My lace like pattern that I have named "Olwyn" before going in the post. The illustration is my own, based on a Grimms Fairy Tale.
I romanticized Iceland as a teenager, obsessing over Sigur Rós and Björk, the Rohanian landscape and the Sagas and of course the belief that fairies live in the rocks, typical things. I began to knit Icelandic sweaters years later when I left living in the wide open country in Nova Scotia to go to school in Toronto. Picking from the incredible range of earthy colours to make striking sweaters in the round was one small joy I found while living in an alienating place. I was very busy as a Masters student and Icelandic sweaters offered a perfect, simple solution to unwind (and of course continue watching Netflix!). After a trip to drive the Ring Road, I came back to Canada with a suitcase full of Léttlopi and ideas for my own yoke designs. I loved seeing all of the lopapeysur in Reykjavík, how people embraced what their friend or grandmother made for them and what in my mind looked like original design after original design. There was so much originality in a fairly basic design, I loved that!
A collection of our Icelandic Sweaters that I have made for myself and my partner, Jamie. This excludes the ones I pick up from the thrift store for working outdoors.
My partner Jamie, wearing his Riddari by Védís Jónsdóttirthat I made from the wool we got in Iceland.
The little creative part of my mind didn’t see a reason why I couldn’t design my own when I returned from Iceland. I began sketching out my ideas in class… I imagined yokes that resembled the gothic spires of cathedrals, delicate lace, a forest façade and medieval tapestries. Predominantly inspired by traditional fair isle motifs and the ever expanding Canadian landscape (despite living on a small Island!), I began to craft colourful (or not so colourful) yokes. I don’t believe I really have a knitting mind, I’ve never done a swatch or tested my gauge, I’m easily confused by wordings in patterns which is another reason why I simple make my own patterns.
Since I live on an Island that doesn't sell lopi, I have it delivered to my house. These are the colours I chose for a medieval inspired tunic that I'm currently making.
I absolutely love Icelandic wool. My favourite is Léttlopi for its wide range of colours, its coarse yet soft texture and its ability to become both an elegant garment as well as one that works perfectly for labouring outdoors. Since I have moved to the country again and work with the earth, I have been wearing them more and more. The warmth and durability is perfect for working in our cold climate and I love wearing handmade clothing.
I find so much joy working with lopi. My sister and I run a small etsy shop because we simply love working with Icelandic wool and there are only so many lopi sweaters you or your family can have! My sister Meaghan is also a very creative designer and an expert knitter. She has perfected a number of our designs and developed our standard mitten pattern. We both love to make the mittens because it allows us to play with colours and create small motifs.
Simple, classic lett lopi mittens
Original mitts with earthy tones made by my sister and photographed on an old fort in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Atlantic Ocean is just below.
Today, I always have some kind of lopi knitting project. It’s my ‘go to’ wool and one I can never see myself without. In my house, knitting has moved beyond the TV. It’s in the kitchen while I wait for our meal to finish, it’s with my record player, in the company of friends and family and what is becoming my favourite, it’s in quiet contemplation. In my mind and hands, lopi is exactly as wool should be.
Julia Reddy is a knitter, artist and gardener living in Prince Edward Island, Canada. She runs an online knit shop called "Ways of Wood Folk" with her Sister, Meaghan, and Mom. Follow her at @woodfolkknits
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