Without sheep, Iceland would have been uninhabitable. When Viking settlers first arrived in Iceland in AD 874, they brought with them two breeds of domestic livestock, the Iceland Horse and Iceland Sheep. In time, both would have almost as much impact on the history and development of the country as man himself.
From the very beginning, Icelanders have found themselves engaged in a relentless struggle to come to terms with the rugged environment in which they live. While the horse served for transport and labor, sheep were the key to the nation¹s survival, providing generations of Icelanders not only with food but also with wool as protection from the biting cold of the harsh northern climate. Without sheep, Iceland would have been uninhabitable. Although the medieval sagas may have been inspired by deeds of heroism and feats of bravery, they also tell of the activities around which daily life revolved, among them shearing, spinning and carding ¬ skills and crafts which became traditions and altered little through the ages.
The Characteristics of the Icelandic wool
As a breed, the Iceland Sheep is unique -the purity of the strain has been protected by centuries of isolation and a total absence of contact with others. By the same token, the wool it produces has no counterpart anywhere.
Evolving over 1,100 years of exposure to the sub-Arctic climate, Icelandic wool has a distinctive combination of inner and outer fibers. The outer fibers are long, glossy, tough and water-resistant, while the inner ones are fine, soft and insulating, providing a high resistance to cold. A further striking characteristic of the Iceland Sheep is its natural colors, black, grey and brown as well as the usual white. Together, these create the distinctive look of Icelandic knitwear, one of the best-known examples of which is the Lopi.
The Icelandic wool is Unique in its composition as it consists of two types of fibers:
INNER FIBRES - INSULATING: Fine, soft, highly insulating.
OUTER FIBRES - WATER-REPELLENT: Long, glossy, water-repellent.
Together, these two distinctive fibres create a unique characteristic of the Icelandic wool:
Lightweight - lighter than most other wools, keeps you warm and comfortable.
Water-repellent - repels rain and stays feeling dry.
Breathable - moisture passes through the fibers away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable.
Textile production techniques may have changed dramatically since the days of the early Viking settlers¬ but the Icelanders commitment to quality and tradition has not. In our conservation-minded age, Icelandic woolens have an added appeal as a natural product created on environmentally friendly principles. Nature reigns supreme through the whole manufacturing process. Only natural energy sources such as geo- thermal and hydroelectric power are used in production of Icelandic woolens, while the sheep from which the wool is harvested still graze freely in summer, as they have always done, on vast tracts of virgin land.
The Icelandic wool quality symbol on a product guarantees that it is made out of genuine Icelandic wool.
After being purchased direct from farmers, the wool is graded by experts according to its color and quality, at sorting stations located around the country. The next stage is washing; where the use of chemicals and detergents is kept to an absolute minimum to ensure that the natural fats are preserved, leaving the wool as warm, light and water-resistant as nature herself made it. Finally, the highest quality wool is selected for spinning into the finest yarn before being knitted into a wide range of products. Patterns are devised by Icelandic designers, whose reputation for imagination and ability to blend Icelandic nature and landscape into their work has gained them international recognition. The distinctive patterns of Icelandic knitwear are as much a part of Iceland as its mountains, waterfalls and hot springs. Durable yet soft, strong but comfortable, Icelandic woolens are the natural choice if you want to share in the wonders of the unique country that created them.
Hand wash only in lukewarm water (30°C / 86°F). Do not rub or wring but gently squeeze the liquid through the garment. If necessary, spin for about 1/2 minute to remove excess moisture. Dry flat, smooth the garment out and pull gently into shape.
Note: It is often enough to air a woolen garment thoroughly, rather than washing it.