Ode to Icelandic wool

Alex spinning at Knit Fest

I really enjoyed learning how to use the spinning wheel in Jóhanna Pálmadóttir’s workshop! I had been taught to spin once before on a drop spindle several years ago and found it so challenging. Though I still struggled, this time was much easier by comparison. I couldn’t figure out why….until I went to spin with some lovely soft merino roving I brought from Canada. I had initially learned using a similar short merino fibre and realized how lucky we were to be learning on the long and strong Icelandic wool. The mixture of tog and thel makes a hardy fibre that you can still put against your skin, and the lanolin on the single wash wool is what gives it a slick feel as it passes through your attentive hands.

After pulling out some hair I ended up mixing the merino roving (pink) with some Icelandic wool (white and brown) to create a 2 ply yarn inspired by Neapolitan ice cream. I’m not sure how I’ll cope the next time I spin without the help of my trusty Icelandic wool… good thing I brought home a whole bag of it I bought in Reykjavik!

Leaving Blönduós, I was a bit sad I didn’t get to see any sheep close up. I loved getting to pet horses and watch seals dancing in the ocean. But weeks had passed and I had only seen the sheep from the bus or outside farms on roads and hills at a very safe distance from their fences. Then, on the day of my flight back home, I saw some sheep in a farm-zoo across the botanical gardens in Reykjavik. We watched them from afar for a bit until one very fresh lamb ran right towards us! He brushed his little face against my hand and fed him some grass.

When I make a sweater from the yarn I bought and spun in Iceland, I’ll think about the cool breeze of June in Blönduós and the baby sheep that made my day. Thanks to the sheep for all they do for us fibre artists!!

Tiana Atherton, BFA Fibres and Material Practices, Concordia 2022