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Recently, I became an empty nester. Instead of getting a puppy, I decided to lean into my love of textiles and travel by co-hosting textile travel tours with Janine Bajus, an expert Fair Isle knitting teacher. We went to Iceland in September, on the hunt for yarn, interesting textiles, and beautiful vistas.

Roaming Reykjavik

We started with the big yarn-tourist magnets in Reykjavik: Hallgrimskirkja, cinnamon rolls at Braud and Company, And Red Cross Thrift Stores (for used sweaters).

The big spot for Lopapeysa sweaters and Lopi yarn in Reykjavik is The Handknitting Association of Iceland. I was overwhelmed when I first stepped in, there were giant piles of sweaters, blankets, accessories, and of course yarn.

All of the things here are handmade in Iceland, which isn’t the case with some of the other stores selling sweaters.

There is art and color everywhere. I was thrilled to see houses painted bright, bright colors, but it was the street art that really captivated me. There are murals and paintings all over the main part of the city. I poked into little alleys and wandered into residential neighborhoods just to look at the art.

We were lucky to meet with two Icelandic knitting experts. Hélène Magnússon (on the left) spoke to us about her designs based on traditional Icelandic knitting and about the development of her yarn line. Helga Thoroddsen (on the right), a Lopapeysa expert, gave us a talk on the history and construction of these iconic sweaters.

She also spoke about how the country turned to knitting during the pandemic. Everyone knit Lopapeysa sweaters, and the most popular pattern was the grey sweater she’s holding, Riddari by Védís Jónsdóttir. (Does it look familiar?)

What does an Icelandic knitter to do when in desperate need of Léttlopi? Head to a 24-hour grocery store. Look at this wall of Lopi at a 24-hour grocery store! I think this concept could catch on here in the US.

On the road

We visited with Guðrún Bjarnadottir, a natural dyer, at her studio Hespa. She talked about her natural dye process and the natural dye plants of Iceland. Look at the beautiful range of colors she gets. Several (many) skeins came home with me.

Here’s proof that we didn’t just haunt yarn shops our entire trip.

This is a black beach in the east fjords. The tide was out and we walked for miles on black sand. We visited glaciers, and waterfalls, and sometimes just pulled over on the side of the road to get out and stare at all of the beauty.

Near Borgarnes, we stopped for lunch at a fancy gas station with a food court. As soon as we stepped out of our van we realized we had entered some sort of Icelandic yarn Brigadoon.

This was just one corner of one gift shop, full of sweaters and accessories knit by local knitters.
Is it silly to get emotional over every day knitting? The displays of everyday knitwear, like gloves and woolen shoe inserts, got to me.

The Icelandic Textile Museum is small but well worth the trip (especially if you have someone to drive while you knit). They have wonderful displays of knitting, spinning, weaving, costumes and tools. It’s amazing how many textiles they have preserved. I was especially struck by the fine handspun lace shawls; they could easily pass through a wedding ring. These displays show how important wool and knitting have been to Iceland—that they are something to be preserved and cherished as part of history.

One last stop

Grocery self-checkout with yarn—yes, please.

At this particular grocery store I met an Icelandic woman in the parking lot with a grocery cart more than half filled with Plötulopi. She didn’t speak much English, but we communicated just fine. I asked, “Is this yarn all for you?” She nodded smiling. “Knitting makes me so happy,” I said showing her my bag of yarn. “Yes!” she replied laughing and summing up my Icelandic sojourn, “knitting is happy!”

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


  • What a great trip! Thanks for taking us along!

  • This makes me want to go to Iceland, right now! Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip!

  • OMG, they have yarn at the grocery store?? Just think of the weight you could lose if you had to get thru the yarn section before you got to the ice cream section! “Nope, no ice cream today, bought yarn instead.”

    • I love love love love Iceland! I just got back from my fourth trip where I discovered Hespa. Every time, I find new things to love. It is such a magical place and I’m happy to see you enjoyed it as well!

      • My daughter’s are going to Iceland next week. I am a crocheter. What specific non-ichie yard should I request they bring home? Thank you so much for posting this great article. Donna

    • I agree!!

  • I have been privileged to go to Iceland twice. Both times I just scratched the very tip of the iceberg with yarn. I would have need more suitcases than allowed. I just love the yarn and the people. So friendly and helpful. I want to go back again. Maybe soon.

  • Heaven!

  • Fabulous Iceland looks like a beautiful country. My cousin just went and all the pictures were incredible!

    • Of course it’s not silly to get emotional over knitting displays! They connect us knitters over geography and time and that’s moving and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and connecting us, too!

