Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Got Tog

I have been intrigued with Icelandic wool for a while and knew that both the outer coat (tog) and the inner coat (thel) were used by Icelanders to knit lace when spinners separated the fibers. Now the commercially prepared Icelandic Einband lace weight yarn from Istex is a combination of tog and thel.

During a class with Judith MacKenzie, I told her about seeing designs knit from tog and from thel at the Textile Museum in Bluondos, and she offered me some lovely dark brown Icelandic lamb fleece to spin.

I used a dog comb to separate the tog, and spun it on a Kundert spindle. During this process, I realized I do not have the patience to properly prepare fleece, and I passed along the lighter brown, soft thel to a more talented spinner. I was persistent, though, and persevered with the tog, plying it on a Lendrum wheel. The quality of my 2-ply lace weight was not great, but friends suggested I try knitting it.

For design inspiration, I turned to the classic Icelandic lace shawls book by Sigridur Halldorsdottir titled Thrihynur og Langsjol or Three-Cornered and Long Shawls (available in the US with an English translation from Schoolhouse Press). I chose Litla Hyrna Huldu and modified it by knitting from the top down, narrowing the garter borders to 2 stitches, and making the shawl larger.

Midway into the second skein, I realized the first skein was landfill quality and started over. Fortunately, only the one skein was dreadful, and I had more than enough yarn to finish the shawl. The tog blocked beautifully and has a nice drape. Had I been more skillful with fiber prep, it would feel silkier since there are odd hairs throughout. Still, it is a wearable and interesting reminder of this Icelandic spinning adventure, as well as proof that I got tog!