My parents went to Iceland and all I got was this skein of yarn.
September 11, 2013 6:22 PM   Subscribe

My parents are on vacation in Iceland. I'm a knitter and they've offered to source out some yarn for me. What should I ask them to find?

I already know about Lopi, but I'm not a fan of the coarseness and I can get it here. My parents are travelling with another knitter who can tell them about yardage, weight, etc., and will probably drag them to a yarn store. I mostly knit shawls, baby stuff, and accessories (hats, cowls) and sometimes socks and sweaters, usually in merino or relatively soft yarns ranging from fingering weight to dk to worsted/aran (no laceweight). Any recs for great Icelandic yarn?
posted by pised to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Lopi is not a brand, it's basically the type of wool you get from an Icelandic sheep. There is such a thing as lopi laceweight, it is not as coarse as the lopi sold outside of Iceland. Other types of yarns are brands similar to what you'd find in continental Europe.

When I was there a few years ago, I found a hand spinning co-op type place and in addition to all the lopi, they had some neat buttons made out of ram's horn.
posted by stowaway at 6:47 PM on September 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Handknitting Association of Iceland is probably what stowaway is thinking of and it's a great place for your parents to visit - it sells a lot of finished products but also a ton of yarn (but only the main shop - there are two, so make sure they go to the one on Skolavordustig, which is a little more out of the way) and is staffed by knowledgeable English-speaking people who can help them figure out what weight they want and how much if they happen to get separated from the knitter in their group.

As stowaway mentions, lopi basically = wool yarn, and that is most of what I saw for sale in Iceland (besides non-Icelandic imports), although it does come in varying weights. They will be able to handle the yarn in the Handknitting Association shop (it's not hidden behind a counter or anything), so if you just tell them "as soft as possible" it will not be a problem for them to feel it out, so to speak. Knitting with unspun yarn ("plotulopi") is a really fun and interesting experience, and that is hard to find outside of Iceland, so I might recommend having them pick up some for you. I'm not sure it counts as soft, though.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:20 PM on September 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's still lopi so you still might find it too coarse to tempt your interest, but Guðrún Bjarnadóttir is a botanist who hand-dyes yarn with lichens and various Icelandic plants, which would be a neat souvenir. Her yarn brand is called Hespa.
posted by bewilderbeast at 7:52 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's a post from Franklin (of The Panopticon) about yarn in Icelandic grocery stores (near the dairy section). There's a picture of the plötulopi that posadnitsa was talking about.

Here's a post from another blogger about a yarn shop called Nálin in Reykjavik that your parents could check out. She does mention it's mostly wool, but like posadnitsa mentions they could ask to touch the wools and see if there are any softer ones.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:08 PM on September 11, 2013

I was so excited when I came across grocery store yarn in Iceland. You can get your skyr, licorice, and yarn all in one go.

The coolest things, though, were the giant wheels of wool you can get at yarn stores. You can see them in hurdy gurdy girl's first link. The ones I saw were either sport or fingering weight, and the woman I bought mine from told me how she would sort of twist separate strands together by hand as she knitted so she had a heavier weight yarn when she made sweaters. It was unmarked, so I have no idea what it was.

The lopi I saw in Iceland came in a billion different varieties you can't get outside the country. And it was a dream to knit with. Just in case you change your mind.
posted by topoisomerase at 11:11 PM on September 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not yarn, but you might also get them to pick up a classic Viking-style bone needle. There are some pretty cool single-needle stitches you can learn with those. :-)
posted by gohabsgo at 6:15 AM on September 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

It wasn't the Handknitting Association of Iceland store that I was thinking of - the place I went was not in Rekjavik but the bigger point is that wool is everywhere in Iceland!

One more thing I thought of - consider asking them for a handknit souvenir item. More costly than yarn, but as a knitter I know I appreciate those things a lot. Sometimes it's nice to have a wonderful handmade good that I didn't have to fuss over myself!
posted by stowaway at 8:37 PM on September 12, 2013

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