Yarn from Purebred Sheep? It’s Lopi! – Yarn University #13


Iceland is known for glaciers and hot
springs, the northern lights, and words that look like this. But if you’re a
knitter or crocheter, it’s all about ultra warm sweaters and pedigree sheep. Let’s
talk about the yarn! (“Pomp and circumstace”) BAAAH! Icelandic wool has a heritage of
millennia. The Vikings that settled Iceland brought sheep to the island in
the ninth century. Knitting has been a part of the
Icelandic culture since the 1500s and Icelandic sheep have been bred in near
isolation for over a thousand years. In fact, according to Oklahoma State
University’s Division of Agricultural Sciences, failed attempts at
crossbreeding led to a ban of the imports of foreign sheep to Iceland. That
means that the Icelandic sheep is practically a purebred! Hand knitting
wool from Icelandic sheep is called lopi. Lopi includes soft undercoat hair
which generally measures around 20 microns mixed with topcoat hairs which
measures about 27 microns. That top coat or, in Icelandic, tog makes lopi
coarser than merino and many other yarns popular for clothing. Icelandic wool is
an excellent insulator, it’s durable, and it’s naturally water-resistant so it’s
very popular for outdoor wear. Lopi is customarily lightly spun, unplied, bulky
weight yarn but today it can be found in a range of weights. Even lace! Its natural
colors include white, grey, brown, and black but it’s sold in a range of
beautiful hues. Because it’s so lightly spun, the lofty undercoat hairs bloom
which keeps out cold air when you’re wearing garments made with lopi but be
careful when washing and blocking because it felts very easily,
Icelandic wool is used in making traditional color work sweaters called
lopapeysa. Lopapeysa literally means wool sweater
in Icelandic. You can recognize these sweaters by their color work yokes
that are knit from the top down. While the lopapeysa has become synonymous
with the Icelandic wool, it’s noted in Nations in a Sheep’s Coat: The Icelandic
Sweater that these iconic garments have only been made since around World War
Two and the design incorporates traditional Icelandic motifs with those
from other countries. Have you ever worked with lopi before? Have you
visited Iceland? Let us know!

8 thoughts on “Yarn from Purebred Sheep? It’s Lopi! – Yarn University #13

  • Yes but it is to brittle to work as single and too heavy worked as double.. I am talking about the wool that is unspun.

  • My husband visited Iceland and brought back a sweater and headband for me. Very light and beautiful. I made two sweaters from Icelandic wool about 40 years ago, so I don't know what brand it was. I had fun working with the loosely spun yarn
    . My husband's sweater was solid color with "Irish patterns" (cables, diamonds, other fun stitches). My sweater has a "Scandinavian pattern" of a yoke. Our daughter was visiting and tried on my husband's sweater over tights, which looked fabulous. She said she's gotten a lot of complements and of course likes that Mom made it.

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