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One of my quarantine comforts has been candy. Not fancy candy, but candy from when I was a kiddo—comfort candy. The sugar and the nostalgia help to soothe my addled feelings.

Léttlopi yarn is a comfort yarn for me a bit in the same way. For as long as I’ve been knitting, it’s been there for me. It was never quite sitting stacked at the checkout, but close. I always know what I’ll get when I knit with Léttlopi—it’s reassuring in its stalwart simplicity.

Good Company

Ístex, the company that makes Léttlopi, buys directly from Icelandic farmers and buys 99% of the fiber raised in Iceland. Dealing directly, and not through a wool broker, allows the farmers to make more money. Happy farmers raise happy sheep and happy sheep make the best wool.

Ístex has all of their yarns OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified, which means the yarn is tested for chemicals and substances that may be harmful to human health. The test criteria are globally standardized and are updated at least once a year on the basis of new scientific information.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

Everyone talks about how Icelandic sheep are dual coated and these coats are blended to make yarn. But what does that mean and what does it look like?

Look at this beautiful washed Icelandic lock. (Please note this lock is from an Icelandic sheep raised in the U.S. I love my readers, but not enough to import a fleece from Iceland.)

A quick look and you can see that it’s shiny at the bottom and fuzzier at top—those are the two coats. They are layered on top of each other, the shiny part on the outside and the fuzzy part on the inside.

Once the coats are separated you can really see what’s going on!

The short fuzzy coat, the thel, is fine, soft, springy, and airy—it keeps the sheep (and you) warm.

The long shiny, hairy coat, the tog, is there for protecting the sheep from the elements—for knitters, the tog is what makes Léttlopi a durable yarn.

Taking a closer look can you can really see just how different the two fibers are—long, shiny, and smooth vs. soft and smooshy looking. You can work with them separated if you prepare your fleeces by hand. I’ve read that the tog was used to spin and weave the sails for Viking ships. The thel is soft enough to wear up close and personal against your neck or other tender bits.

Two distinct fibers growing on the same sheep—wool is magic.

For Léttlopi yarn the two coats are combined to make a warm and durable yarn. It’s the Reese’s peanut butter cup of yarns. (While we’re at it, Reese’s are a fave, but have you tried Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups? There’s no going back.)

Twist Delicious

Léttlopi is a woolen spun yarn. The woolen style spin encourages the yarn to be light and airy, helping to trap warm air against your body. Because of the two types of fibers in the yarn, Léttlopi can be spun with a looser twist and still be strong. The looser twist does let the wiry-ness of the tog fly free, and that is what contributes to any prickle you might feel on your skin.

If you untwist a strand of Léttlopi, you will see that it is actually two strands twisted together. All of the twists are going in the same direction, so it’s not really a 2-ply yarn—it’s more a single-ply with a little more substance. It knits and behaves like a single-ply yarn, giving a softer stitch definition.

top left 4.5 st/in; top right 4 st/in; bottom left 3.5 st/in; bottom right 3.25 st/in

Léttlopi is the original gauge-shifting yarn. Even when I was a fledgling knitter (for me that was in my mid-20s), I noticed that I could knit it at a looser gauge and it wouldn’t collapse on itself. The samples in the photo are knit at different gauges. All four have structure that would hold up to making a sweater.

The fiber blend, the airy woolen spinning, and the frizz make the shift work. Smoother, denser yarns don’t do it.

The frizz, or halo factor of Léttlopi is a big part of making it a superstar shifter. The longer tog fibers are like little hands reaching out to each other, they connect and hold on creating structure around the air and softer, airy thel fiber, like the candy part of a Tootsie Pop around the chocolate. I have never made it to the chocolate without biting.

Loosen up

A looser gauge makes a more comfortable garment. I am not going to lie and say that Léttlopi is melt in your mouth, caramel soft. There is a prickle there from the tog fibers–the hairy bits. I will say, however, that Mary Jane Mucklestone is a genius for designing garments for us at a looser gauge.

When Léttlopi is knit at a tighter gauge, it squeezes the yarn and the prickly hairs stands up straighter and stronger, but knit it up looser and those same fibers relax.

