Iceland Class, History & Home!

Flourless Cake = Squee

Note: This was written before I left Iceland, but exhaustion & laziness kept me from publishing it until today – enjoy!

Finally on Sunday I did what I came here to do – taught 6 hours of classes!

Strolling Reyjavik

But not before a little cake on Saturday at the same cafe where I’d had breakfast the day before (I’m one day away from becoming the Mayor – I’m going to OWN this town!)

Metal Multi Colored Houses

…a stroll around Reyjavik (the architecture is such a mish-mash, but charming and very compact.)  I feel like I’m walking around in a lego village.

A well loved child

…and cute baby pic – the father kindly allowed me to snap a shot of this gorgeous child in a wonderful Icelandic lopi sweater.  Everyone seems to have them on here!


The studio space for Knitting Iceland is shared with several other creative types, the room is light and large with a great cross breeze from the huge windows which overlook the street below and a glimpse of the bay on the other side.

Lovely Knotted Pillow by Umemi

One of Ragga’s studio mates makes these lovely knotted pillows by stuffing tubes of knitted fabric with fiber.  Another studio mate is pretty much a dead ringer for Tin Tin.

The class was WONDERFUL!  The students – as I’d hoped and expected – not only spoke beautiful English but where exceptional knitters.

It was a bonus for me that although their skills were top notch, there were certain tricks that folks in the US may have become a bit used to which were new to them, so I seemed much more stellar than I really deserved to be!

Passing Sweater on a Bike

The lace class was good, it’s my 3rd time teaching this “Charting Your Own Lace” class so I’m still feeling my way at points, but I think it was very well received.  The colorwork class in the afternoon was a HUGE hit, and I’m currently working on TWO Lopi sweaters for Istex using some of the techniques which I’ve been perfecting.  I’m VERY excited (and I have my airplane knitting all set for this evening!)


After the classes a small group of us went to Icelandic Fish & Chips, where they use spelt flour for the batter so I gave it a try and – so far – no awful gluten side effects!  The fish was SO amazing I really wouldn’t have cared if I were curled up in a ball for a week after eating it!

St. Olaf (for the folks at home)
The Full Table, Good Friends!


Monday was culture day, and after dropping Sue off at the bus for the airport, Ragga and I visited the Icelandic Heritage Museum where I purchased a wickedly expensive book and snapped MANY photographs.  What a lovely place to spend some time, and the exhibits were easy to understand, well laid out and very compelling.

My expensive & indulgent purchases!

I left feeling I understood SO much more about Icelandic history and culture than I expected!  I won’t embarrass myself by trying to give any highlights of Icelandic history, but it’s a fascinating nation with a very interesting (and well documented) history.

Like the US, it’s essentially a nation of immigrants (albeit from 930 ACE).  There has always been a great deal of travel between the different areas of Iceland, which seems to have prevented ‘local dialects’ from cropping up, and (I believe) adds to the open-ness and friendliness of the general population.

Water, Water, Everywhere!

Bathing – swimming – is a way of life in Iceland.  Every community has a public pool with hot soaking areas.  Ragga mentioned that folks wonder why anyone would live in the odd community that doesn’t have a pool!

The water is heated by the geothermal power that rages under Iceland, and the protocol is for folks to shower naked, THEN don their swimsuits, then hit the pool.  Eminently sensible, if you ask me!

There’s much less body-conscious self-loathing here, or at least I didn’t notice the same amount of, “I hate my body!” invading the changing areas.  Also very sensible.  I’ve always felt that, ironically, our own American bizarre body image mania is at the root of our national obesity issues. 

It’s almost as if we say, en masse,
“If I can’t be perfect, I’ll just eat myself into oblivion…”
In countries where the sense of beauty is not tied into being a size 0, I think it’s easier to be health and fit at any size. 

Okay, I’m off my Icelandic soapbox…

Blue Lagoon

Post Lagoon Glow

On the way to the airport Ragga took a side trip so we (together with Jess, a fiber-loving American in Iceland on a Watson Fellowship) could visit The Blue Lagoon.  We had an AMAZING and absolutely indulgent time!  According to Wikipedia:

Blue Lagoon, Sans Brook

The warm waters are rich in minerals like silica and sulphur and bathing in the Blue Lagoon is reputed to help some people suffering from skin diseases such as psoriasis.[1] The water temperature in the bathing and swimming area of the lagoon averages 37–39 °C (98–102 °F). The Blue Lagoon also operates a Research and Development facility to help find cures for other skin ailments using the mineral-rich water.

