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The dual-coated fleece of Icelandics evolved over 1,000 years of exposure to a harsh sub-Arctic climate. The lambs' fleece is very curly and silky, similar to young angora goats. The adult fleece, weighing about 5-6 pounds, is composed of the longer water-repellent "tog" fibers of the outer coat, which can vary from 5"-15" long depending on shearing times, and the shorter "thel" fiber (2"-4") which is soft and downy and similar to Merino wool. There is less lanolin and little of the defined crimp common in other spinning fleeces. Icelandic fleeces lose only about 25-30% of their weight during washing, compared with up to 50% of the weight of other breeds' fleeces, so it is a good value for customers who don't want to pay for extra grease in their fleece.
The fleece comes in many colors, often with a beautiful range of hues within one fleece. Traditionally in Iceland the tog fibers were spun into strong, tightly twisted yarns for rope, rugs, horse blankets, or outerwear; and the thel was spun into fine woolen yarns for baby clothes and garments worn close to the skin. Everyday clothes were made from combining the fibers, knitting them up two or three sizes larger than needed, and then shrunk by felting to fit. Those classic Icelandic sweaters we remember from the 60's and 70's (we're dating ourselves) were actually a fairly recent development in Icleand. Original "Lopi" roving was produced in the woolen mills of Iceland during the nineteenth century, ready to take home for spinning. In 1920 an enterprising Icelandic woman experimented with the lopi on her knitting machine, and by the 1930's hand knitting with lopi became popular, leading to the familiar round-yoked sweaters with the Scandinavian designs. Today the bulky singles Lopi yarn is spun from both coats of Icelandic fleece and dyed in a multitude of colors. In recent years, the fleece has also been spun into fine lace weight yarn. The two coats can also be separated and spun separately, as well as plying different colors together. The possibilities are endless! In addition to being a great spinner's fleece, Icelandic wool is also known for its ease of felting. Since felting has become very popular recently, the wool is in demand.