Iceland – istex factory

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Hello, I’m not intentionally dragging out my Iceland posts for dramatic effect, things have been so busy this week but today I am back with some pictures from one of my favourite parts about my trip, the Istex yarn factory! I have a very healthy *ahem* stash of Icelandic yarn so I was really looking forward to seeing where it was produced.

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The factory is just outside Reykjavik and it is where they spin and dye the wool. It is washed in a different part of Iceland, in Blönduós – a town in the north which we also visited and is home to the textile museum.. (can you smell another blog post on the horizon?) Icelandic wool is made of up two types of fibre: a finer,softer inner and a stronger,glossy outer. These two aspects together create a warm, water repellent and windproof yarn which is perfect for Icelandic (and Shetland..) weather.

IMG_5656 As you know, I work for a yarn company (Jamieson & Smith) so as you can imagine, any thing related to wool or wool production I find really interesting. At Jamieson & Smith the yarn is spun and dyed down south so I don’t get to see any of this part. We deal with the raw wool in the wool store and then the finished products in the shop. The factory was smaller than I imagined which I think is quite common for this kind of industry, wool and yarn is such a niche market that we seem to manage to do the work with less staff and space as people would think. (not that the factory was tiny or anything, its just when you know how far reaching a yarn brand is, its always surprising how few people are really involved)

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The washed wool arrives at the factory in bales and then it is spun and dyed from there. The factory was a hub of activity and it was brilliant to see all the wool at its different stages from airing, blending, dyeing, carding, spinning, balling to finished yarn.

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We were shown around the factory by Hulda Hákonardóttir who is the marketing manager for Istex, she told us how the Istex brand was formed after the wool crisis in the 1980s and 4 (of 5..not sure) members of staff joined together to purchase the factory after the bankruptcy of the former company. This was interesting to me as I know we struggled in the 1980s and 1990s in Shetland with the price and value of wool.. Well J&S did, others not so much. Anyway, the company has gone on from strength to strength and now has a staff of about 40 making the yarn, from einband (lace weight) up to bulky.

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I was pleasantly surprised with some of the similarities I found between my work and that of this worldwide brand. They even handmade their shade cards there in the factory, one of my least fave jobs to do..

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I think it is really good how forward thinking they are and Hulda told us about the new Lopi 34 book (of course already purchased..) It is made up of vintage patterns redesigned for a more modern audience. This is the kind of things that keep classic Yarn company’s moving and not being left behind. There is a place for more rustic yarns (read scratchy) and honestly you can train yourself to wear them. I will always support these kind of company’s because they are honest about what they are doing.

Next up! the turf house and folk museum and the fish tannery..!!

(also: I’ve added some more piece to my knitwear collection blog, including a few pieces I bought in Reykjavik)

12 thoughts on “Iceland – istex factory

  1. I am really enjoying your story of youur trip to Iceland, its the next best thing to going myself and your photos really show us a great deal too. Thank you.

  2. This the first time I have seen the Sleeveless Icelandic yoke and it is wonderful….looked like ice crystals! Love to see factories working with wool .
    Thank you.

  3. Pingback: 2015 | ella gordon
  4. Thank you so much for this post, really informative :)
    Do you know how I can book a tour of the Istex factory while I’m here in Iceland?
    Thanks again!

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