From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A lopapeysa
Icelandic girls wearing traditionally patterned lopapeysa sweaters

A lopapeysa (Icelandic: [ˈlɔːpaˌpʰeiːsa]) or Icelandic sweater is an Icelandic style of sweater originating in early or mid-20th century, at a time when imports had displaced older and more traditional Icelandic clothing and people began to search for new ways to utilize the plentiful native wool. The design has since become a national icon for Icelandic cultural identity.


Lopapeysa (plural lopapeysur) is a compound word, from lopi, denoting the particular kind of single ply yarn traditionally used to make lopapeysur, and peysa 'sweater, jumper, pullover'. Thus the word literally means 'sweater made of lopi'.[1]

Design of the sweater[edit]

It is characterized by a yoke design – that is a wide decorative circle surrounding the neck opening. The sweater is knitted in a non-varying circle, meaning that there is no difference between the front and the back, unless a zipper is added. The body of the sweater is knitted using circular needles, while 'the sleeves are picked up onto the needle containing the bodice. The shaping of the shoulders by gradually casting off is incorporated into the pattern of the yoke'.[1] The yarn used, lopi, is made from the wool of Icelandic sheep and contains both wind hairs and fleece. Lopi is remarkable in that it is not spun, so it contains more air than spun yarn and as a consequence it has better insulation properties. This also makes lopi more difficult to handle than spun yarn, in particular for those new to the material. Icelandic wool has earned an international reputation for its warmth, lightness, and insulation abilities so that even when wet, it keeps you warm.[2]

The colors can be artificial, but undyed wool of various colors is available and much in demand.[3] 'Originally, the sweater had a patterned band of at least two colours at the hem, the wrist and the yoke, forming the main pattern across the shoulders. During the 21st century, this changed so that now it is common for only the yoke to be patterned'.[1]

Characteristics of the wool[edit]

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.


Knitting probably came to Iceland in the sixteenth century, but the lopapeysa originated in the early or mid-20th century, at a time when imports had displaced older and more traditional Icelandic clothing, industrial production was replacing hand-knitting, and people began to search for new ways to utilize the plentiful native wool and knitting skills. There is widespread speculation about the origins and originators of the style (including suggestions of Greenlandic women's costume,[4] or Aztec, Navajo, South American, Turkish, or Swedish textile patterns,[5] and claims of original design by Auður Laxness[6]), but the consensus of academic work so far is that the style had a range of foreign influences and no single originator.[1]

In the wake of Icelandic full independence from Denmark in 1944, the lopapeysa increasingly became an invented tradition and a symbol of national identity. The lopapeysa has seen two main peaks in fashion: in the two or three decades following Icelandic independence from Denmark in 1944 and then again in the early 21st century as globalisation challenged the national identity.[7] It and other goods inspired by it are in the twenty-first century also widely marketed to tourists in the country.[8][1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Helgadóttir, Guðrún (2011). "Nation in a Sheep's Coat: The Icelandic Sweater". FORMakademisk. 4 (2): 59–68. doi:10.7577/formakademisk.201. ISSN 1890-9515.
  2. ^ "Álafoss - Since 1896".
  3. ^ "WeIrD ShEeP!".
  4. ^ "The Icelandic Store". Archived from the original on 2009-09-17. Retrieved 2010-03-15. Handprjónasamband Íslands - Íslenska lopapeysan
  5. ^ "Íslensk þjóðernishyggja - Hin heilaga rolla!". Archived from the original on 2013-01-05.
  6. ^ grapevine.is (2014-05-05). "Screaming Jumpers - The Reykjavik Grapevine". The Reykjavik Grapevine. Retrieved 2017-10-01.
  7. ^ "Hvað er íslenska lopapeysan gömul og hver er uppruni hennar?". Vísindavefurinn (in Icelandic). Retrieved 2020-08-30.
  8. ^ Donlan, Kathleen (2016). The Lopapeysa: A Vehicle to Explore the Performance of Icelandic National Identity (Thesis). Honors Thesis Collection, 335. Wellesley College.