Icelandic-From The Land Of Fire And Ice

Sheep Originally uploaded by lydurs

During the 80’s I had a coat made of Icelandic wool. I’ll never forget it. Warm, but the loose knitting allowed the wind to go right through. Not practical for an Indiana winter.

During that same time frame the first flock of Icelandics were imported into Canada. They eventually made their way into the United States and today you find many farms offering fleeces for eager spinners.

The sheep is related to shetland and the other Northern short-tailed breeds. The raw fleece smells very much like like the shetland fleeces I have handled. Unlike the shetland, it always has a double coat.

The coats consists of the coarser tog and the finer thel. Lopi (also called lyppa) is a roving that contains both the tog and thel. In the US what is called lopi may or may not actually be lopi. I know one supplier who’s yarn called “Lopi” is actually a bulky 12 ply yarn. I know Schoolhouse Press carries lopi. They call it Unspun Icelandic.

Traditionally everyday working clothes were made of a spun combination of the two fibers then felted to size (something my coat really needed!). The tog which ranges from 50-53 count was used for sails, rope, sewing thread, belts, rugs and other things that would have heavy wear or abrasion. The thel (65-70 count) was spun into yarns for undergarments, baby items, and socks. Just as a point of comparison Merino has a count anywhere from 60 to over 90.

Tog and Thel can be separated by the use of single row “Viking” combs. Blending would be best by using carders. The fleece can be quite long so it may be difficult to drum card.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Abbott who’s book The Icelandic Fleece: A Fibre for All Reasons provided the bulk of the information in this post.

Iceland is one of the many places I would like to visit. The combination of geology and traditional crafts pull me northward. However I think I’ll pass on some of the island’s more exotic cuisine, like the putrid shark.


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