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Article: Knit a Warm Icelandic Sweater

Knit a Warm Icelandic Sweater

One of the most distinctive sweater styles in the world is the Icelandic sweater.  These sweaters are unique in style and material, making them both warmly functional and beautifully fashionable.

Icelandic sweaters are usually knit seamlessly on circular and double-pointed needles.  A crew neck tops a round yoke which is knitted with color patterns. The patterned yoke covers the shoulders as well. A body and sleeves spring from the bottom of the yoke and are usually hemmed with ribbing for good fit.  The body and sleeves are often solid-colored, although sometimes a small overall pattern is used.   This classic style means your sweater will look good year after year.

Wool is the fiber of choice for a genuine Icelandic sweater.  Lopi is a lofty, loosely-spun yarn made from the wool of Icelandic sheep.  Léttlopi yarn is half the weight of Álafosslopi.  The former is used for indoor sweaters (gauge is 18 stitches to 10 cm (4 in.) in stockinette stitch) while the latter is ideal for outdoor sweaters.  This yarn is soft and water-resistant, like the hardy sheep from whence it came.  The Icelandic sheep’s double-layered fleece is adapted to a harsh outdoor climate;  a fine inner layer of soft wool accompanies a coarser outer layer which sheds water.  Your Lopi sweater will help you adapt to winter just like the Icelandic sheep.

To begin a Léttlopi sweater, use a circular needle large enough to hold all the body stitches.  The bottom ribbing is followed by the body, done in plain stockinette stitch.  At the armholes, a few stitches are put on holders at each side for the underarms.  Two sleeves are then knit from the ribbing to the underarm on double-pointed needles, again placing underarm stitches on holders.  The sleeves and body are then joined on one long circular needle, excepting the underarm stitches.  The yoke color patterns begin, with the knitter working in rounds through the shoulder and upper body, decreasing at intervals until the neckline is reached.  The sweater finishes with a ribbed band at the neck.  The underarm stitches are then grafted together on each side to complete a seamless sweater.

Léttlopi yarn is often used in neutral colors to make handsome sweaters in shades of brown or gray.  The yarn can also be dyed in any fashion color, so you can knit an Icelandic sweater in your favorite color combinations as well as the traditional neutrals.  Make your first sweater following a pattern or using a kit with the yarn included.  Once you are familiar with the style of knitting, you may design your own sweater with colors of your choice.

Yarn, knitting patterns, and ready-to-wear sweaters are available from authentic Icelandic suppliers such as The Icelandic Store.  Knitters in any country can enjoy this distinctive style from a beautiful island nation


Your post has inspired me. I am starting an Icelandic sweater with Lette Lopi. Many of the Icelandic handknitted sweaters I have seen do not look blocked. I just made my gauge swatch (18st – 24 rows = 10×10cm) with 4.5mm needles. Not sure if I need to block the gauge swatch. Un blocked with measures 10cm x10.5cm. Not I am standing at the edge of the diving board.


Thank you for the differentiation on the Lettlopi and the Alafosslopi. That’s what is missing on your website with your yarns. The universal assumed weight for choosing what to get for particular projects.
If Alafosslopi is Light Bulky (5), then Lettlopi is Worsted weight (4) style requiring a 4mm needle.
So what is Einband? Is it DK weight (3) needing a 3.75 mm needle or is it Fingering weight (2)?

I am very curious because I will need to order yarn and I am at a crossroads as to what is appropriate for what.


What size needles to use for icelandic lopi wool.

Heather Akhurst

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