Back in the day, Lopi was a product of Reynolds Yarns, a company which is now part of JCA, Inc. But Lopi still lives, as a product of Ístex, the Icelandic Textile Industry, a company formed in 1991 to continue the Icelandic wool tradition and provide a market for the unique yarns made from the wool of traditional Icelandic sheep. Ístex buys the wool directly from farmers, scours it in the northern town Blönduós and takes it to the mill in Mosfellsbær, near Reykjavík. In addition to handknitting yarns, Ístex also produces fibers for industrial use in knitting, weaving and carpet manufacture.
The handknitting yarns, however, are what we are interested in at River Colors Studio. The Icelandic sheep produces a fleece with two types of fiberóa soft, warm, insulating undercoat, and a long, glossy, water-repellent outercoat. The combination makes a lightweight, breathable, water-repellent yarnóideal for an island nation just south of the Arctic Circle. We stock the traditional Alafosslopi, a chunky-weight (US needle size 10) in undyed natural Icelandic sheep colors, reminiscent of the white, grays, browns and blacks of the islandís volcanic landscape. We also stock Lett-Lopi, a worsted-weight singles (US needle size 7-9), in a huge range of colors for traditional Icelandic and Scandinavian color work. Using Lett-Lopi in colorwork results in extra-warm outerwear like hats and mittens, as the carried floats create a doubled layer of fabric. This effect can be increased by knitting the Lett-Lopi at a tighter gauge (US needle size 5-6). At worsted gauge, Lett-Lopi makes warm and colorful sweaters in solids and patterns. Istex publishes 3-4 books of patterns each year using the range of Lopi fibers, and River Colors has the most recent books, as well as the hardcover The Best of Lopi. If you decide to felt with the wonderful colors, beware during the washing process. Lopi contains a fair amount of organic materials so you need to make sure you clean your washing machine after you are done with the felting process.
Iceland has become a hot destination for knitting designers and writers. If you follow the Mason-Dixon Knitting blog, you may know that Kay Gardiner took a trip there last year, and has been on an Icelandic-sweater knitting kick since. There is even a dedicated company, KnittingIceland, that puts together knitting tours. If your budget doesnít permit a trip to the source, you can still be inspired by the Lopi yarns and patterns available here from River Colors Studio.