What are the characteristics of a lopapeysa?
Importantly, a true lopapeysa sweater is handknitted (not machine-made), and made from Icelandic wool known as lopi.
Wool from Icelandic sheep has a distinctive combination of inner and outer fibers. The outer fibers are long, tough and water-resistant, while the inner ones are fine, soft and insulating, providing a high resistance to the cold. The lopi yarn itself is unspun, meaning that these qualities are preserved. In other words, Icelandic sheep – and these Icelandic wool sweaters – are perfectly adapted for the local climate.
Initially, Icelandic lopapeysa were knitted in natural 'sheep colors' (black, brown, cream, gray etc). Today, they're available in all sorts of color combinations and patterns.
The round yoke is the most readily identifiable characteristic of a traditional Icelandic wool sweater. Although the design might look old, the modern lopapeysa pattern originates from the mid-20th century. Inspired by Norwegian sweaters and the pearl collars of Greenland, the first knitting pattern of a round yoke sweater was published in a knitting magazine in 1956.
Lopapeysa sweaters are available in a number of styles, though the most common are the pullover, half-zip, and full-zip designs. Some lopis are crafted in a cardigan style with buttons.
Photo below: The 'lakeside lopi', with lupins.