Saturday, 18 October 2014

ICELAND: Knitting and hiking in the enchanted north

There has been a lot going on in the 3 months since I was in Iceland with Helene Magnusson and others, so my blog is very behind. I'm mostly going to let the photos tell the story. I flew to Reykjavik on 5th July, from Edinburgh

Clear skies as I flew over the Forth
The tour was organised by Icelandic Mountain Guides. We met up at the Sunna Guest House in Reykjavik, an easy bus ride from the airport. As we all arrived at different times we didn't really meet each other until breakfast the next morning. 
In the group were  3 French, 2 Swiss,  a German, 3 Americans, an Australian, a New Zealander and me, with Helene (who is French but has lived in Iceland for a long time) and our Icelandic driver, the only man.
We set off in our minibus, handily labelled 'Knitting women' (I think!)
We headed up the West coast past Mosfellsbaer
 Under Hvalfjordur

one kilometre deep under Hvalfjordur
 and on towards Borgarnes, and to the farm and tree nursery at Grenigerdi run by Rita and Pall
Rita in her wool store

sacks of lovely Icelandic fleece

Pall with a lamb - and a gorgeous lopipeysa jumper

Rita and Pall's sheep among the birch trees
 Refreshed by  homegrown rhubarb juice, we may have purchased some wool as well as lovely reindeer horn buttons and necklaces made by this busy couple.
then we went a few miles further to Hespuhusid (skein house), the home and studio of Gudrun the dyer.

Gudrun in her dye studio

dyeing with lupin leaves

a small selection of Gudrun's beautiful naturally dyed yarn
 We had a picnic lunch here and some wool may have been purchased (but this time not by me, which I later regretted!)

The lovely view from Gudrun's house

Hvanneyri church

Helene's flock starting to scatter

the woolshop (Ullarselid) is on the signpost

I'm knitting one like this at the moment, but not so fine

the wool co-operative and museum at Hvanneyri
 A visit to the wool co-operative where quite a lot of wool was purchased (by all of us)


 Then on to visit a goat farm, which has the last remaining pure Icelandic goats
What can you do when a two-week old goat kid falls asleep in your arms?


Helene (with kid) wearing one of her own designs


Sue G in another of Helene's designs, with a lively little goat

 We heard that the farm was in danger of foreclosure, but thankfully it has since been saved by an online crowdfunding campaign. Such a lovely place where these unique animals are cared for and provide a family's livelihood should not be lost. And where would the Game of Thrones sequel find its caprine stars? (some of the goats from this farm were eaten by a dragon in the Game of Thrones film)
Some of these goats produce lovely cashmere

 Back on the road for the long drive to Blonduos on the north coast

The view from my bedroom in Blonduos - maybe not the prettiest but this photo was taken at MIDNIGHT!

 In the morning we walked around to the famous textile centre and museum. It is full of fascinating exhibits
Traditional wool shoe inserts - garter stitch intarsia

everyday objects like clothespegs

A collection of national costumes and these stern ladies in their traditional headgear

a room dedicated to Halldora Bjarnadottir including this lovely knitted blanket

meticulously woven braids

lots of mittens including several with two thumbs, like this pair

very fine handspun yarn in a gradient of shades

 After a picnic lunch we had a workshop in the textile centre's dining room, knitting with unspun plotulopi and working a sample for an afterthought thumb, to practice for our Skagafjordur mittens (like the black embroidered ones above)
the new museum building - it used to be in the old cowshed at the back

The Textile College at Blonduos

The shoogly bridge to Hrutey
That evening Helene and our driver made us a delicious Icelandic dinner, and afterwards we set off for a walk on the island of Hrutey, in the Blanda river
Geese lay large clutches of eggs on the island - it is a nature reserve - we thought these were old infertile eggsas there were no adult geese around

lots of wild flowers on Hrutey

Black volcanic sand beaches at the mouth of the river at Blonduos

 After two days at Blonduos we set off again, visiting the turf farm museum at Glaumbaer
The farm buildings are constructed of thick slabs of turf, under turf rooves

part of each building is below ground level

the turves are laid herring-bone style

everything was small as there was little space
inside were lots of the things used by the family in their daily lives, all made with great care and attention to detail
a carved spindle