  • This is my dream trip! Back in 2017, I made my youngest son a Riddari as a break up recovery sweater. I can’t wait to tell him how popular that pattern is!!!

    • At the desk of our hotel in Selfoss, what did I see but a handknit Riddari for sale. I recognized it immediately. When I told the desk clerk that it was a hugely popular sweater design in the U.S., she was surprised.

  • My dream trip!! I’ve been knitting sweaters from the Istex Lopi pattern books for years and order my Lopi yarn directly from Iceland but what I really want to do is go with an empty suitcase and fill it with yarn.

  • My son lives in Iceland so I have been lucky enough to visit many times. I never fail to visit Mosfellsbaer to go to Álafoss wool shop, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave, truly glorious!

  • Iceland is on my bucket list! I did make an Icelandic sweater for myself just in case my bucket list doesn’t work out! Love it and keeps me so warm on dog walks when it’s cold outside!

  • So visually stunning…thank you! I am wondering about the plastic-wrapped yarn “cakes” in the 24 hour photo. Are those two skeins? And why wrapped? Ease of stacking in suitcases perhaps. 🙂

    • This article was a dream to read and view. So many beautiful pictures. Loved it!

    • Those are Plötulopi, the unspun lopi that’s light as air!

  • I have bought yarn at Meijer’s grocery store here in the US but it isn’t great yarn. You have been to knitters paradise!!!

  • What part of Iceland were you in? Did you stay mostly on the Eastern side? Were there any of the hot springs near there?
    I will have to give up many dreams and just go there!! There is only one item on my Bucket list!!!!!

  • Last year I went to Iceland and toured Westman Island and the mainland. OMG there was yarn everywhere! I was in heaven. The only souvenirs I bought was yarn. Gudrun’s shop is spectacular. I could have spent all day there (except my O.A.T. Group would not have been happy) choosing colors and weights. The yarns I bought were mainly fingering and you will find the yarn sticky. You can order yarn directly from her. The mittens I made are very warm (I live in North Dakota!) as are the shawls. Now making a sweater and paired the yarn with mohair. It is working well. Iceland is a beautiful country and I highly recommend visiting.

    • I was there last year with OAT, and loved every minute of the trip–especially finding yarn everywhere, including in the supermarkets.

  • My sister just got home from HER trip to Iceland. I think your trip was better than hers. Of course, having Janine along with you just added to the ‘fantastic-ness’ I’m sure.

  • Love this trip!

  • I went to Iceland this summer and fell in love with it. I came home with a giant bag of Letlopi and just finished my second cardigan from the summer stash. (one Helene Magnusson and one Vedis Jonsdottir) Next up is Amaeli for my husband. The woman at the Hand knitting Association who helped me chose my yarn was amazing gave me the tips and tricks I needed to conquer the steek and convert pullover patterns to cardigan. I can’t wait to go back

  • Yarn in a grocery store.
    A display of historic pieces
    All that color and texture
    How lovely!

    I bought some of my Daytripper yarn in duty free in Reykjavik.

  • Thank you, Jillian, for such a lovely, lively, fun read and look-along. Indeed, I, too, now lust for a knit wit trip to Iceland! Let’s all go at the same time and meet up here and there! Jillian, also thank you for your beautiful and inspiring book, Yarnitecture. It has seen me take off into a spinning frenzy these last months! Yarn is just a wonderful thing in life.

  • Thank you for taking us to Iceland . Their yarns are so beautiful and pleasing to feel, wear and look at.

  • A dream trip! Thanks for taking us along.

  • Oh my! These photos are delicious! I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland for about 5 years. I live in Maine so it’s not even that far. I love the great BIG shawl, I need to make one of those. The shoe inserts are the Bomb, how clever is that! And now I’m going to make some mittens even though I never liked mittens before because I know I will love some Fair Isle mittens. I have a fear of flying I really need to get over. Thank you for this great article! LOVE EWE

    • Do go. I went in October and loved every single moment. We visited Hespa–amazing. I bought yarn at a yarn shop and a grocery store in Selfoss, and also at the gas station in Borgarnes. In fact, almost every gas station sells yarn, knitted items and all kinds of wonderful things.

    • Shoe inserts! I have some hiking boots waiting.

  • Grocery stores with YARN???!!!!! Yes PLEASE!!! I must go to Iceland!!! Thank you for sharing your amazing journey!

  • Loved the trip through Iceland. Asked my husband to take me there and he said I would have to bring an empty suitcase, for all the yarn I’d be bringing back. He’s not kidding, what a beautiful wonderland for the senses.

  • Does anyone know the pattern of the mittens in the top photo? Would love to knit them!

