Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Knits in Iceland

The wool industry is very active in Iceland.

From their website:

 "The Handknitting Association of Iceland was founded in 1977 by hundreds of Icelanders mostly women who had supported their homes income by knitting pullovers, sweaters, and other things from the very special wool from Icelandic sheep. By founding the association the knitters took the sale of their goods in own hands." There are two stores in Reykjavík where knitters "deliver their products and get wool to be able to continue knitting. Sale to wholesalers is also a big deal of the business.

The main focus in the stores is selling goods that are made by members from Icelandic wool mainly lopi but also a good select of goods that are machine made in Iceland from Icelandic wool (i..e. Varma products). The association's slogan has always been 'buy directly from the people who make it'. Every three or four customers are tourists who prefer goods made in Iceland. They can be sure that handmade woolen goods that are for sale in the Handknitting Association of Iceland is knitted in Iceland, from wool from Icelandic sheep, more Icelandic it can hardly be."

Both of these stores were in the main part of the city. Skip took this shot of me (in the yellow jacket) taking a photo of the storefront.
Inside, there are shelves heaped with handknit items arranged by size.
The iconic sweater is called a 'lopapeysa'. They became popular in the 70s all over the world and lately have seen a resurgence among the younger generations. What once was a gift from a doting grandmother is now a coveted piece of fashion for Icelanders and tourists.
 This framed needlepoint of puffins and the volcanic background was above a shelf loaded with commercial yarns.
There were also mitts, scarves, and hats of all styles.
I noted that most of these items were knit with Plötulopi, the single strand, unspun, worsted weight. It makes the item very lofty and warm yet very light in weight.
This Varma company produces very fine machine-knit items.
Being handcrafted, the items were expensive but would make very useful and attractive souvenirs. As a knitter, I took a lot of photos so I could deconstruct some of the items and knit them up myself with Lopi yarns I can obtain locally.

I liked the pattern on the palm of these gloves.
This was the storefront of another shop that sold all kinds of Icelandic souvenirs.
At almost every place we stopped on our tour over the week, Icelandic handknits were offered for sale. And many people, especially the Icelanders themselves, wore them proudly.
I was interested in how the pullovers are steeked and cut open to create cardigans as well as how the edges are stabilized for zipper insertion. In every instance, I noted that a line of crochet was created down each side of the steek, then the steek cut between them. The zipper was then inserted.
I think I'd do an i-cord edging which would stabilize the edge even more before inserting the zipper.

In other stores there were many machine-knit Norwegian-style sweaters of 100% cotton. I wondered if only Icelandic woolens were allowed.
But there were always racks of Icelandic items.

There were some felted items as well. This was a closeup of a mitten.
In Akureyri, we noted a more nautical theme in some knits. This, in fact, is where we saw whales in the fjord as we were sailing towards the Greenland Sea.
This scarf with a mitten on each end caught my eye.

At one of our stops on the Snaefellsnes peninsula to sample fermented shark (I chickened out), was a replica of a boat and a pair of mittens knit with local handspun. To me, this looked like any typical Scandinavian mitten pattern.
The thumb gusset was typical Norwegian style as well as the palm pattern.
I took lots and lots of photos of 'lopapeysur'. This one had a floral pattern.
In another shop, thick socks were available for sale.
I was very interested in the colours that were used.
At souvenir shops along the way, items from knitters from that particular region were on display.
There were sweaters for children and adults.

I liked the horse theme.
The locally-knitted items had tags affixed with the knitter's name, kind of wool that was used and the price.
This feather and fan scarf knit with Lopi Einband yarn (single ply laceweight) was priced at $175 Canadian ($132 USD).
I continued to take pics of different patterns I'd see
This was a child's knitted dress at one of the souvenir shops.

This cardigan had clouds, whale tails, snow-capped mountains, and dogs on the yoke.
This is one of the iconic sheep designs.
This was a small blanket - possibly for a baby carriage.
At one of our stops, I found two Baa-ble hats (from last year's Shetland Wool Week pattern)

I really wish I had brought the one I made last year. (pictured below)
These mittens had a 'star' decrease for the tips.
I liked these silhouettes.

I took some of these shots so I could chart them when I got home.
Puffin hats were popular items. Unfortunately, they migrate from Iceland in mid-August so we didn't see any real ones.
These mitts were for sale at the airport.
There were lots of knitted items in the Duty Free Shop.
This was one of the few fingering weight sweaters I saw for sale. It was very lightweight and knit with a very large gauge. I liked that it had buttons rather than a zipper.
This geometric yoke was not typical of ones I saw in other areas.
This combination of colours was also unusual.
 The Duty Free shop at the airport was the only place I saw laceweight kits for sale.
 This sweater kit was in quite a small box but it contained about 16 balls of the Einband (single ply) yarn.
I didn't buy a single souvenir in Iceland. Skip bought a couple of tea linen tea towels for our collection and a t-shirt. Somehow we managed to spend lots of money anyway - mostly on food and drink that wasn't covered by our tour and cruise.

What got me interested in going to Iceland was finding out about Laura Nelkin's knitting tour that was scheduled for this September. I hemmed and hawed about going and decided not to as Skip very much wanted to go there as well. We were very fortunate that the Iceland Pro Cruises trip came along.

Here's a blog post of Laura's about the sheep industry from her first trip to Iceland in 2012. And here's the info on the upcoming one in March 2017. Now that I've had another look at the itinerary, I realize Skip and I visited most of the places on her tour so probably won't return for a knitting trip. However, if you've always wanted to do a knitting tour of Iceland, this one of Laura's looks really good and I would encourage you to 'go for it'. Hélène Magnússon also has several knitting tours that look very interesting as well.

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