Lopapeysa – the significance of patterns in the Icelandic sweater: introduction
So I promised a while back that I would publish my BA thesis about Icelandic sweaters for you guys – here’s the first part! I made my thesis about sweater patterns, even though I’m actually studying graphic design, so the main focus of the thesis is on the designs on the sweaters. I decided to publish them in parts, chapter by chapter, so that it wouldn’t be one big chunk to read. I’ll tag the parts with a tag lopapeysa thesisso it’s easy to follow the parts. This is the introduction part, and later on I’ll go deeper into the history and future of the sweater. If you have any questions or opinions on the way, feel free to send an ask, start a conversation in the reply box or reblog with your comments! :)
in other Nordic countries, children in Finland learn to knit in elementary
school. Like many other kids, I also made my first socks when I was about 10
years old – they were horrible and I hated every moment of making them. The
Finnish school system failed to inspire me to continue knitting in my free
time, but since those days, I have rediscovered knitting on my own. I made my
first “Icelandic sweater” in 2013 from Finnish wool (Figure 1) and got
closer to my passion when I moved to Reykjavik in the fall of 2015. As an avid
knitter and a graphic design student living in Reykjavík, it was only natural
that I would be drawn to the graphic patterns of the Icelandic sweater, lopapeysa. Ever since I came to Iceland,
I must have knitted countless of socks and mittens and a dozen sweaters from
different Icelandic wool-types and gone through a variety of patterns and
techniques. In my opinion as a knitter, knitting the pattern on the yoke is the
best part in making the sweater – it is at the same time very repetitive and
easy to follow, but at times challenging and exciting to work with. This lead
me to examine the work that goes into designing the patterns and how they have
formed over the years.
Figure 1: My
first Icelandic sweater, “Dalur” from the book “Knitting with
I first got introduced to the Icelandic sweaters, I thought the graphic
patterns in the yoke were the defining factor – but are there other factors
that are more important? In this thesis, I will try to find out what really is
the signifigance of the patterns in the Icelandic sweater and how have the
patterns developed over the years. Where do the patterns draw inspiration from?
How are they designed and who designs them? Have the patterns changed with the
current trends and fashion?
find answers to these questions, I will have to start from the beginning: the
material of the sweaters. I will go through a brief introduction of the
materials and techniques used to make the sweaters by researching pattern books
and publications about yarn production. Following the history of the material,
I will take a look at how the knitting traditions of the surrounding nations
have influenced the patterns, and how much of Iceland’s own tradition is truly
included in the pattern designs. As a graphic designer, the design process that
goes into making the patterns is of particular interest to me: what
restrictions does the sweater’s shape and material bring to the designer, and
on the other hand, what possibilities does it offer? In a world of blogs and
social media platforms, anyone can be a designer; this is why I will also see how
has the internet affected the rise of Icelandic sweater’s popularity amongst
knitters and how do people share their designs? Finally, I will take a look at
how the patterns have morphed from traditional into more modern adaptations and
how the sweater has made its way to mainstream fashion in Iceland and
have been a number of papers and research articles written about Icelandic
wool, sweaters and knitting traditions, most of them written in Icelandic. Due
to language restrictions, the material I’m examining is mainly in English, although
some publications like Sjónabók (a
recreated collection of the traditional box patterns), Ull verður
gull (the history of wool production in Iceland by Magnús Guðmundsson) and
others I had to include in the research, since they provide too many good
insights to ignore them. From the English material a big portion are pattern
books translated from Icelandic to English, such as Knitting with Icelandic
wool (introduction by Elsa E. Guðjónsson) and blog posts on the subject. Some
articles published in English provide great overlook on the history and tradition
of the sweaters, such as Nation in a
sheep’s coat: The Icelandic sweater (by Guðrun Helgadóttir) and shed light
on the politic history of the sweater as well. As I look into the current
situation of the sweater, I will also use blogs and social media platforms such
as Facebook, Raverly and Instagram to find out what influence they’ve had in
the sweater designing.
