From the 16th century and well into the 20th, home knitting was a vital part of survival, and was done by men as well as women. Knitting provided warm clothing in the cold climate, and the surplus could be sold abroad. But a lot has changed since Icelanders lived in turf houses, where their entire economy was based on fish and lived under the Danish crown. In the latter part of the 20th century, knitting became more of a hobby and was even for a period of time considered outdated and old-fashioned.
However, knitting in Iceland has undergone many changes in the last decade or so. More and more people have started to knit and homemade woollen goods can be seen everywhere - sweaters, mittens, hats, shawls - you name it, it’s out there again! Suddenly at the beginning of the 21st century, knitting has become trendy and hip again. Young people wear woollen sweaters under their jackets when going out on a Saturday night and a homemade hat or mittens are just as fashionable an accessory as the latest trend from Calvin Klein. Designers from all over Iceland, both men and women, are now experimenting with wool and knitting, which means there is a whole lot of variety available, from modern versions of the traditional classic woollen sweater to obscure combinations of colour, patterns and methods that look more like a piece from Salvador Dali than something one might actually wear!
Knitting is one of the most popular crafts in Iceland and because of its popularity, everyone has their own opinion about it. Knitting magazines and books abound and big and small craft shows are held regularly around the country, where knitters of all ages come together to share their work with others and exchange ideas. The general interest and widespread popularity of knitting creates a vibrant knitting culture (some might even call it ‘knitting mania’, since it is claimed to be highly addictive - once you finish your first pair of mittens, you are hooked!) Iceland truly is a great place to be a knitter.
When the World Wide Web invaded our lives, knitting went online. In 2009, two knitting addicts came together and established the website, ‘Knitting Iceland’, an online magazine where you can buy knitting patterns by independent designers and knitting kits or you can even book one of the company’s knitting tours! The homepage is clear cut, easy to use and tastefully designed. The main focus of Knitting Iceland, aside from selling patterns, is to offer knitting tours to Iceland where knitters get a unique opportunity to delve into the rich local knitting scene. The knitting tours combine sightseeing, hiking and museum visits with knitting as well as classes where participants learn techniques embedded deep in the Icelandic knitting tradition. In addition, Knitting Iceland takes you to see local knitters and ‘yarnies’ and of course, provides experienced teachers and guides. This perfect combination of craft, nature and culture provides a superb and inspiring choice for knitting enthusiasts who want to combine their love of yarn and needles with traveling and culture.
The first tours took place in 2010 and were an instant success, so the schedule for the upcoming tours in winter 2010 and in 2011 is now ready. The tour will include, for example, a luxurious spa tour, two hiking tours, a retreat for knitters and their kids, and a tour that goes all the way to the Faroe Islands. Each tour features a renowned guest teacher, some of whom are even superstars in the knitting world. So there is a lot to choose from for all knitting enthusiasts who are planning to go to Iceland next summer. Knitting Iceland also offers a walking tour in Reykjavik’s city centre, where participants are taken deep into the buzzing world of Icelandic knitting, going from shop to shop to meet designers and get a taste of the Icelandic knitting culture in a nutshell. Tour participants are welcome to keep up with the latest trends in Icelandic knitting by dropping in on the Knitting Iceland homepage every now and then.
The web ‘zine’ has a good variety of patterns for sweaters, shawls, doll outfits and mittens. The aim of the ‘zine’ is to publish patterns by independent designers, from Iceland and elsewhere, thus bringing the Icelandic influence to knitters all over the world. All patterns are sold for moderate prices as PDF downloads. Every pattern features an interesting background story that is in some way or another related to Iceland. Good directions as well as a handful of lovely photos are provided. The site is available in Icelandic, English and French and can be recommended to anyone interested in the noble art of knitting. So, knit away everyone...
More information can be found on www. knittingiceland.com