So, despite our Icelandic misadventures, Louisa and I had a brilliant time in gorgeous Iceland. It really is a place like no other – there are only 320,000 inhabitants of the country, making it only a little bit more populated than Preston, but across 40,000 square miles, rather than Preston’s 55.
Iceland’s landscape is impressive and constantly changing – in the space of a half-hour drive, you’ll be traversing over volcanic terrain that looks like the surface of the moon, and suddenly you’ll see waterfalls and glaciers, black beaches, and creamy blue, geothermal lagoons. Totally amazing!
One of the most obvious avenues for creativity and crafting in Iceland is anything wool-based – I saw lots of lovely, fluffy-looking sheep on the South-coast of the island, which produce gorgeous Icelandic wool, available in lots of shops in Reykjavik. I also found lots of handmade felt items and, of course, dozens of varieties of the eponymous Nordic sweater! Icelandic wool is unlike any other natural yarn in the world – due to Iceland’s geographic isolation, the sheep here have evolved differently, to produce a rain-repellant, highly insulating, lightweight and breathable yarn. The most well-known brand is Lopi. I read on Cookie A‘s blog that you can actually visit the factory, which I’ll definitely have to do on my next visit!
Unfortunately, after our car getting totally totalled early on in the trip, I didn’t get an opportunity to visit the craft shops which were kindly recommended to me by UKCityCrafter– but I did find plenty of creative places in central Reykjavik that I could get to on one good and one rather wobbly foot.
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Reykjavik soon, then you’ll soon discover that you would be hard-pushed not to discover a craft shop – the streets are bursting with creative outlets, from ceramics to hand-made jewellery, from really interesting vintage clothes to knitted garments and home furnishings. Here are just a few that we visited in an afternoon:
Kolaportid Flea Market, Tryggvagotu 19, Reykjavik Harbour, 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday
Even the novice rummager is bound to find a bargain here – I saw intricate lava jewellery being handmade by artists, perused vintage maps of Iceland, and browsed rail upon rail of Nordic knitwear amongst the hundreds of stalls at this weekly flea market. A word to the wise, stock up on Icelandic Krona before going, as the ATM queue has to be seen to be believed. One thing in particular caught my eye – a vintage, hand-embroidered table runner in beautiful, fresh, Spring colours. You can see a swatch of it folded up in the picture above, but the full item is 48×16 inches in size. Expecting it to cost me at least an arm and a leg, I cautiously queried the price, and was astonished when the stall-holder said it was just 500ISK – around £2.50. Ker-ching!
The Nordic Store, Laekjargata 2, Reykjavik – this place is quite pricey (and get used to it – this is Iceland!) but you can buy the best that the country has to offer here – again, beautiful knitwear, but much of it was in a more modern style which I completely fell in love with. The Nordic Store also sells oils, creams and potions from the famous Blue Lagoon, as well as unique jewellery items made from lava and silver. The store had a great selection of Lopi colours, so I bought a few which complemented my fleamarket find. Wool is the only product I found all weekend which didn’t break the bank – even at the Nordic Store, Lopi was 360 Icelandic Krona for 50g – about £1.80. Also, many of the stores in Reykjavik are tax-free for tourists, so by submitting your receipts at the airport, you have an additional 10-15% of the cost reimbursed. Bargainous! Next time I’m bringing an empty suitcase…..
The Handknitting Association of Iceland, Skolavoroustigur 19, Reykjavik and Laugavegur 53b, Reykjavik
The Handknitting Association stocks beautiful, handmade jumpers, scarves, blankets and even onesies, all made from 100% Icelandic yarn. You can also buy all kinds of Lopi, which is good as you are bound to feel inspired after a few minutes here!
There are simply endless second-hand and vintage clothing stores, my favourite two being Spuutnik, where you buy items by the kilogram, and the Red Cross store, where I bought a weird and wonderful Icelandic jumper, which is essentially two snoods looped together, in a sort of Mobius strip formation – it takes as much concentration to put on correctly as it does to complete a Rubik’s cube! There are plenty of great bloggers out there who have already catalogued the wonder that is Icelandic vintage shopping, so rather than duplicate, I’ll strongly recommend you to The House that Lars Built for more info.
As well as all of these awesome places, Iceland seems to be the sort of country which attracts lots of wonderfully creative and talented people! Almost everyone I met was in the middle of some amazing project! All very inspiring.
Staying at our hostel was American knitting designer Stephen West, founder and creator of WestKnits. Stephen was in the middle of creating a sort of technicolour dreamcoat out of various yarns, collected on his travels. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve borrowed the picture above from his website to show you what fantastic items he produces! You can also check out Stephen’s patterns here at Ravelry. What a talented guy.
I also met Jen from Burnley, UK, who had not only brought her crochet to get on with at the hostel, but in fact had also brought along her own handmade weaving loom! Now THAT is creative travelling!
Jen sent me a message a few days after we left the hostel, to say she had finished her crochet beanie – looking good!
After the drama of the car accident, Louisa and I decided to spend our last evening in Iceland doing some crochet – we were too shell-shocked for any more high-octane activities! This was Louisa’s first foray into crochet, but she picked it up straight away. Of course, the enormous tankards of Arctic berry cider from the hostel bar helped.
Louisa texted me this week with a picture of her progress on a lovely, striped scarf, made of snuggly Icelandic wool. I think we’ve got a natural-born crocheter on our hands here!
One of my closest friends, Julie, is celebrating her 30th birthday this week, and she utterly adores Iceland, so I thought I would make her a crocheted evening bag. I did intend to complete the item with a button made of lava, but unfortunately that was one of the casualties of our car smash! I hope Julie doesn’t mind the replacement. When I returned home, I beaded the primrose-yellow shells to give the bag a bit of birthday sparkle.
I guess I’ve written quite a lot, considering we were only there for 3 nights! My bank balance is going to need a bit of TLC after the trip, but then it will be going into intensive training so that I can afford to go again – hopefully in the next 12 months.