Now I love a spot of alpaca, silk or cashmere as much as the next knitting addict. But there is something about wool - no nonsense, pure wool. It's unlike any other fibre - it breathes, it has enormous natural elasticity, it's warm, it can absorb loads of water before it feels wet - if we had invented it, the company that patented it would be seriously rich!
But it's not manufactured. It's not especially processed. It's cleaned, sometimes it's dyed, it's combed into order and spun. That's it. The differences come from how it's spun and the breed of sheep that grew it. And the really amazing thing is that we have relied on it for warmth for centuries. My family is Scottish. Historically, we have been wrapped in wool from birth to death and everything between. My ancesters would have frozen without wool!
All colder climes have their knitting traditions - based on wool. From super colourful Andean hats & sweaters, to complex cabled Arans, to Estonian or shetland lace, fishermans' wind & waterproof Ganseys, to world famous fairisle, and the intricate colourwork of the Scandinavian countries.
Like all of these practical knitted traditions, Icelandic Lopi jumpers are designed to be worn daily, to protect you from the cold. That is their function. And yet we are drawn to make them decorative & colourful to fight off the dark of winter. Our ancesters made them because if they didn't, their families would freeze. In our centrally heated world, we can make them for the pleasure of it.
At Unravel, I visited the Alafoss stand. I bought a single ball of laceweight wool - the only one left. I missed out on the jumper kits - they had already sold out. But I was intrigued, and signed up to their mailing list. A few weeks later I got an email - kits were back in stock. I headed over to the website, clocked the incredibly reasonable prices and a few seconds later was pressing 'add to cart'. As it was shortly before my birthday, Mum offered to pay the majority of the cost for me - so it's mostly a present :)
I chose the most colourful Celebration kit. Alafoss offer to switch colours if you want, and I tested that by asking if they would change the main colour from a natural black marl to a rich heathered purple. A few days later, my kit arrived, cleverly packaged in a zip up project bag, with all the wool I need to make even the largest size pattern and a clearly written pattern.
They did change the main colour by the way - how gorgeous is this purple? Yes I know I have a bit of a purple issue. But I like it! It looks good with so many other colours. And I accidentally felted my other purple handknit jumper. I NEED a new one, so there :P
I'm really impressed with the Alafoss wool, the ease of ordering and the quick delivery. I haven't started the pattern yet, but I will once I've finished the magazine commission I'm working on. It's a simple shape, knit in the round from the bottom up - I could add waist shaping, but I probably won't - with the yoke decreases built into the colourwork charts. There isn't any steeking or anything scary involoved. It looks like a nice satisfying knit with some colourwork interest added. I'll let you know how it goes!
Do you fancy knitting your own Lopi? Alafoss have very kindly offered readers the chance to get 15% off their first order. I'll repeat that: 15% off! Just enter the code 'happymaking' at checkout and the discount will be applied. The prices are already good - a discount makes them even better!
The website prices are in US dollars or Euros. I worked out the cost of the cheapest adult kit, with the discount, assuming a postage charge of $20 as $53.53. At todays exchange rate that's £32.42. For a 100% wool adult sweater kit that fits up to a 45" chest. The kit that I bought, with more colours is a little more expensive, but it still came in at under £40. The exchange rate may be different to the exact rate charged, but it gives you an idea of the costs involved.
It's a bargain! What are you waiting for? The code is vaild until june 1st 2014, so you have plenty of time. Why not take the chance to get a head start on family christmas presents? Although if you are like me, family can wait - this jumper is for me!