IsTex, ridiculous amounts of wool

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.

IsTex box

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.

Only wool here

There are a gazillion bales of wool. No really, everywhere you turn, more wool. LOTS OF WOOL.


Bales everywhere

The wool comes in different colors from the sheep.

Grey bales

Each of these bales is just under 300kg. Here is Jill standing in front of some bales to give a sense of scale.

Jill and bales

Did I mention there is a lot of wool? Around every corner?

More bales

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.

Even more bales

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.


They do lots of colors. Here are the color cards for Lopi, the traditional Icelandic yarn used to make the traditional lopi sweaters.
Color Cards

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.

Spectating dried fluffs

Here’s a close up of the fluffs flying down.

Dried fluffs

Then the fiber is carded.


It looks like gigantic cotton candy.


Then it is spun onto these cones with two strands in parallel.


Cones of singles

These cones, each with two singles, are then moved to another machine where they are plied onto new cones.

From singles to plied

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.

Cone to hank

This hank machine is pretty fast.


There are lots of hanks all over the place. LOTS.

LOTS of hanks

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.

Lopi, packaged

There are aisles and aisles of boxes of yarn at IsTex.

Boxes and boxes of lopi

Can I just say AMAZING? Want to see even more pictures of IsTex? Check out the Flickr set.

15 Responses to “IsTex, ridiculous amounts of wool”

  1. Louisa says:


    I think I just had a yarngasm…

  2. Abigail says:

    I was envious of your trip but I think I would have skipped this part and spent the day in a hot pool thinking about silk and cotton instead. 😉

  3. willow4 says:

    Cool, Thanks for the guided tour! Love to see and hear about your trip to Iceland… Hubby not interested in fibre tourism :0(

  4. Charlotte says:

    Wow,wow,wow! That is a LOT of yarn. Must have been an amazing trip!
    (Now I want to knit a Lopi sweater… In grey and mustard.)

  5. Brandi says:

    That is a lot of wool. I don’t know what else to say. I’m stunned.

  6. Christine says:

    I had a yarngasm, too!

  7. Teenuh says:

    Mmm Icelandic wool! It felt so interesting when Ragga had her samples in my class at Stitches. This would have been such a fun tour to go on. I’m so sad I had to stay behind for work! >:(

  8. Mel says:

    We did an on-the-fly day tour with Ragga when we visited last year and really enjoyed the Ístex tour. We’ve been in similar factories in Peru (joys of being married to a designer), but it’s always fun to watch the process. Even more fun was visiting the Álafoss store afterward and doing some serious stash enhancement. We’re heading back to Iceland this August, and I fully plan on taking at least one or two empty duffel bags to bring back even more!

  9. Janieb says:

    They gotta need someone to test the yarn surely? When can I move in?

  10. That rocks! I want to go now!

  11. Rani says:

    I’m speechless. Wow. I have a trunk-load of Icelandic sweaters. This is where they came from – HA!

  12. Janice says:

    Wool, wonderful wool! Love the photo essay of your tour. Man, I wish I could have seen it all in person.

  13. […] you know, I headed over to Iceland earlier this year for a trip filled with adventure, lots of sheep and wool, and wonderfully cool […]