Lava & Moss

The lagoon is fed by the water output of the nearby geothermal power plant Svartsengi and is renewed every 2 days. Superheated water is vented from the ground near a lava flow and used to run turbines that generate electricity. After going through the turbines, the steam and hot water passes through a heat exchanger to provide heat for a municipal hot water heating system. Then the water is fed into the lagoon for recreational and medicinal users to bathe in.

We swam, we covered ourselves in silica, we drank at the bar, we shopped (we didn’t buy anything) and then we walked around the lava hills for a bit.  A sudden and unusual heavy rain sent us running for the car where I changed my clothes as we drove to the airport.

Icelandic Reflections

Icelandic Photo Booth Images

I loved being in Iceland.  The people are wonderful – so much like folks in Minnesota it’s not even funny.

Icelanders are sensible, caring, confident and very kind.  Being able to stay with a private family, experiencing a small slice of Icelandic life, was a tremendous gift and I’m grateful to Ragga for welcoming me into her home.

In a nation this small (300,000 folks) it seems that EVERYONE is related to someone else, has gone to school with someone or is best friends with Björk (we drove past her home).

“Want to spend your life with a partner?”

Ragga has quite a following both in her knitting/fiber life, AND as an iconic Sex educator. I was so excited to see her featured on an ad for safe sex (her little condom wrapper has a picture of a sheep on it!)  This was hanging in an ice cream shop, but I saw the same poster all over the place!



For the second time I had the MOST amazing meal at an airport!  First was a three course meal at Heathrow last year at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant, Plane Food.

This time it was a lovely salmon/shrimp/salad plate (enough for two, really) with wine and GF bread at Nord Restaurant at the airport.  I couldn’t finish it, so I wrapped the rest up and ate it on the plane. Delicious!

I experienced further proof of the thoughtfulness of Icelanders as I boarded the plane.

The steward looked me up and down and took in the fact that I am not just tall, but have VERY long legs.  He motioned me to step to the back of the plane for a bit, then told me just before the flight took off that there was an open seat in an exit row so I could stretch my legs.

This hasn’t happened to me before, although I’ve known other folks to be lucky in this way.  It made ALL the difference in my flight, and in my pain levels when I got off the plane, and I’m VERY grateful to the kind, kind flight attendant!

Amazing Day Around Iceland!

Sue's Sock & My Latte

On Friday our group of 5 (Ragga, Sue, Larry & Heidi & myself) took off for a jam-packed trip around the area.

Our first stop was for breakfast at the Kaffismidja in Reykjavik where I had some delicious oatmeal and a latte.  Sue’s been working on her clog-sock and it’s coming along beautifully!

Miles of Uniform Colored Wool

Then we headed out of town to the Istex plant where most of the wool from Iceland is processed – the Lopi Works!

Unfortunately, it seems that the wool is processed quite a bit to create a uniformity which may not be as appealing as a more lightly processed wool would be.

The factory strips the lanolin from the wool and overdyes the natural sheep’s colors, turning a national treasure into a mass-produced commodity.

"Stitch Pattern" Railings at IsTex/Lopi

It’s a shame, especially as it’s just about the only game in town as far as the wool producers are concerned.

However, some naturally processed and lightly treated fibers are emerging in the market.

Most serious fiber folk here I spoke with hope that this is the harbinger of a new type of wool production which doesn’t sacrifice inherent quality in the name of a uniform product.

The Botanical Dyer & Cow Urine

One of the most inspirational folks we met on our tour was Guðrún Bjarnadóttir who dyes yarn under the name Hespa.

Guðrún‘s passion for the native plants of Iceland and their use in creating incandescent colors of yarn was infectious, and she has just about the best dog I’ve ever met (aside from Atticus the wonder Poodle).

AMAZINGLY Beautiful Yarn!

I could have stayed and learned about the colors she derives from lichens, mosses, birch, lupine and rhubarb – and the chemical reactions that catalysts like Cow Urine create –  all day long!

My only regret on this trip thus far is that I didn’t purchase MORE of her yarn – I left the most beautiful red color behind because I was convinced I couldn’t afford it.  Silly me.  Okay, my only OTHER regret is that I forgot my camera battery charger so I have to rely on my less-than-stellar iphone camera for posterity.

A quick stop at the Agricultural College in Hvanneyri to check out some beautiful

Small Church by the Sea in Hvanneyri

sweaters with gorgeous colorways, stroll the grounds of the Farmer Museum and visit a small church, then back in the car for an outdoor seaside lunch at the Puppet Museum. 

I couldn’t find anything gluten free on the menu, so I had ice cream for lunch – which was just dandy with me!

