Saturday, August 14, 2010

Iceland- Knitter's Travel Journal Part I

Iceland, with 120 volcanos and a cool climate, is essentially one vast lava floe.  Between volcanic eruptions, rock has little time to break down into soil...and as soon as things begin to grow, the temperature drops or another volcano erupts thus squelching the accumulation of an organic layer on top of the volcanic rock.  There are very few trees on Iceland, and only occasional grasses and mosses. 
trfpolledewesThe sheep brought to Iceland by the earliest Norwegian settlers 1100 years ago, therefore, had to be to survive the harsh climate and dearth of grassland.  Luckily, the Icelanders, also hardy-types, were able to stand even the scratchiest of wool to keep them warm.

As with a glass (Half full versus half-empty), there are two ways of looking at Icelandic wool...versatile and useful for many project types or, scratchier than hell.  The optimists' high regard for this unique wool type goes as follows: 
Regardless of how one chooses to think of Icelandic yarn, a knitters trip to Iceland would be made more complete by a visit to one of the Reykjavik shops run by the Handknitting Association of Iceland. 
.Inside you will find walls of colorful Icelandic yarns as well as completed projects ready for purchase.  If you wish to get a feel for the wool prior to making the investment, you can take a seat on the bench outside and give it a whirl. 


Should the prices be too steep, try the second-hand sweater shop on Reykjavik's main drag where you can purchase bags of yarn with abandoned projects for a fraction of the cost of new.  Finally, meandering in and out of the fashionable knit ware boutiques will open your eyes to the NEW fashions emerging from Iceland utilizing the local scratchy/versatile wool, including my my personal favorite: 

Love it or hate it, Icelandic wool has kept a population of people on a rugged island warm and dry for centuries.  It also keeps Icelandic knitters happily occupied and tourists just as busily purchasing...helping the Icelanders to overcome their economic woes:  a modern challenge rivaling the climatic and volcanic challenges of this country's past.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Norwegian Lace


I have recently returned from a trip to Iceland and Scandinavia.  Ostensibly to attend a family reunion in Tonstad, Norway (the birthplace of my father), I had an enviable two weeks to spend in the world's knitting hotbeds.  As I was traveling with my husband and 3 growing boys through countries in which every sandwich (however humble) costs $10.00,  a large slice of our trip for the budget went to food.  With every meal, I saw my yarn budget diminish...and so I rapidly became resourceful about finding cheap eats across Norway.  In Bergen (home of the $9.00 cup of coffee), I discovered a church mission serving up a most delicious and nutritious portion of homemade soup and waffles with strawberry jam for a pittance.  To further my delight, across the street was the mission store (locals donating family heirlooms ...most of which are traditional manufactures...for sale by the church mission to the public.)  in which I discovered this little delight.  While not knitting, I felt I wanted to add it to my blog for the purpose of sharing it with fiberholics as I have found no comparable designs on the web.

Photo Source:
IMG_2107This 7" square was made using a technique called Lacis...also variably called Filet Brode, Filet LaceDarned Net, or "nun's work" ( because it was often made in convents).  What is curious about this example is the typically Scandinavian motif of the dragon heads, commonly seen adorning Viking ships to scare off mythical sea creatures.  Lacis has been referenced as early as 1295, and there are multiple examples in the 14th century from Great Britain.  In a book published in London in 1908 entitled, "Lacis (Filet Brode)", by Carita, it was said that even at that time it was difficult to find anyone in London who could give lessons in this ancient technique.

For 28NOK ($4.00 US), I snapped it up and am happy to share it with you here.  It was, without question, the only bargain of the trip!

Incidentally, as a money-saving trip for knitters traveling in stores and second-hand sweater stores often sell bags of half-finished knitting projects (owners deceased?).  You'll be able to purchase yarn at a fraction of the cost of buying it new, and if you're lucky, you'll have a head-start on a project!