I could use one of these to keep my spinning things in

the carved board on the side of the bed had a symbolic meaning to create privacy in a bedchamber shared by all

I use something quite similar for making skeins

Horsehair in different colours was spun using large drop spindles, then braided into patterned ropes for harness - probably for the same horses

examples of traditional natural dyes - including rhubarb, birch and several gallium species

this is where you kept your most personal posessions

and this is your personal dish for soup or stew, with a lid to be used as a plate

beautiful painted chests for clothes or blankets

interesting carders - one free and one fixed into a device with a long part you sat on to hold it still (I think)

mitten stretchers

absolutely huge stocking stretcher (and stockings) to fit a giant, or maybe a troll...

fine handspinning and knitted lace

wooden facades to the interconnected buildings

Tea and knitting (and yummy cakes) in the vintage tea-room at Glaumbaer, - Sue G,  me , Karen and Dawn

 A bit more travelling and a picnic in a park, and then we visited a tannery where they process sheepskins and make fishskin leather
tanned salmon skins

skins with foiled metallic finishes

Helene found a comfy place to knit!

 From there we headed to our next overnight stop, Hofsos, a very pretty village on the shore of Skagafjordur
 We swam in the public outdoor pool overlooking the fjord and lounged in the (very) hot tub, and walked along the top of cliffs made of columnar basalt  - I saw a whale!
 knitting  thumbs on mittens - workshop on the cliff top


Restaurant where we had an excellent dinner - and went back for breakfast next morning

 From Hofsos we headed further north, round the headland to Dalvik.
 From the headland we could see the island of Grimsay about 30km away, it lies on the arctic circle
At Skjaldarvik we checked in to the nicest guesthouse of the whole trip.
 and immediately took over the lounge for knitting (with a telescope for birdwatching)
Dawn and Sue E working on their mittens

 We went in to Akureyri, a lovely little town where we made for the wool shop and we may have purchased some yarn. Purchases were also made in a fab craft shop, and in the ice-cream parlour

I met these two in Reykjavik last winter! (the trolls, not the girls)

Midnight view from our guesthouse

 In the evening after a  dip in the hot tub and a fabulous dinner we had a workshop on the special embroidery for the mittens which we had been knitting since Blonduos, mostly on the bus but also in cafes, on the beach, in parks and just about everywhere we had been.
the d├ęcor in the guesthouse was full of interesting little touches


lots of upcycling and vintage, especially the black-bound books used everywhere

loved this chair!

in the grounds

Next day  we went to Godafoss, where legend has it the king threw all the pagan idols when Christianity came to Iceland (so they can still be worshipped beneath the waterfall).
A bunch of knitters - are they discussing a knitting problem? No, I think they have got chocolate!! Wait for us!!!

 Then to the Myvatn area, where we spent some time walking among the pseudocraters (created when hot lava flowed across the lake and the water vapour exploded upwards)
flowers amongst the lava

very windy at the top - Sue G, Annegret, Helene, Sue E and Dawn

 A short drive away we stopped for a picnic in a very flowery place
troll cave?

We visited a well-preserved system of sheep fanks where the sheep would be rounded up in the central ring and sorted into separate enclosures round the edges

the lava blocks are surprisingly light - and support lots of moss and lichen, although they take many years to grow

 From there we went to a geothermal area where we saw sulphurous steam vents which sound like jet engines, and pools of boiling grey mud, as well as hot sandy areas and steaming hillsides
mud pots look like boiling grey paint


We had a wonderful swim in a hot pool  - the Blue Lagoon of the North - with opaque milky blue hot (sometimes very hot) water and stunning views over an almost lunar landscape. A chill wind meant we kept as much as possible under the water, which leaves the skin feeling silky smooth for days. We were reluctant to get out but eventually had to make a rather rushed journey back to Akureyri to catch our flight to Reykjavik.
near Godafoss

sometimes the scenery reminds me of Scotland

Akureyri across Eyjafjordur

 Of course when we got there our flight had been cancelled - but we had plenty of knitting to occupy ourselves while waiting for the next one
Dawn, Annegret, SueG, Sue E (with tablet) and Helene

