Friday, 31 May 2013

Knitting in Iceland

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
Rainbow-coloured unspun wool for sale at the Handknitting Association

I've just (reluctantly) returned from my favourite place in the world – the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, a paradise of beautiful friendly people, hot spring baths, smoked salmon breakfasts and midnight sun (not to mention delicious cocktails and homemade gin).

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
A pile of lopi sweaters, handknitted by Icelandic sheep. Or something

Icelanders just sort of seem to have their priorities right and, as you might expect in a country where cosy woollen clothing is a year-round necessity, and to describe the winters as long, dark and cold is an huge understatement, knitting is BIG here. 

The Handknitting Association of Iceland
The doorway to a knitter's paradise

Tucked up a side road off Laugavegur, the sweet main shopping street, on the way to the cathedral is The Handknitting Association of Iceland shop. Step through its humdrum front door, head to the back room and you'll be dazzled by floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with characteristic Icelandic lopi sweaters, each one a unique colour, pattern and size. Fashioned from Icelandic sheep wool by local women (and men?), it seems everyone in the country owns at least one of these super-warm circular-yoked sweaters – and what better place to buy one?

National Museum of Iceland
Mitten display at the National Museum of Iceland

The next day we paid a visit to the National Museum of Iceland. Partway through finding out all about the country's history and after marvelling at the rest room with an inviting single bed you can have a quick lie down on if you feel fatigued looking at the exhibits, we stumbled upon an area devoted to knitting. It was small and mainly consisted of colourful mittens displayed in a cute 'holding hands' arrangement. 

National Museum of Iceland
Hands up who loves these two beautiful pairs of embroidered rose mittens

Thence to the museum shop. I was so very tempted to buy these beautiful embroidered rose mittens but they cost 9500 ISK (£50) and, as I already have Icelandic mittens from my last trip, I made do with a photo – alongside a 'Happy summer' postcard, which I also regret not buying!

I have so much to learn about Icelandic textiles and I'd particularly like to find out more about the saumaklúbbur, or sewing clubs, that I've heard all Icelandic women belong to. If anyone knows anything about these, I'd love to hear it in the comments!

Bæ bæ Reykjavik, til next time!

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