Deep North Episode 55: Christmas Craftsman

laufabrauð christmas iceland

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, families and friends in Iceland come together to make the traditional fried and decorated wafer known as laufabrauð (leaf bread). Rolled out thin, decorated, and fried, the preparation of these treats is an event that brings together families, often with multiple generations taking part. But you won’t find Laufabrauðsdagur (Leaf Bread Day) on any official calendar, as each family chooses their own date. Still, for Icelanders, it’s as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas itself.

But unknown even to many Icelanders, much of this tradition now rests in the hands of one craftsman, the last craftsman in Iceland to make the distinctive roller that so many use to make laufabrauð. A stone’s throw from Reykjavík, in the shadow of Esja mountain, his small workshop is keeping a beloved tradition alive.

Read the story here.

Fiddling with Perfection

Hans Jóhannsson icelandic luthier

It was half past four on a Sunday afternoon inside the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavík.Three-hundred-and-sixty chairs, nearly all of them occupied, had been arranged in meticulous fashion within the Norðurljós auditorium. Twenty-five musicians, tickling four different kinds of stringed instruments, were performing Richard Strauss’ Metamorphoses on stage. And two people, who […]

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Icelandic Wool Export Up 70% in Pandemic

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Icelandic lopi wool export has shot up by 70%, RÚV reports. Lopi is the yarn used to make Icelandic traditional sweaters, or lopapeysur, and is known for being both warm and waterproof. While several European countries have been importing Icelandic wool in larger quantities, it seems that knitters are picking up their needles in Iceland as well.

It’s not surprising that the pastime of knitting has grown in popularity this year, thanks to social restrictions and lockdowns imposed due to the pandemic. Yet an increase of 70% is quite a rise for Iceland’s main wool processer. “We are almost sending out one or two forty-feet containers of hand-knitting yarn per week,” says Sigurður Sævar Gunnarsson, director of Ístex, which processes about 99% of all Icelandic wool.

In order to meet demand, Ístex has hired more workers to cover evening shifts. The company hopes to increase production by 100 tonnes by next year. While Icelanders, Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians have all shown an increased appetite for Icelandic wool and knitting patterns, Finnish knitters have shown a particular enthusiasm.

Sigurður says Ístex has been receiving calls from lopapeysa knitters who can’t find a particular colour when it has been sold out in shops.

A Delicate Craft

Ragna Sara Jónsdóttir - Fólk - íslensk framleiðsla

Iceland’s rich creative culture demonstrates that no place is too small or remote to start up a business, manage a company, or to make a difference from. But given the country’s high wages, production, and shipping costs, outsourcing abroad is frequently the only way to ensure a company’s profitable growth.

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The Colourful Oddyssey of Icelandic Wool Dyeing

Wool dyeing Iceland

Following the winding outskirts of Reykjavík, a gravel road jostles you toward a wooden hut. The strong scent of herbs emanates from the doorway. Before you can enter into the warm space, Tryggur, a charmingly fluffy Labrador-collie mix, sidles up to you in shy greeting. He leads you in and sits down patiently amongst a colourful collection of yarns, waiting for a pat while his owner talks over the sound of gently bubbling pots.

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