We started this month with a love letter to Icelandic Wool, and we think it is only fitting that we talk about where most of the wonderful Icelandic Wool we knit with comes from.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Hulda Hákonardóttir, designer and Marketing Manager for Istex, here is what I learned.
25 years ago, Álafoss, established 1896 was purchased by 3 employees and a coop of 1800 farmers, it then became Ístex, short for Íslenskur Textiliðnaður, which translates to Icelandic Textile Industry. Ístex is the only wool processor in Iceland. The wool is bought directly from the farmers, collected from around the island and brought to the scouring plant in Blönduós in Northern Iceland. After washing, the wool goes to the spinning mill in Mosfellsbaer, just outside of Reykjavík.
I asked about the role of wool and knitting in Icelandic culture. Hulda said that knitting is a very important part of Icelandic culture, every kid learns how to knit at the age of 8. Icelandic wool is used by every knitter and is readily available, even in grocery stores alongside sugar and flour.
When Anna was visiting the mill in Mosfellsbaer last March a story really caught her and we asked Hulda for more details. In early September of 2012, before the sheep were brought in from the highlands, a terrible snowstorm crossed the country. The storm left over 10,000 sheep buried under snow. It took up to 10 weeks to collect the sheep from the mountains, many, unfortunately had died, but some also lived, thanks to their incredible fleeces. This was obviously devastating for the farmers involved. Following the storm a former minister of agriculture for Iceland, Guðni Ágústsson, spearheaded fundraising for the the affected farms. At the end of the fundraising the former minister contacted Ístex about doing a contest for sweater designs to honor Icelandic wool. The response was tremendous and 140 garments were entered into the contest. A fashion show for the designs was held and was so inspiring that requests began coming in to Ístex for the patterns, ultimately 40 patterns were published in a collection entitled Óveður or "bad storm." It is so inspiring when people come together to create something like this. Óveður is only available in Icelandic.
Photo courtesy of Istex.
Photo courtesy of Istex.
Thank you so much to Hulda for her time and the opportunity to share this information.
Photo courtesy of Hulda Hákonardóttir.
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