Uppspuni: Iceland’s Mighty Mini Mill
South of Reykjavik outside of the town of Selfoss is the sheep farm owned by Hulda Brynjólfsdóttir and Tyrfingur Sveinsson.
Along with raising sheep Hulda is transforming how shepherds with smaller flocks sell their home-grown yarn in Iceland in an unassuming 2,000 square foot building. This building houses Upspunni, Iceland’s only mini wool processing mill.
Why is this mill important? For knitters it means a bigger variety of yarns to choose from, including farm specific yarn. For shepherds Upspunni gives them more control in how their yarns are produced and a bigger variety of the types of yarns that can be made.
Before Hulda opened her mill in 2017, shepherds who wanted their own yarn to sell had to wait in a long line to use the Álafoss mill. Álafoss has a weight minimum to have yarn spun which means shepherds often had to combine their fleeces with other farms to even get a spot in that line. Since Álafoss’ main business is spinning Lopi yarns, the shepherds that use Álafoss don’t have much choice in the type of yarn they can have spun, it has to be one of the types of Lopi yarns that Álafoss already makes.
Hulda’s mini mill changed all of that. There is still a line, but there are many more options for any shepherd who wants to make yarn from their own flock, no matter how small it is.
Mini is the key word, all of the processing and spinning space fits into one level of building, the upstairs in a small shop selling Hulda’s yarn, kits, and spinning fiber.
I have a medium sized house and I could fit the mill equipment on my first floor (and don’t think I haven’t thought about it).
At Uppspuni. Hulda works with shepherds, and will process even a single fleece in to yarn. Because she works in smaller batches and on her own timeline, great care can be taken with processing which means the 100% Icelandic yarns she produces are less rough than yarns from Álafoss. She leaves more lanolin in the yarns she makes, and will even make blended yarns. When I visited in the fall, I got to feel a sample yarn that was a blend Icelandic fleece and goat down.
Her own yarn line is proof of how passionate and thoughtful Hulda is about making excellent yarns.
Right now she produces up to six yarns from her own flock of sheep. The main four reflect the different ages of a sheep and the different parts of their fleece.
Dis (the fairy) is a 2-ply fingering weight yarn made form lamb’s fleece, it’s the softest and lightest yarn made at Uppspuni. It’s used to make shawls and light sweaters.
Hulduband (hidden woman yarn) is a 2-ply Aran weight yarn made from adult sheep. This is the yarn knitters buy to make most of their knits, hats, mittens, and lots of sweaters. The sweater Hulda is wearing is over 10 years old. Yes, that is a fleece I’m holding.
Dvergaband (dwarf yarn) is a 3-ply bulky yarn spun from adult sheep. This yarn is for the bulky sweaters you see farmers wearing as they work outside all over Iceland.
Sometimes Hulda makes limited run yarns, like this super bulky yarn. Most of her yarns come in a range of natural and a few dyed colors.
Hjónaband is the yarn I fell in love with. A typical Icelandic fleece has two distinct coats, a strong water-resistant outer coat and a warm softer undercoat. This yarn is made with more undercoat than outercoat, making it softer and warmer than Hulda’s other yarns made from adult sheep fleeces.
Hulda’s husband came up with the name for this special warm and soft yarn. Hjónaband means marriage in Icelandic. Hjónaband is also a play on words because ‘band’ means yarn or thread in Icelandic. This yarn is the warm thread that knits us together!