The francophone contingent - Patricia, Nadeige, Emmanuele and Laurence, with Karen and Beverley (hidden) behind them

 back in Reykjavik we had dinner in an apltly named restaurant
 And then went to the Laundromat (it really is, as well as a pub!)
Sue G, Dawn, me, Annegret and Sue E in Laundromat at about 11.30pm


Midnight in cloudy Reykjavik

 On our last full day in Reykjavik we visited the fleamarket
 where I acquired this very fragile but lovely spindle box, from a very anxious stallholder who wanted to make sure I knew what it was (!!!!) and would take care of it as it was made in 1883, in Eastern Iceland. I think I was able to reassure him...
it needs some TLC

I took Sue to see the steam vents in the city centre, and we browsed shops and cafes but no more wool was purchased!!! Just several books, some Icelandic moss and flatbread. I've forgotten what I thought I was going to do with the Icelandic moss - dye with it probably, but you can eat it too so that's a dilemma!
an appropriate name for my suitcase by this time

much prettier than a net curtain

mural with volcano, pony, waterfall......

Reykjavik's iconic church, from outside our guesthouse


 By Saturday evening most of the group had left Reykjavik. I spent my last night in a different guesthouse - thankfully just far enough away from the city centre, which is party central on Saturday night - all night!
another midnight photo

 I had time on Sunday for more sightseeing - and knitting! The mittens were finished apart from some of the embroidery, so I started a lace scarf in Istex Einband yarn. I called the design Reykjavik 2am because I found myself drawing up the chart for it at that time. It is almost impossible to go to bed when it is daylight all night. Maybe I could shorten the pattern name to Insomnia
knitting at  the Sun Voyager sculpture

great potential for a bit of yarn graffiti

 As I walked back towards the harbour I spotted a small boat approaching on the calm water. It turned out to be the boat that does puffin-spotting trips, and as it arrived in the harbour at the same time as I did I just had to go for a trip on it. Well no holiday is complete without a boat trip, is it? Also, we had a running joke about puffins which had lasted for days, instigated by Beverly and maintained mainly by Annegret (well, me too just a bit!)
Lundi is Icelandic for puffin

 So I set sail on the Lundi round two small islands just off Reykjavik
there were lots of puffins but this isn't a very good photo

 back on shore I visited the concert hall, Harpur, an extraordinary glass structure
Harpur from the inside

 Then it was time to catch the airport bus - at which point the sun came out and the lava fields of Reykanes looked lovely
And what about all the wool that was purchased?
Two kilos of Rita's lovely Icelandic fleece is still waiting to be spun - I want to experiment with separating the tog and the thel. I got four different colours so lots of fun to be had with that.
I finished embroidering my Skagafjordur mittens - they will be very cosy for winter being knitted in Istex Lettlopi on small needles. I still have a ball of the Lopilett left.
Skagafjordur mittens by Helene Magnusson

The lacy green Einband scarf (Insomnia in Reykjavik?) got finished at Edinburgh airport on my way to Shetland, and while there I learned from Ann Eunson the proper way to dress (block) a lace scarf, (so that is tomorrow's task. I'll add a photo later ).
I have two balls of red Einband still to use.
I bought enough plotulopi to knit a lopipeysa cardigan, which I finished just before I went to Shetland Wool Week (and was very glad to have it during the two days of gales). It is really warm but being unspun yarn it is very light - just over 500g.
Snjoflyksa by Linnea Ornstein - pattern on Ravelry
I only needed two-thirds of the yarn for the cardigan so I am now knitting Helene's Margret shawl with the rest.

The finished projects are on my Ravelry page
Lovely Sue E gave me two balls of a very soft fuzzy yarn which I think I will include in my next fair isle hat , having seen Felicity Ford's Shwook which includes some of her Granny's angora yarn. She also gave me a part ball of some very pretty sock yarn which might become wristwarmers.
The WOOLCANO has been tamed!!! (but I've been to Shetland since then.....some yarn may have been purchased!!
As for Iceland - this was my second visit, I went first in winter and now in summer, and I love it - the people, the geology and of course THE WOOL. I already have plans for a MUCH LONGER VISIT in 2018 - you have been warned, Iceland!