It was Christmas. It was that time of the year when the fine wines rolled out of the cellar, the seasonal Christmas beer stacked tall and the aroma of delicious food lingered in the air for weeks in every household. Not to forget, the Icelandic Christmas beverage Malt and Appelsin loved by kids and adults alike. Another thing that everyone is preoccupied with is gifts. It is tradition for families to buy presents for one another and have them wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree, to be unwrapped on December 24th.
She is a legend by the way.
My girlfriend’s mother wanted to gift me an Icelandic sweater. She is a legend by the way. She would have typically knitted it for me but she said she nowadays prefers leaving the knitting of jumpers to someone else and stick to knitting her signature animal socks and mittens. And she is bloody good at it.
So my girlfriend and I embarked on a quest to find me an Icelandic sweater. Trust me! If you are anything like me and care about every detail and aesthetics and wont make a purchase until it feels just right from the pit of your stomach; then you will totally understand that this was not going to be simple.
Upwards and onwards
I did my research and had 3 places in mind to check out. So the first and obvious store we went to was The Handknitting Association of Iceland in Reykjavik. What you need to know is that this place stocks not only sweaters and other woollen wear but also sells yarns of dyed wool from the Icelandic sheep which has its own unique characteristics such as being long, glossy, insulating and water repellent. So if you want to knit your own jumper, you can. More importantly, everything here is knitted by a group of people (mainly women) who belong to this knitting association. So it’s handmade and local. Love the concept! The staff was very helpful and patient with me as I tried a range of sweaters (high collar, low collar, thin collar, thick collar, thick weave, thin weave and a range of colours). Like I said, they were very patient as I left the store an hour later with no purchase.
The second location I had in mind was this store called Farmers and Friends also known as The Farmers Market. This store is exceptionally beautiful if you like autumnesque and understated colour palettes that evoke feelings of rustic woody terrain and an acquired sense of sophistication. The jumpers there were darn right beautiful but despite such beauty, I did not make my purchase here. They were all contemporary takes on the Icelandic designs which made them in many ways the best of both worlds. I however was looking for traditional pieces made out of Icelandic sheep yarn. By now I am sure my girlfriend had started regretting joining me on this mission but life is all about journeys and new experiences, innit!
So, upwards and onwards we went!
The third location was another designer store in Reykjavik named Geysir. They had some beautiful pieces but again they did not have the true Icelandic hand knitted authenticity I was looking for.
By now you might have realised that all of these stores are within close proximity in Reykjavik; And by now I had also lost faith in my ability to decide whether I want have a cry or not.
With my head spinning, I needed one thing right now. And it was a chilled beer. Off we went a couple of streets further into this bar named Kaffibarinn, which is an old and trendy establishment. There are rumours that Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn part owned this little gem back in the day. True or not, I highly recommend it!
Now that my thirst was quenched and my will to continue this search was slowly withering, we decided to head back to our car. On our way, we noticed this little gift shop – Cold Iceland on Skólavörðustígur. We decided to take a punt as the shop was on our way to the car park. They only had a few pieces, all handmade. In fact the sweater I chose to purchase had been made by a woman named ‘Solveig’. I like the personal touch. The sweater was light in weight with pretty traditional work around the chest area and made out of Icelandic sheep wool. On purchase, I also was given some paperwork to claim Tax refund at the airport. This was a result! The punt had paid off!
Now that I had found my Icelandic sweater, it was time to channel my inner Viking!