The woolen Icelandic sweater is very important to the Icelanders and most locals have at least one woolen sweater to keep them warm when the winter is cold. It is a sweater with meaningful history:
Europeans started knitting close to 1500, nordic nations started knitting around 1600 and it’s about the same time that the Icelanders started knitting. Before that all clothes were woven in Iceland.
Soon after knitting became popular everyone in the family – both men, women and children – started spending all their sparetime knitting because knitting was an easy and fast production of warm and convenient clothing. It was easy to take yarn and sticks with you from place to place and woolen sweaters and other woolen clothes were a good way to do trade and make an income. The Icelandic sweater became an important export product but during the 19th century export of handknitted products dropped because of new machinery for knitting.
Export of Icelandic woolen sweaters started during the early 18th century. During the 19th century Iceland was exporting the wool, other countries, e.g. the Faroe Islands, took care of knitting and exported sweaters as fishermen’s sweaters and or Faroese sweaters. At the beginning of the 20th century the main export of Icelandic sweater as sailor’s or fisherman’s sweater started.
The golden age of the Icelandic woolen sweater had started. Women were trying to make the most of what they had at home and knitted and sold sweaters. The inspiration was old, traditional patterns but sometimes women got inspiration from other places, e.g. Greenland. The Icelandic sweater became popular for outdoor activities and skiing.
The sweater is also very popular as souvenir from Iceland and many travelers. Would you like to get one of these beautiful sweaters? Here are my favorite woolen galleries:
Ullarselið gallery in Borgarnes.
Þingborg gallery along the south coast.
Handknitting Association of Iceland has shops in Reykjavik.