Online sales of knitting patterns for traditional Icelandic sweaters are growing by about 25% per year RÚV reports. The traditional Icelandic sweater, known as a lopapeysa, is a popular souvenir for tourists visiting Iceland. Now more and more of its fans are opting to knit their own.
Lopapeysur (the plural of lopapeysa) are made of unspun Icelandic wool and are characterised by a yoke design – a wide, decorative pattern around the neck opening. The design originated in the early or mid 20th century and has since become a symbol of Icelandic national identity. “Icelandic wool forgives everything, you don’t even have to be good at knitting, it hides all mistakes,” says lopapeysa designer Védís Jónsdóttir.
Nearly one quarter of lopapeysa patterns sold online go to the US market, though they are also popular in Germany and the Nordic countries. Ístex in Mossfellsbær, Southwest Iceland, buys 99% of all Icelandic wool, or about 1,000 tonnes per year. Sales of the product have increased by 120% over the last 10 years. “Right after the crash there was a sharp increase in wool sales,” says Sigurður Sævar Gunnarsson, Ístex’s CEO. “This increase continued until 2014, 2015, when the currency started to drop. But there is still considerable growth in certain areas like the Nordic countries, in Germany, and in the United States.”
Védís says there are many reasons for the sweaters’ continued growth in popularity. “It’s a very flattering shape and it’s very fun to knit them because they are seamless,” she states, adding that consumers’ growing desire for natural, sustainable materials is also contributing to the lopapeysa pattern sales. “This is a natural material. It isn’t plastic.”