At the beginning of September I was welcomed as the guest tutor on Knitting Iceland's Knitting in the Wild North tour. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have been offered the chance to have so many amazing experiences in this stunning country. Thanks for having me!
We spent the first part of the trip in the highlands, hiking, bathing in the thermal pool and learning about the knitting traditions.
The Icelandic sheep roam loose during the warmer months, before being rounded up on horseback and returned to their home farms for the winter. Each sheep is tagged to identify its farm, but they have to be sorted by hand and we had to help!
At the textile museum in Blundos we saw many, many beautiful examples of Icelandic knitting and other needlecrafts. My workshop with the group had focused on fitting and shaping, so it was fascinating to see many of the concepts we'd discussed (short rows, seamless shaping, mirrored increases and decreases etc) used in the traditional jackets. These were knit in an insanely fine gauge (maybe 20sts to the inch) and featured details like this short row elbow shaping. There's a lot more to Icelandic knitting than lopi.
The Peysufatapeysa pattern (no, I have no idea how to pronounce it) in the first issue of Knitting Iceland's new magazine is a great modern take on these jackets, complete with a more modern gauge.
Iceland is full of places to buy yarn, including the supermarket, but we were lucky enough to see one of the more interesting yarns being dyed.
Botanist Guðrún Bjarnadóttir demonstrated dyeing yarn with Icelandic plants and lichens which she uses in combination with more commercial natural dyes like indigo and cochineal. She showed the effects of different mordants and told us more about the properties of the plants we'd found in the highlands. And of course, I bought plenty of yarn.
In Reykjavik I taught a couple of workshops with local knitters, I made them work hard but I think they had fun - I know I enjoyed learning about their knitting culture.
I learned that Icelandic wool really is the perfect material to wear in Iceland, it is incredibly warm and the outer coat of the sheep does a good job of keeping out moisture. Our climate in Scotland certainly isn't as extreme as Iceland's but this Lopi sweater I knit as a sample for the tour has been keeping me warm and dry here too. I'm wearing it right now in fact.
Iceland is a great place to go yarn shopping, but I also found plenty of other things to buy - there are lots of fun little design shops. It's been so nice to have reminders of my trip around the house.
Knitting Iceland are planning more tours of different types, and I'm not too subtly hinting at another teaching invite, so if this looks like your dream trip have a look at their tour page. I had such a wonderful time, and I'm pretty sure everyone else on the trip did too. A couple of the knitters on the tour own a yarn shop called Fancy Tiger in Colarado and they did an amazing job of blogging (it's in 6 parts!) about our trip, if my little glimpse has left you wanting to find out more about it.