National Post (National Edition)
Many tourists who have visited Iceland have returned with a “lopapeysa,” (pronounced lo-pa-PAY-sa) a sweater made from unspun wool with a yoked design so distinctively Icelandic it has become almost a national symbol. They probably would have bought theirs in one of the Handknitting Association of Iceland's two Reykjavík with sweater-buyers around the world.
In Reykjavík, locals have become more frequent visitors to the stores, shopping for wool to knit their own creations, said the association's board president, Thuridur Einarsdottir. “We are staying home more and are told to use and buy Icelandic” products, she said.
The recent increased regard for the cozy and comforting sweater continues an interesting line in the history of lopapeysa: It seems to be particularly popular in times of upheaval. The sweater, whose yoke is believed to be inspired by the Swedish Bohus tradition and Greenlandic national costume, was developed in the early- to mid-20th century as people moved from rural farms to towns and villages, leaving women with less time to spin yarn. It first came into vogue during Iceland's period of nation building following independence from Denmark in 1944. It resurged in popularity following the 2008 financial crisis, marking a return to tradition and heritage in an era of globalization
The tourism boom that followed the crash saw hugely increased sales of lopapeysa — this time due to the swelling tourist crowds — but also an increase in knockoff and foreign-made versions. This year, to ensure authenticity, the lopapeysa received protected designation of origin status. Now for a sweater to be called an “Icelandic lopapeysa” it must be hand-knit in Iceland with wool from Icelandic sheep. To purchase a sweater or wool, visit handknitted.is. For patterns and kits: icelandicknitter.com.