10 March 2014

Iceland


Two weeks ago, I had an incredible experience. I went to Iceland. There is so much to say about this amazing country. I was deeply moved by the wild ruggedness and subtle colours of its landscapes. We went horse-riding, geysir-watching, snowmobiling, blue-lagooning, aurora-hunting. We were actually very lucky to witness the northern lights on three different occasions, one of which was particularly breath-taking. It is not easy to capture this elusive natural phenomenon on camera, but I did my best:


We stayed in Reykjavik, the most peaceful capital city I have ever been to, due to its small size. But Reykjavik certainly has huge creativity. As a colour lover, I naturally fell for the brightly-painted houses that dot the city:


Not to mention the ever present street art, after which you will never see a graffiti in the same way. I've borrowed the following photos from here, as my own pictures didn't do the art any justice:



Aren't these mind-blowing? And they are everywhere in the city. Everywhere you walk, you're bound to see some art, either right in your face, or hidden in a dark corner. There was one near the flat we were staying at which showed a colourful piece of knitting in progress with the statement: "Art, Craft, Daft". Why I didn't take a picture of it is simply beyond me at this stage.

Which swiftly brings me to my point: yarn! For Icelandic people are dead serious about their yarn. They are so serious about it that apparently, children are taught knitting at school! The reason for this is obviously the very harsh winters and the particular breed of sheep that has evolved from the first specimens brought by the Vikings in the 9th century AD.


As you can see, they are brillantly equipped to withstand cold temperatures and freezing winds. They have a dual coat, the outer one called "tog", which is coarse and water-repellent, and an inner one called "Þel" (roughly pronounced "thel"), which is highly insulating. The two layers are combined through roving into "lopi", the characteristic icelandic unspun wool, usually arranged in yarn cakes:


In this picture, found here, you can clearly see the different natural shades of the wool. It can then be sold like this or lightly spun and/or dyed for a different feel.

With wool being such a major aspect of Iceland, knitwear is found in many shops and of course in every tourist shop as souvenirs, especially in the form of the famous icelandic jumper with its characterisc circular fairisle patterns, as in this photo by gunnisal:


You'll find other knit products, such as blankets, hats, scarves and gloves, talking about which, I tried to find a pair to protect my freezing fingers. I have very small hands, and predictably, all adult sizes were too big for me. But try as I might, I could not find children-sized gloves. All I could find were mittens, but no gloves. So, I decided to make do with the cheap acrylic gloves I'd brought with me and to subsequently crochet myself a pair of made-to-measure gloves with the mountain of icelandic wool I bought during the trip. On the main shopping street in Reykjavik, there is a yarn store called Storkurinn, which interestingly sells more Rowan yarn than I have ever seen in the UK, even at Liberty's. But in one corner, there is one full shelving of dyed and undyed Lopi yarn.


Ah, bliss! I must have spent a good half hour oohing and aahing in front of all the gorgeous colours available and choosing them. With precious input from my long-suffering other half, I bagged 18 balls in eight different colours, with no clear idea of what  I would make with them (of course!). Later, I laid them all out at our little Reykjavik rented flat and took in all their gorgeousness once again.


Just look at all this colourful yarny goodness. I can't wait to start working with it. The gloves will be first, but I have a couple of other projects in mind, which I will keep you posted about. :)

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