All About Icelandic Wool Sweaters - The Famous Lopapeysa
The best souvenir you can pick up while in Iceland is quite probably the Icelandic Wool Sweater, which is in Icelandic called Lopapeysa. These beautifully patterned sweaters might seem a bit thick to begin with but once you try them on you will realize that they are somehow the most perfect combination of warm and breathable. Rain, shine or a full-throttle Icelandic winter this piece of clothing has got your back, literally!
They are knitted sweaters made from Icelandic sheep wool and their patterns are actually unique to Iceland. You can find them in almost any color but the most popular ones are those in the natural colors of the sheep; white, gray, black, brown or beige. Lopapeysa sweater can be closed, open with buttons, open with a zipper and some even have a hoodie.
Why do we love Lopapeysa?
The Lopapeysa is for many Icelanders a symbol of hard work and resilience. We have been wearing them for many centuries and they have kept us warm through every type of weather!
It takes a lot of hard work to make them but once they are ready you are well equipped to take on Iceland.
The Icelandic sweaters are excellent for outdoorsy activities and many like to wear them while hiking, especially in winter as they breathe well but still keep you warm!
Do Icelanders actually wear Icelandic wool sweaters or is it too touristy?
Oh yes! We might not wear them to a formal occasion but from the day we are born until the day we die Lopapeysa will be on our list of things we can wear. Here are situations in which wearing a Lopapeysa is great/appropriate in Iceland:
- To a festival
- When exploring nature
- To a barbeque
- When going camping
- To a picnic
- To school/work
- On a road trip
- To any outdoor event
How do you make a Lopapeysa?
The old process of making a Lopapeysa was to rag the sheep to get the wool, then combing the wool which could take quite a long time and then, eventually, spin into a band. When the woolen band was ready the actual knitting began. The sweaters were always hand knitted and the fastest knitters could finish in a couple of days.
What we now call the traditional Icelandic patterns developed when more and more pigments started being added to the mix and the knitters would play around with different colored bands.
Today the process from the raging of the sheep and until the knitting begins is mostly done in factories. The wool is shipped in bags, cleaned, (possibly) colored, combed and spun in machines which makes the band ready for you to knit from. This final product is called Lopi, hence the Lopapeysa name.
If you really want to make your own Lopapeysa you can easily access the Lopi in handicraft stores in Reykjavík. The Handknitting Association in downtown Reykjavík is for many a holy place of all things relating to Lopapeysa so if you have questions or want to buy the material to make one you should definitely visit! They also have patterns for you to buy.
Some Lopapeysa patterns and recipes can also be found through simple Google-ing.
Where can you buy a Lopapeysa?
If you are looking to purchase a piece they are available in almost any of the tourist shops around the city, at the Kolaportið flea market or in the smaller farmers markets out in the countryside. Álafoss has been in the business the longest but they started in the late 18th century. A visit to their gem of a store in Mosfellsbær is a memorable one.
Fun Facts about the Lopapeysa
- Most of the Scandinavian Countries have their own patterns for their version of the Wool Sweaters – Lopapeysa and we can tell them apart in seconds!
- Icelandic Wool Sweaters, Lopapeysur, can be purchased at Vintage markets usually for a lower price!
- They can sting a bit so you might want to buy a turtleneck to wear underneath.
- Lopa in Lopapeysa is the word for the woolen band from which the sweater is knitted from.
- Álafoss the oldest Wool Store in Iceland has been in business since 1896.
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