Did you know it's Icelandic Wool Month at Tolt? There have been some great posts about this wonderful fiber, and I'm really enjoying reading them. It inspired me to share my own Iceland/Icelandic wool story...
My father was in the Navy for 20 years, and I learned to embrace the term "Navy Brat." Travel we did, sometimes living in one place for only six months at a time, and a few times, even going without my dad for that long as he sailed around the world on an air craft carrier. Growing up like that wasn't always easy, but it also brought us to some incredible places. One of these was -you guessed it- Iceland!
The first time my Dad was stationed in Iceland I was just a babe. I don't remember it at all but for the stories and pictures, and the fact that my brother was born there. But later, when my Dad had the opportunity to be stationed there once again (and us with him) my parents jumped at the chance. Not only did it mean not going out to sea without us for months at a time, but it also meant getting to live in a seriously cool place. And this time, as my brother and I were both older, we'd actually have a shot at remembering some of our adventures.
The second time we were stationed there I was 10, and we left just before my 13th birthday. While we were there my youngest siblings (twins) were born... making me the ONLY kid in my family who was not born in Iceland. (Woe is me.) We lived on the NATO base, in a thoroughly American community. But frequent trips off base, coupled with an Icelandic "host country" teacher helped us to get to know the country in which we were living. We took two 'golden circle' road trips while we lived there, getting to know the island more thoroughly.
My strongest memories of Iceland are of playing outside. Our stomping grounds were old lava fields, filled with the holiest craggiest rocks and covered with moss. You could find the best hiding spots and tiny caves in those rocks. Imaginative outdoor play could go on for hours! Because of the midnight sun we would often stay out playing until midnight in summer, our parents finally remembering the time and calling us into bed, full of moss and grass stains.
Of course the cold seasons weren't quite as idyllic. One Halloween I decided to be a cheer leader and found myself in tights and the skimpiest of outfits tromping through a foot of snow collecting candy. But where else could you spend new year's eve night sledding down giant hills with the Northern lights as a backdrop?
At the time that I lived in Iceland there were no real knitters in my life. My parents, however, (as well as my German grandmother who came to visit) had a respect for the beauty and usefulness of that rustic wool, and clad us each in the iconic sweaters of Iceland. My Dad likes to regal us with how he teamed up with an Icelandic co-worker to sell the Icelandic hand knits to the Americans on base more directly, thus saving the Americans money while making the Icelandic knitters more money then they would have otherwise gotten for their hand work. Thanks to facebook my Dad has recently gotten back into touch with this friend!
Four years ago my husband and I traveled to Iceland for our last big vacation before we had our first child, who I was pregnant with at the time. Visiting places that I had not seen since I was nearly thirteen was mind blowing, and such a gift. While the NATO base is no longer there, the buildings themselves are. They are in various states of use and disuse (one of our old apartment buildings was gone entirely), but driving around and seeing the places I once spent my days brought back so many memories.
Going back to visit as a now - avid knitter, made the trip awesome on a whole different level. My husband knits as well, and so where other tourists pack their bags with beautiful sweaters, we packed ours with skeins of wool and knitting patterns. It was a challenging to keep ourselves in check, as wool is sold at nearly every gas station and super market there. (Oh what a knitter's paradise!) Upon our return home I cast on a Riddari for my brother (which is still yet to be properly photographed), and now have on the needles a very modified Riddari for myself. My husband made our son the most beautiful little Lopapeysa, which he wears often and will sadly be grown out of by next winter. The wonderful thing about knitting for children is that another one will surely come along and fit into it in the future. (Namely, our baby girl.)
That little Lopapeysa that my son wears has given me a whole new love for Icelandic wool. Toddlers wear their clothes hard, yet this sweater still looks as beautiful and new as it did before two winters worth of wearing (and worn it he has!) We have plans for a family photo of all of us in our Lopapeysa's... but we have a bit of knitting to do first. About 2 1/2 sweater's worth in fact!