Without sheep, Iceland would have been uninhabitable
When Viking settlers first arrived in Iceland in AD 874, they brought with them two breeds of domestic livestock, the Iceland Horse and Iceland Sheep. In time, both would have almost as much impact on the history and development of the country as man himself.
From the very beginning, Icelanders have found themselves engaged in a relentless struggle to come to terms with the rugged environment in which they live. While the horse served for transport and labor, sheep were the key to the nation¹s survival, providing generations of Icelanders not only with food but also with wool as protection from the biting cold of the harsh northern climate. Without sheep, Iceland would have been uninhabitable. Although the medieval sagas may have been inspired by deeds of heroism and feats of bravery, they also tell of the activities around which daily life revolved, among them shearing, spinning and carding ¬ skills and crafts which became traditions and altered little through the ages.
The Characteristics of the Icelandic wool
As a breed, the Iceland Sheep is unique -the purity of the strain has been protected by centuries of isolation and a total absence of contact with others. By the same token, the wool it produces has no counterpart anywhere.
Evolving over 1,100 years of exposure to the sub-Arctic climate, Icelandic wool has a distinctive combination of inner and outer fibers. The outer fibers are long, glossy, tough and water-resistant, while the inner ones are fine, soft and insulating, providing a high resistance to cold. A further striking characteristic of the Iceland Sheep is its natural colors, black, grey and brown as well as the usual white. Together, these create the distinctive look of Icelandic knitwear, one of the best-known examples of which is the Lopi.
The Icelandic wool is Unique in its composition as it consists of two types of fibers:
INNER FIBRES - INSULATING:
Fine, soft, highly insulating.
OUTER FIBRES - WATER-REPELLENT:
Long, glossy, water-repellent.
Together, these two distinctive fibres create a unique characteristic of the Icelandic wool:
Lightweight - lighter than most other wools, keeps you warm and comfortable.
Water-repellent - repels rain and stays feeling dry.
Breathable - moisture passes through the fibers away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable.
Hand wash only in lukewarm water (30°C / 86°F). Do not rub or wring but gently squeeze the liquid through the garment. If necessary, spin for about 1/2 minute to remove excess moisture. Dry flat, smooth the garment out and pull gently into shape.
Note: It is often enough to air a woolen garment thoroughly, rather than washing it.