In the photo the top swatch on is knit to 4.5 stitches to the inch (what the ball band recommends) and the swatch on the bottom is knit to the gauge for the Daytripper Cardigan, 3.25 stitches to the inch. I can see a big difference in the number of fibers standing up wanting to tickle me.

Thank you, Mary Jane, for a beautiful sweater that’s quick to knit and less tickly to wear. (I bet she doesn’t bite her Tootsie Pops either.)

Audition Léttlopi

When choosing colors, keep in mind that wooly stitches mean colorwork is softer looking overall, and can be really subtle if you choose colors that are close in value, like this green and dark grey that I love.

What about texture and lace in Léttlopi? Moss stitch looks textured, but it’s hard to tell what the pattern is—Léttlopi isn’t great for stitch definition. Lace stands fabulously wide open. Woolen yarns aren’t known from draping, so you won’t get swingy lace, but your stitch pattern will be crystal clear.

Looking closer you can see exactly how the woolen-spun fuzz obscures the texture stitch, by creating soft stitches; it’s hard to see the edges of the stitches. And that the same fuzziness that makes Léttlopi a great gauge-shifter also holds the lace decreases together and the holes open.

Now that I’m thinking about knitting my Daytripper in Tootsie Pop colors, I’d better buy a bag for inspiration.


Here’s how to save this article in your MDK account with one click.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Very interesting and informative. I can’t wait to knit with Lopi for my DayTripper.

  • I think I will wear my Lopi sweater to work today! And shed it this afternoon to garden!

  • A chocolate lover AND a yarn nerd! You’re the best Jillian. I love reading your yarn posts. Never remember the details when I’m looking at yarn, but love them nonetheless.

    • Oh, so true! It’s all in the details that I can’t remember. There’s a sort of comfort to know that others have the same trouble – a gentle form of misery loves company.

  • So interesting and helpful, thank you!

  • When I visited Iceland I saw sheep everywhere! It was fall, when the sheep are brought down from higher elevations, I just had to bring home some Lettlopi for a sweater. This article is fascinating.I had no idea about the two coat fiber. I now have Jillian Moreno’s Yarnitecture book. The photos are gorgeous. It does a great job of explaining yarns. I am inspired to try to learn to spin. Thank you!

    • Great & timely information. I have noticed though that the black Léttlopi I am using feels tighter spun (almost fulled) & less softness to it compared to the grey & taupe & white I am using. I am wondering if the dying process to get the black saturation are the reason? I am hoping the warm soak when done will do it’s magic .

  • It’s also very lightweight. I knit Jen Geigley’s Main Squeeze cardi in Àlafosslopi and for a big, long cardi/coat, it hardy weighs anything! And lopi felts fantastically;)

  • Thank you for this article! I Love Lopi yarn and Mary Jane Mucklestone’s designs-
    I have knit a pair of mittens from your Lopi Field Guide and am in the process of my Daytripper Cardigan

  • I had the privilege to knit a beautiful Icelandic poncho and 2 sweaters with the “original” Álafoss Lopi between 1974-1976 .The styles are timeless. I continue to receive many compliments, in particular, on the poncho. I will never forget the smell and feel of the beautiful lanolin saturation of the yarn, which also helped keep the finished fabric warm and provided secondary sensual delight for the knitter. Secondary gain-fabulously soft hands!

    I support everything that Ístex has accomplished to revived the collapsed Icelandic yarn industry in 1991, including employee ownership of the company and maintaining the breeding integrity and lineage of the distinctive Icelandic sheep. Nevertheless, this yarn is NOT the original Lopi. It is processed differently to eliminate the lanolin, which was part of it’s charm. Perhaps this improves yarn marketing to the accommodate the tastes of the modern knitter. I went so far as to investigate the rumor that exported Lopi is different from what is available in-country. Not true. (Big Sigh!) Please Ístex, give us some of that original Lopi. These young-uns don’t know what they are missing!!!

    • Thank you for your comments, Barbara. I also knit the original Lopi wool back in the mid-70’s and remember the feel of the lanolin in hand while working it. I still wear the sweater I purchased at the airport in Reykjavik back in 1970!

