SHEEP OF THE WEEK

Icelandic

10/20/20231 min read

Icelandic

In 874, Ingolfr Arnarson and Hallveig Frodadottir arrived, from Norway, at the uninhabited island we now know as Iceland. They established a homesread for themselves which they named Reykjavik. This is according to "Landnamabok"(Book of Settlements), a 12th century account of the settlement of Iceland by, at least, 400 settlers. Another, older source does not mention this particular couple but confirms the settlement of this island between 870 and 930 ( "Islendingabok"- The Book of the Icelanders, 1130). Most came from Norway, though some came from other Nordic countries and their British settlements.

We tend to have an image of aggressive Norsemen sailing to attack and plunder other countries. However, the Norwegians who arrived in Iceland were farmers, moving because the small amount of suitable land in their own country was becoming overcrowded. One of the animals raised by these Nordic farmers was sheep. Wool was important to them for it provided them with clothing, blankets and, perhaps more significantly, the sails of their longboats

Due to the isolated nature of the island and, later, due to "official policy", other breeds of sheep have not been brought into Iceland. This has meant that cross- breeding has not occurred and the present day Icelandic sheep has changed little from those that came ashore with Arnarson and Frodadottir.

Icelandic Sheep grow a double-coated fleece:a sturdy outer coat, known as the "tog", with a finer undercoat, the "thel", of softer fibres. The two coats can spun together or used separately. A weaver might choose the tog, while a knitter would prefer the thel. The fleece comes in a variety of natural colours but will also dye well.

Technical information

Fleece weight: 1.75 - 3.25 kg | 4-7 lb

Staple length: 5-46 cm | 2-18"

Fibre diameter: 19-31 microns