Then on to visit a lovely couple who create beautiful items of horn and antler

Sue Got Her Goat, Ragga Looks On

(I had to wistfully pass on some beautiful horn darning needles!) and off to the highlight of the day for me – the Háafelli goat farm!

I love goats.  My family laughs at me, but I want to own goats some day.  This was such a lovely time for me, so much fun, almost like a dream!

The 3 month old kids were sweet and gentle, and the rose garden by the owner’s house was absolutely spectacular!

My Goat Got Me!

Here’s a lovely piece on the native goats of Iceland which explains a great deal about what Johanna Thorvaldsdottir & Thorbjörn Oddsson have been doing to preserve the species.

We had coffee and Icelandic pancakes in the garden – and I should not have, but I did eat one.  I suffered later for it, but it was worth it (almost!)


As the day wore on, our group became closer and friendlier, everyone easing into a wonderful sense of contentment.  This is due in no small part to Ragga’s excellent work preparing such wonderful stops for our tour, and her ability to assemble folks in breathtaking locations for a singular experience!

This was so evident when she drove us to a beautiful outdoor public pool in Borgarnes where our entire group soaked any aches away in one of the geothermal heated pools and bonded over family stories.

The drive back to Reykjavik was lit with a brilliant pink sunset, stunning, and perfectly matching some yarn that one person in our group at bought from Guðrún.

Beautiful Bark

Our final stop was an Indian restaurant downtown (Ghandi) where the others ordered and ate while I went for a short walk.

I knew it would be hard to find gluten free food on the menu, and I had been suffering from spicy food earlier in the trip.  So I walked a bit and had a yogurt and returned in time to sit with the group and eat some plain rice.  It was delicious, and exactly what my stomach needed after such an intense and tiring day.

It was a day I wouldn’t exchange for anything, though!

Reykjavik Photos

Too tired to post much, but here are some pix I took!

Iceland in August

Lovely Clouds

I love it here!

The flight wasn’t terrible – definitely not for being shoved in a metal tube for 6 hours – it felt much more manageable than flights all the way across the Atlantic!


I was met at the airport by Ragga (Ragnheidur Eiriksdottir) of Knitting Iceland who started my day right with a coffee and a lovely Skyr yogurt, then back to her home where I unpacked and napped until the afternoon.

The Thermal Pool at Laugardal

We went with Ragga’s young daughter to a public pool in Laugardal, which was JUST want the doctor ordered!  It was warm, soothing, and the whole ritual of washing, then soaking, then washing again is exactly the perfect remedy for a long flight!

View from the balcony

After some shopping shopping we returned “home” for a lively and boisterous dinner with Ragga & her extended family, I felt so welcomed!

I skyped Gerry & Hannah, it was SO good to see them (Max was out with friends) I love chatting with them on the computer!

Skyr, Berries & Signature Needles

At 10:00 its still light, it would be dark in MN, but here it feels like 9pm or so, and I’ve just finished off another bowl of Skyr with some lovely berries.

And now to bed, where I’m hoping to get myself re-adjusted to Icelandic time (GMT) so I’m not turned around tomorrow!

Hair & Makeup

At the request of a friend, I wanted to show some of the out take stills from my recent video shooting session.

The Winner!

It seems to take an awful lot of work for some relatively mediocre results, but all I have to do is look at the previous attempts at a decent head shot for my Zealana Videos and the one above is golden.  Amen!

Who knew what a little makup, a decent hair combing and the right light would do?  It’s official, from now on I’ll be taping ALL of my videos in my bedroom…



Above images, left to right,
“The drunken floozy”, “The fearful”, “The mug shot” and “The DAR Mom”

Are you HOT? How about some ICE?

Well, we are ALL hot, and it stinks.

And you might, too (well, it is very hot…)

Heat affects me SO strongly, it always has (even in my ‘thin years’) and just makes me want to roll up into a heated ball and roll into the shade.

Forget knitting.  The thought of any yarn running through my sweaty hands makes me shudder (but not in any helpful way that could cool me off…)

But I have a solution for those of you who are able to get away for a short break in August – a trip to ICELAND for some fine, fine knitting and sight seeing!

It’s been medically proven* that after making reservations for a cool vacation the average body temperature will lower 2-7 degrees.  Seriously!**

So while most of the US waits for the heat to pass (except for those lucky soles going to Sock Summit – you know who you are!) and the rest of us are left to stew in our own juices, this just may be the perfect time to sign up for my Iceland Adventure so you can take full advantage of the medical benefits of booking a trip to a cool destination!***

* It hasn’t been medically proven.
** No, not seriously.
*** There are no medical benefits, not that I know of.