Icelandic (Sweater) Saga
January 8, 2013
I’m all for this lightning-round blogging idea, but as anyone who’s ever tried to have a short conversation with me knows, I’m more of a long-form person. Not sure I can do it, but here goes.
June 2012: We went to Iceland, an extended family party of 9. We tasted many local delights, including the local wool, first glimpsed on the hoof.
Mother and child, from the window of the Ford Expedition With Extra-Big Tires in which we were bounding through the unearthly Icelandic landscape. (Best trip ever, but the lightning form does not permit searching for 6-month-old photos.) (Google it. Iceland. Scenic like you wouldn’t believe. Scenic enough to hush teenagers.)
Naturally I wanted to knit with the stuff. And I wanted to knit the proper Icelandic specimen: the world-famous lopapeysa. We saw many lopapeysas on the streets of Reykjavik. In June. On the young and the old, the tall and the small, the red-haired and the–well, there weren’t that many people without red hair. Lopapeysas are outerwear or, I suppose in the winter, they are middle-layer wear. Wandering around Reykjavik was like being on a Wes Anderson movie set. So many friendly wonders. So much un-selfconscious quirkiness and joyfulness. So much patterned, heavy gauge woollenwear.
My chosen lopapeysa: Riddari. I bought enough yarn for 4 of them, one for each teenager in our crew. (Not for nothing, but it’s an economical yarn; you can knit a lopi sweater for less than you can buy one.) The sentiment here: my dear young relations, as you head out into the largeness of the world, there is but one guarantee. If it gets really cold, or you are cast as an extra in a remake of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, you will have an appropriate sweater for that. Knitted with all the love in the world.
Exiting our Icelandair flight at JFK, I had two torsos and one sleeve. The plan: finish these two by New Year, so that Carrie and Maggie could model them and I could be Queen of the Internets. The boys, after all, are still growing; their sweaters can wait a twelvemonth. (After a week in Iceland, your English gets old-timey.)
The next step — I don’t need to tell you — was to leave these sweater parts in a tote bag in the closet for six solid months. I didn’t knit a stitch on them, or even think of them again, until I was packing to go to Omaha for Christmas. Then I remembered the beautiful fantasy of pale girls in Icelandic sweaters knit by their beloved mother/aunt/personal knitter. And I thought, of course it’s possible to finish these 2 sweaters in one week. I’ll be FLYING ON A PLANE. I’ll be SITTING ON THE COUCH. NUMBER 9 NEEDLES. All that’s left is 3 sleeves and 2 yokes–not a big deal.
This is what happened next. I knit the second sleeve for Riddari the First on the trip from New York to Omaha.
It was fun to join the pieces. I love this style of sweater construction. Bottom-up, in the round. It makes so much sense. All the numbers add up. Bystanders are impressed as hell.
I took off on the yoke, like a bat out of hell. With a sure sense that nothing could possibly go wrong.
It was going really fast. So much fun. Ann: I know you are a knitter, and that you understand Knitting Fun, yet still I must emphasize very strongly how fun this knitting was. I also want to thank you for teaching me, in our second book (even in a lightning blog we have time to link to our books), how to knit Fair Isle with the yarn in two hands.
Then something did possibly go wrong. When the dark grey skein ran out, I accidentally continued with a skein of the similar, but more brownish-grey color from Maggie’s sweater, and knit about 10 long yoke rounds before I noticed it.
Time for a rip-out.
And a bonus fitting session. Thanks to your two-handed technique, the floats never tangled, so it was a dream to rip out, if that is possible. I shed maybe one tiny rip-out tear but it was otherwise ok.
The mistake set me back almost a full day, but at least I knew for sure the thing was going to fit.
By Boxing Day I was caught up. Soon it was time for a flight back to New York. Knit knit knit. Unpack unpack unpack. Repack repack repack. Off to Long Island for New Year.
On December 30, at 2:30 a.m., after fiddling slightly with Riddari’s final decreases to yield a wider, girlier neck, I bound off, and tweeted a joyful tweet.
On New Year’s Day, one girl wore a freshly blocked, perfectly fitting stunner of a lopapeysa on the beach. One did not. In the all-out effort to finish two sweaters, I had finished only one.
But hey: I finished a sweater! My first lopapeysa!
In the midst of it all, I blocked and distributed a modest stack of cowlage. These are all Honey Cowls, and all holiday gifts. I’m still not done with the Honey Cowl. Or it’s not done with me.
Happy New Year all! My advice: start the year out with some exhilarating knitting that is out of the ordinary for you. It did me a world of good, that lopapeysa. I start 2013 with a clean slate and a renewed love of KNITTING KNITTING KNITTING.
Knitting is just the greatest thing ever.
P.S. It’s possible that I’m having trouble with the lightning-round blogging concept.