I chose this subject because I see many things in common with knitdesign and
graphic design: both diciplines are subject to technical constrain and constant
pressure on marketing, and both fields have a similar working process. Due to
the fact that this is a thesis focusing on the graphic side of Icelandic
sweaters, I have chosen to include many pictures. The pictures in the thesis
are shown relatively large, since the focus is on the patterns of the sweaters,
and no details can be spared.
I’m thanking, with all my heart, the Virgin of Juquila for keeping our family tradition of knitting. My mother and grand-mother were weavers and they taught me since I was little girl. Now my serapes, huipils and rebozos are most valued among the foreign tourists who buy them.
My mum is awsome at knitting! Look what she made me :D
(This is way funnier if you are Norwegian. We do have a traditional knitted jumper pattern that’s called the Fana jumper (looks nothing like this). But Faen’a is a swear word and(kinda use as “fuck”) so my mum knitted me the Faen’a jumper <3)
This is who you are, Lupa had told him during his first medal ceremony, nose nudging the fist clenched at his side. Own it. Let them stare.
And people do. It’s impossible not to stare at Lupa, with the proud tilt of her head, that fierce canine intelligence and the way her black fur catches the light. Shiro’s loved her all his life, and the day she settled was one of his happiest moments.
He just wishes that it didn’t always feel like when people look at him, they’re seeing only his daemon.
Lance definitely doesn’t like Keith. Like that. At all. No, really.
Meanwhile, there are shenanigans involving robots, fruit, knitting, and traditional Altean medicine. Also, the space mice are the true heroes of the story.
Nor Are We Forgiven by lokery(6k, Keith-centric so far, tragically unfinshed but it’s exactly the character-driven plotty world-building long fic I long for so I’m reccing it anyway)
Nineteen years ago, Emperor Zarkon’s most trusted general fell in love with a human woman. When the general and his lover were killed, Zarkon took in their infant son Kyryx and placed him with eager young soldier Sendak to be raised and trained in the ways of the Galran Empire.
So I visited my great grandmother today, and discussed knitting. She taught me the basics of knitting months ago, and today I had a finished project to show her.
This led to a discussion about the person who taught her to knit, and the fact that she “knit weird”. Apparently, my maternal great great grandmother was a practitioner of traditional Portuguese knitting. Most knitting- continental, American, Russian, Japanese- pulls yarn from the BACK of the work. Portuguese loops yarn around the neck, and pulls it from the front of the work. This means that unlike both continental and American style, purling is ridiculously easy- in fact, garter stitch pieces are worked entirely in purls, because purling is simply a thumb flick of the yarn.
My great grandmother went and dug out my great great grandmother’s favorite knitting needles for me- a personalized set of five wooden double pointed needles, that she carved notches into so that she could catch the yarn more easily. It was… interesting, holding knitting needles that are over a hundred years old. My great grandmother never mastered DPNs, and never liked them.
I’m rambling a bit, but the point I’m getting to is that-
I’m now determined to learn Portuguese knitting, so expect some weird posts about it.
did you by chance teach the zippy loom class this month? i had to and it was the most awkward experience of my life. i had one woman who finished in about an hour (good!! its not one of those 6 hour crafts corporate wants us to do in 2 hours) and she sat there for a minute, looked at her scarf and back up at me and says 'can i go now?'
We did that this past week. I had six people in the class and two of them seemed to be under the impression that we were going to teach them how to knit the classic way, so they didn’t buy the loom and they didn’t buy the proper yarn. The people who DID buy the loom only bought one of them instead of two and were upset that their scarf was not thick enough to be a functional scarf when I told them that if they wanted a classic-sized scarf they would want to buy two and combine them.
One woman up and quit at the beginning because she didn’t like the loom.
One of them didn’t get the part where you’re supposed to pull the loops over the knobs and just kept weaving the yarn around the knobs.
Everyone was confused with the way that the scarf began forming on the other side of it and not straight down like in traditional knitting.
Of the six of us, three people left with a complete project.
Christopher Payne has spent much of the past few years photographing more than 20 of the mills that make up what’s left of America’s textile industry. Three appeared to have closed midproduction, looking like soft, bright Pompeiis, the colorful yarns still piled on the factories’ floors after the doors were permanently closed; others continue to function, often with machinery and techniques valued precisely because they are decades or even centuries old. For more click here