to the Alafoss outlet just outside of Reykjavik in Mosfellsbaer and bought some balls of Lopi for a very good price, that I would knit into this cardigan. It’s from the Brynja pattern by Helene Magnusson.
To my surprise, this is one of my most-wearable, favourite garments I’ve knit! Despite being fairly itchy, the Lopi yarn has great structure and has retained its shape without sagging or pilling over numerous wears. This is my number one issue with most of the sweaters I knit — they look like a hobo’s been living in them after only a few wears. Not so this cardigan. And the itch-factor isn’t really an issue, since I’m always wearing it over something else. Some knitters who use Lopi swear by soaking the sweater in water and hair conditioner to soften the fibers; I haven’t tried this myself.
That pink ring in the last picture, BTW, is also from Iceland. I bought it at a jewellery shop called Gullkunst Helgu on the main shopping street in Reykjavik. Their designs are absolutely stunning, and, I’m told, are inspired by the landscape and geography of Iceland itself. The uneven, ‘extruded’ look of the silver on this ring is meant to be reminiscent of the rugged lava field landscape. I just love it. But I had a hard time settling on one piece to buy as I thought all their designs were amazing. Here’s a closer look at this ring design from a photograph on Gullkunst Helgu’s website:
Iceland inspired a few knitting projects which I hope to share with you, along with more pics of this amazing country, in future posts. Here are a couple more pics in the meantime.
Below is Freyja, the happiest dog in the world. She lives at the Hotel Djupavik, and spends her days chasing birds, eating sheep shit, and taking visitors on walking tours of the area. I have never met a more energetic and all around groovy dog. I adore the name Freyja, which is the name of an Old Norse goddess.
Have you been to Iceland? Have you tried knitting with Lopi?