  • Oh my!!! This was just stunning! To think, walking into a grocery store and seeing walls covered with Icelandic yard just blows my mind. My mind has always seen Iceland as a sort of dark, forbidding, frozen tundra… I wish I could see this beautiful land in person. Thanks for sharing.

  • P.S. In the email I received about your wonderful article there is a picture of Fair Isle mittens. Is that pattern available somewhere?

  • Who messed up and named the country Iceland instead of Yarnland?

  • Thank you, Jillian! I was in Iceland in 2002, driving around the western part of the country with my husband and a map from the car rental company that was full of errors, so navigation was mostly by the seat of our pants. We could drive for hours without seeing another soul, although there were millions of sheep and Icelandic horses. Every corner presented new and breathtaking views of Iceland’s unique natural beauty. Every place we stopped for gas or food had yarn for sale. I’ve been wanting to go back for 20 years, but haven’t made it yet.

    • Oh, thank you for renewing my love for Iceland, and my deep total desire to go there and play with yarn! And more!

  • Oh my gosh! Feeling low today, and your article filled my senses with joy! A grocery store with a wall of yarn sounds like Heaven to me. Thank you for the reboot your article gave me!

  • wonderful travel account. When I saw the shoe inserts I was reminded of Helene Magnusson’s knitted shoes. I have made the design a number of times it is very clever. Inspired by traditional Icelandic shoes.

  • Oh I’ve got to go there!! Is there a best time of year to go?

  • Wow! Since all of my LYS are out of business, I could really get excited over a 24 hour store that carries yarn! Especially if it were good yarn made of wool or other natural fibers.

  • When is your next trip??

  • I love this post! I would get emotional at seeing all those hand knitted products too!

  • I so wish this post could have been a couple of weeks earlier! We just returned from a trip to Iceland but I only saw one yarn store and never knew about the grocery store selling yarn. That would have been dangerous!! We did see a lot of sweaters but I didn’t one because couldn’t confirm that it was hand-knit 🙁


    Be still my beating heart! Iceland sounds like heaven on earth!

  • I got to go with Cat Bordhi and Jim Pell a few years ago. It was a wonderful trip. Feeling lucky?

  • I loved Iceland and hope to return soon. One of my friends grew up there; her aunt used to knit sweaters as a source of income. I had a beautiful one from her.

  • I am going so Iceland this winter so I loved your story. I plan to bring back some yarn but had no idea I might stumble on some in a grocery store! Amazing.

  • I recently traveled to Iceland with Rowan Tree Travels. We visited some of the places you mentioned and more. It is a beautiful place

  • Thank you so much— I was just awestruck when I went there in July of 2021

    • Wow! I don’t knit, so I’m wondering what/where is the best place to purchase one of these beautiful sweaters? Are they very expensive?

  • Can not wait to get back

  • I want to go to Iceland!

  • Beautiful items.

  • When we were in Germany the little grocery stores and even their ‘dollar’ stores had walls of quality yarn too. A knitter’s heaven! I’d love to go to Iceland too.

  • Such a wonderful adventure! Thanks for taking us along! And yes please! 24 hour grocery with yarn? Absolutely!

  • Love this! I was so disappointed that there was NO YARN at the airport when we had a layover.

  • Weeping with jealousy and envy!!!!

  • Bucket list trip for sure! Thanks for the report, Jillian!

  • All beautiful – thank you. I gotta go to Iceland.

  • Looks awesome

  • In 2018, I returned from Iceland with Lettlopi and a pattern for a volcano hat! My husband loves it, and it’s a fine reminder of our trip to the land of fire and ice. Here’s a link to the free pattern by Alafoss:

  • In 2017 my Hubs and I went to Iceland. I left part of my heart and soul there. I too ate at the fancy gas station on Borganes

  • I only recently returned from a two week trip to Iceland and it ranks as #2 in my list of favorite places to visit–and it almost made #1. Everything about Iceland was wonderful. The people, the food, the villages, the cities, the waterfalls, the history, the beautiful animals and of course, the yarn. If you think you might want to go there, I heartily encourage it. I went with a tour, so we covered a lot of ground and saw and learned so many things about this wonderful country. I am glad I did it this way because I think just driving around on one’s own, you’d miss so many sights and so much fascinating information. But regardless of how you go, just go!

  • I loved Iceland… some day I will go back

  • I was in Iceland last fall and was thrilled to find yarn at the supermarkets–and really nice yarn, too. And we made a stop at the Hespa studio. My stash grew by leaps and bounds in Iceland. And what a country. Fabulous.

  • Thanks Jillian
    I’m heading to Iceland to stay with friends and hope to visit some of the places you mentioned.

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