  • Nice article summarizing the wonderful versatility of Icelandic fleece! (And I loved the candy comments.) My one little nitpick is using “hairy” to describe the tog. This might lead some to think the tog is kemp fiber, which it is not. It is wool, just of a different type than the thel, which is what makes Icelandic fleece so versatile and beautiful. — Former Icelandic breeder

  • After reading everything I could get my hands on about Lopi over the years, I now have 4 beautiful balls of it. I feel like someone in a museum might feel when acquiring something longed for and finally having in their hands. I just keep looking and touching them.
    No on but a yarnie would understand.

    But can someone please tell me how to pronounce Lettlopi? My tongue is going to get stuck on some exotic pronunciation of it and sound foolish if I got it wrong in front of someone who knows!

    • When visiting Iceland a couple of years ago, specifically to shop at the Allafoss Lopi outlet (be sure to bring an extra suitcase because you’ll need it for all the yarn you’ll be buying there) I was told the correct pronunciation is “Yett-lopi”, rather than “Lett-lopi”.

      • I’m a californian living this year in Iceland, and the correct pronunciation is a combination – the L at the start of léttlopi isn’t silent, but the é has a “yeh” sound – so the pronunciation is more like “lyehtt-lopi.” and all of the Istex yarns are fabulous to knit with – i’ve spent much of this winter learning to knit by making hats and sweaters of plötulopi and léttlopi…

      • Thank you, Louise. In all my attempts to pronunciate, I never saw that “yet” coming.

  • Excellent article, as always. You have me all pumped up to start a Lettlopi yoke sweater! Will you check this possible typo, though? Two sentences after the “Loosen Up” subheading, you write “there is a prickle there from the thel fibers”. You meant to say “tog fibers” here, right?

    • Right! Corrected.

  • I love Icelandic sheep wool, and have knit with several types. Yes, a bit scratchy at times, but once washed and used it becomes comforting. My hubby+I had planned a cruise trip to Iceland and the Shetlands pre-pandemic but sadly, didn’t happen. I so miss it even though it didn’t go.
    Anyway, the newest guide book ‘Lopi’ will be an incentive to keep this wonderful yarn in my knitting.

  • Ooooh, lettlopi lace! Intriguing

  • Before reading this, was doing science class with middle school daughter. Also used pb cups in that discussion – cell size and surface area to volume ratios.

    She thinks we’d better buy a bag. For science.

    • A scholarly use for peanut butter cups! Hilarity ensues.

  • Just beautiful. Do you have a pattern for that pretty lace swatch? It’s gorgeous in that color!

  • Thanks for deconstructing Lopi for us, Jillian! That was fascinating. Especially this: “All of the twists are going in the same direction, so it’s not really a 2-ply yarn—it’s more a single-ply with a little more substance.”

    Now *that’s* cool.

    My Stopover once grew a bit in length on a day that was warmer than expected. I think that may have been an unexpected side effect of knitting at such a loose gauge. Body heat plus gravity! (I was traveling, with a very limited wardrobe.) But I washed it and it popped right back into shape. Such a great yarn.

  • Are there lopi yarns that use only one of the tog or thel?

    Btw. I live in Canada. Totally missing the Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups!

  • Bought some. May never use it since I have an entire yarn shop in my house, but you all have made me so CURIOUS and I LOVE the colors.

  • Any advice on how to knit with plotulopi? I have a large amount of the wheels in so many pretty colors and am wondering if the unspun lopi requires any special treatment. Would it work for the patterns in the field guide?

    • knitting plötulopi held together with a strand of another yarn, such as a lace yarn, is a great way to strengthen it in the knitting process, & creates a wonderful dappled look to the colors in the fabric. i absolutely love knitting with it! and while it can break easily, if you’re gentle with it while knitting, it’s not a big problem (plus it’s very easy to simply roll the two halves back together, it felts so easily that the strand sticks back together easily).

    • It would work but it does tend to break very easily.

  • Saving this one – I have an Icelandic fleece coming for dinner soon and now I know to serve it PB cups and Tootsie Pops 🙂

  • The rebel in me wants to use Lopi for a Love Note. Have I gone too far?

  • I’ve just started swatching with this yarn in preparation for making a hat. Your comments are so helpful. . .thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

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