I have long loved Lopi yarns. Lopi yarn is a single ply yarn spun from the dual-coated fleece of the Icelandic sheep (a descendant of the Norwegian Spælsau, which, by the way, provided the yarn used to weave the Viking ship sails). A combination of both the long, coarse hairs of the sheep’s outer coat and the short softer hairs of its inner coat, Lopi yarn is warm, durable, water repellent and hard wearing. I have knit with Lopi yarn in all its weights, loving it all.
Thor has long eyed (and frequently borrowed) the Bulky Lopi pullover I knit for myself 20 years ago and still wear on winter’s coldest days. Thus when I found Istex’s (Icelandic Textile Company) Bulkylopi (100g/3.5o, 60m/66y) in a blue tweed (shade 1415, lot 0952) at a great price a few months ago, I quickly ordered some for Thor.
The skeins were very attractive – a lovely dark blue spun with flecks of red, blue and white. My gauge swatch looked fine, but when I knit up the sweater the sum total of the flecks didn’t work for Thor (or me): All the fleck colors were too bright, and the blue and red were simply the wrong hues for the lovely dark blue yarn.
Tweed yarns are spun in a basic background color with slubs or nebs of colored wool added. Ideally the color of the slubs work well with the background color, as they do in this picture of Donegal Tweed to the left. But when they don’t – well, even great yarn doesn’t look as nice as it could.
Years ago I found skeins of tweed wool from Ireland spun from a lovely, lanolin-rich, crisp wool. The main color was a natural cream, but the slubs were pastels in shades of pink and purple. Though I thought the tweed looked awful, it I bought the yarn (it had such a nice hand!) and overdyed it with a deep, rich purple. Dyed as such, the tweed flecks and the background color were well suited!
But as I was knitting with Lopi, I had another option; remember, Lopi is a fairly loosely spun, single ply. Further, each fleck in this yarn was small (though there were a lot of them), which means few were twisted very tightly into the yarn. So I picked up a pair of tweezers, sat down under a good light and started removing slubs.
I was strategic about it; I didn’t remove all the slubs. (I wanted the yarn to look tweedy after all.) I also had to be careful to remove them in a balanced way – avoiding both clumps of tweed flecks and large areas with no flecks. The actual slub removal was easy. Granted it took me a couple of hours, but the result was worth it. Thor loves the sweater (and now he’ll stop stealing mine).
As shown by the picture on the right, though tweezed, there’s still variation in the blue yarn due to the red, white and blue flecks I left in, but there is no garish contrast.
Now compare the tweediness of the sweater to that of these slippers I knit and fulled from the un-tweezed Lopi.
I have two full skeins of Lopi remaining. As we always ask our guests to remove their shoes and as the house we’re building will have wood floors throughout, I will use the unused Lopi to knit and full multiple pairs of slippers in varying sizes and keep in a basket by the front door for guests to don. Though the slippers will be identical, save for size, I will denote pairs by sewing matching buttons or pompoms on each size! I’ll have to put some sort of sticky substance on the soles so our friends don’t slip and slide on the wood floors.
So should you buy tweed and it not knit up as nicely as you hoped it would, don’t despair! You have options!