Iceland: Knit Inspiration

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…

The bay at Djupavik
The bay at Djupavik, Iceland
A black lava beach in Iceland
A black lava beach in Iceland, not far from Grindavik
Fields full of purple lupines in Iceland
Fields full of purple lupines in Iceland

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.

Brynja cardigan in Lopi
The Brynja Cardigan in Lopi

Iceland4

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.

The four-petal rose is a traditional Icelandic motif found in the 'sjonabok', a collection of charted patterns from the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries.
The four-petal rose is a traditional Icelandic motif found in the ‘sjonabok’, a collection of charted patterns from the 17th, 18th, & 19th centuries, according to pattern designer Magnusson.
Brynja sweater - ribbon detail
Close-up of the ribbon detail. The ribbon helps to stabilize the button band so the snaps don’t pull the yarn out of shape when opened.

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:

Ring designs by Gullkunst Helgu
Ring designs by Gullkunst Helgu. Photo from their website at http://www.gullkunst.is

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.

The happiest dog in the world
The happiest dog in the world at what they call “the loneliest hotel in the world”
A view up one of Reykjavik's downtown streets, looking at the Hallgrimskirkja reflected in the near-midnight sun.
A view up one of Reykjavik’s downtown streets, looking at the Hallgrimskirkja (Church of Hallgrimur) reflected in the near-midnight sun.

Have you been to Iceland? Have you tried knitting with Lopi?

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4 thoughts on “Iceland: Knit Inspiration

  1. I LOVE ICELAND!!! I went there for a wedding last year and have been craving to go back ever since. I did get a chance to look around some of the knitting shops but didn’t have a lot of time in the city :(… But I am going to be planning a Scandinavian trip and Iceland is definitely my first stop! 🙂

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    1. It gets in your blood or something, doesn’t it? Glad you’re planning to go again. Me too–I hope to get there next year.

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    1. It’s a knitter’s paradise, for sure. Also easy to take great photos there as there’s something spectacular around every corner.

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