Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Knitting Iceland Part 5: Natural Dyeing and Spinning in Hyanneyri

Leaving the wild north of Iceland and Blönduós behind us we headed south towards Reykjavik and the Agricultural College in Hvanneyri. On the way we stopped for a magical lunch on a moss covered lava field.

The lava rocks were covered in layer upon layer of moss making it super thick and squishy. Upon closer inspection of the mossy field we discovered that it was actually an elf city! There were elf homes everywhere and carefully cultivated mushrooms and blueberries growing in the moss. We helped ourselves to some tasty blueberries and tried to go into the elf homes but we were just too big. Somehow April and Ysolda both managed to find their way into one and we now suspect they are really elves.

photo of Ysolda the elf courtesy of Debi Stolier

At Hvanneryri, we sat down to a class on dyeing wool using the native plants of Iceland. Our instructor was botanist Guðrún Bjarnadóttir who dyes yarn under the name Hespa. Guðrún showed us all types of plants she uses including mosses, lichens, lupine, birch, meadowsweet and rhubarb. She has all sorts of techniques to bring out the most vibrant colors including one method of soaking the wool in a dye bath of cow urine for up to 2 months! Mmm... Guðrún's yarns were amazing and she had a few different dye baths going for us to experiment with.

top photo of Guðrún courtesy of Debi Stolier

We were also able to get our hands on some Icelandic fleece at Hvanneryri at a spinning workshop. First we learned how to separate the thel from the tog which involves pulling the longer tog hairs while holding onto the shorter thel hairs by hand or using handcarders. Then we carded the raw fleece by hand and spun it. Amber and I each spun up all of the natural colors of fleece and plied them together to make super-cute barber-pole yarns of Icelandic wool! Our hands were super soft after spinning the raw fibers up with all of their lanolin-y goodness.

After our workshops, we were able to shop at the amazing store of the Agricultural College where they sell all sorts of naturally dyed Lopi yarn, handspun yarn and sheep horn and reindeer antler buttons. Amber and I spent tens of thousands of krona for the biggest yarn purchase ever! We have so much Lopi stashed we'll be knitting up nothing but Icelandic sweaters for months to come. Stop by and visit us at craft night to see our progress...

Check back tomorrow and we will introduce you to all of the amazing and inspiring crafters we met on our journey through Iceland!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You guys are TOO CUTE! I love it all! Amber! You need some of that moss for her moss collection ASAP!