Jill, my knitting buddy, and I arrived in Iceland last Wednesday and were greeted by Ragga, the wonderful awesome organizer behind Knitting Iceland. We’ve done loads of things since arriving, but our trip to IsTex deserves a post all its own.
Here is Ragga in her Lopi sweater looking excited about IsTex, the mill where all Icelandic wool is spun.
That’s right, there are twice as many sheep as people on this island, and all that wool from the sheep? Most of it comes here to be spun. That means a LOT of wool passes through IsTex.
This sign is a little misleading. IsTex also imports small quantities of alpaca, cashmere and other fibers to experiment with, but the bulk of what is spun at IsTex is wool from sheep.
There are a gazillion bales of wool. No really, everywhere you turn, more wool. LOTS OF WOOL.
The wool comes in different colors from the sheep.
Each of these bales is just under 300kg. Here is Jill standing in front of some bales to give a sense of scale.
Did I mention there is a lot of wool? Around every corner?
Ok, one more shot of bales. But really, I couldn’t even begin to capture the VAST amount of wool. We were giddy on wool fumes.
The first step in the production process is the dyeing of the fiber if the fiber is to be dyed in the wool. Here are the vats.
These perforated containers go in and out of the vats (they use heavy duty machinery to lift) to hold the wool within the dye bath.
After the dyeing, the fiber needs to be dried which is a multi-step process. First it is “fluffed” which means a machine pulls the fibers apart a bit.
Then it goes through some super fancy air fluffing process that literally ends with fluffs of fiber flying down into a room. It’s so exciting it deserves an audience.
Here’s a close up of the fluffs flying down.
Then the fiber is carded.
It looks like gigantic cotton candy.
Then it is spun onto these cones with two strands in parallel.
These cones, each with two singles, are then moved to another machine where they are plied onto new cones.
Those cones are then put onto another machine that will wind the yarn from cones into hanks so they can be washed. I think that step is to remove the oils that are used in the spinning process.
This hank machine is pretty fast.
There are lots of hanks all over the place. LOTS.
And the hanks are huge. Here is my hand next to one for reference.
And then they are wound into balls and packaged and boxed.
There are aisles and aisles of boxes of yarn at IsTex.
Can I just say AMAZING? Want to see even more pictures of IsTex? Check out the Flickr set.