Iceland 2016 – Where to Buy Yarn (Side Quest)

If there’s one thing that I don’t have enough of, it’s yarn. I started knitting at a relatively young age (some time in middle school). I was having trouble sleeping one night so I walked into my mom’s sewing room to complain about how I couldn’t sleep. Instead of telling me to go back to bed, my mom handed me a ball of yarn, two knitting needles, and a “How to Knit” book. I went back to my room and got to work. And so my love of knitting, and yarn, began.

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Knitting art on a wall in Reykjavik

I have a lot of yarn. And when I say a lot, I mean it. Every time I come home with more yarn my boyfriend gives me a pointed look, says “Really? More yarn?”, and rolls his eyes. I don’t see what the problem is. He just doesn’t understand that I have all of my yarn categorized in my head. Each skein in my stash has an associated project. I just haven’t started any of them yet. So when I have a new project I want to knit, I need to buy new yarn.

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This isn’t even all of it…

Prior to any trip I take, even if it’s just a day trip, I always search to see if there are any yarn shops on the way. I tried to do this for Iceland, but I didn’t really come up with any substantive list of shops. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough, but I feel as though the internet failed me. However, this made it all the more fun once I got to Iceland and was able to discover little yarn shops where I didn’t expect them to be!

Yarn in Iceland is like soda and candy bars in the U.S. You can buy yarn in nearly every single store you walk into. They even have it in the super markets! I was in fiber heaven! The most popular yarn in Iceland is Lopi wool. It is spun from the fleece of Icelandic sheep, which are everywhere, and makes for super warm garments. It is both scratchy and soft at the same time. This is because it is spun from both the outer coat (long, coarse fibers) and the inner coat (short, soft fibers) of the fleece.

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Mama and baby sheep frolicking on the Iceland country side

THE souvenir to buy in Iceland is a lopapeysa sweater. It is a traditional, yoked, sweater knit from Lopi wool. You will see these sweaters worn by both locals and tourists, and in almost every shop all around the island. Instead of buying one of these sweaters, I decided to buy enough yarn and knit one myself. So before I left for Iceland, I found a pattern and wrote down how much I would need. I also found a pretty shawl pattern that only took four balls of the most popular Lopi yarn – Ístex Léttlopi.

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Lopapeysa sweaters for sale

I ended up with 11 balls of yarn for my sweater and the four balls for the shawl – so 15 balls total. I also bought some yarn for my mom, too (+3 balls). Oh, and then Mike decided that he also wanted me to make him a lopapeysa, so that was another 11 balls. Oh yeah, and then I found a chunky yarn – Ístex Álafosslopi, in colors that spoke to my creative being (+4 balls). I ended up with 33 balls of Icelandic lopi yarn….and this was with me resisting the gorgeous fingering weight yarn that was dyed using traditional Icelandic techniques.

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My basket full of all the Iceland yarn
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Split up by project (clockwise from top left: my lopapeysa, for Mom, ombre shawl, probably a striped or chevron scarf, Mike’s lopapeysa

So, where did I get all this yarn!? As I said before, you can get yarn pretty much in any store. Most tourist shops carry at least a little bit of yarn. The selection in the really touristy shops isn’t great. The largest selections I found in Reykjavík were Icewear Wool House and the actual yarn shop – Storkurinn.

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Icewear Wool House had one of the best selections I found in the city. They had plenty in stock in tons of different colors and weights. I bought the yarn for my sweater here. I spent at least 20 minutes deciding on colors. They were all too beautiful! But in the end I just had to go with blue, because it’s my absolute favorite color.

Storkurinn, being an actual yarn shop, had a great selection of colors. They pretty much carried every color that was available in the Ístex yarns. They also had some less known brands that were tough to find elsewhere. In addition, they also had a great selection of European yarns that are tough to find in the states. I’m still kicking myself for not picking up a few skeins of Hedgehog Fibers. I hit Storkurinn at the end of our trip, so I couldn’t actually fit any more yarn in my luggage, although I would have found some space in Mike’s luggage…. Instead, I got some awesome locally-made stitch markers!

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A word of advice for when you shop for yarn in Iceland: be patient if you want to find the cheapest prices. I got too excited and bought yarn from almost every shop I went in to because I was afraid other shops wouldn’t have the same colors or would be more expensive. And then we stopped at a Kronan – basically a chain discount grocery store (think a very mini-Walmart). As I was busy picking out what flavor Skyr I wanted, Mike was trying to get my attention to turn around. Right behind me was a HUGE display of…YARN! All different colors, all different weights. And for the cheapest prices I had seen yet! I was kicking myself for not waiting! To make up for my folly, I bought more yarn – this time the Ístex chunky weight.

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I hope that this helps all you yarnies if you ever choose to go to Iceland, which you should, because it’s a knitter’s paradise!

Happy Knitting and Happy Life!

XOXO Dri

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