The ultimate handknit sweater, $28

The ultimate handknit sweater, $28

Oh, you guys, I can’t even think straight! I blocked my black lopi raglan sweater to make sure it really needed a revision to the lower body, and it turns out it’s PERFECT. And I don’t just mean it doesn’t need any more work, I mean it is the perfect sweater.

Imagine if I said you could knit a sweater in two weeks or less that is thin and light as air, but very warm. That is durable — as in, it will last for decades. [ETA: Judes makes an excellent point below.] Knitted from totally ethical, traceable farm yarn. And which would cost you well under $100. (Mine cost about $28.) You’d ask if it was spun whole by bluebirds from fairy dust and unicorn hair, right? But that’s exactly what this sweater is. (I promise I’ll take FO pics and show it to you ASAP.) Lettlopi aran-weight Icelandic wool knitted on US10 — or even 10.5 — needles is pure unadulterated genius, brought to my attention by Mary Jane Mucklestone and her Stopover sweater. Little did I know, the day I put on Kathy’s for that photoshoot, that it would change my entire knitting worldview.

I’m so driven to distraction with yarn love that instead of writing the post I meant to write for this morning, I’m back on Tolt’s Lettlopi page fantasizing and picking out colors for five more sweaters. Because all I want to knit now is every archetypal sweater in Lettlopi stockinette at 3.5 stitches per inch—

– Basic crewneck cardigan : Color 56 (silvery grey)
– Hip-length boyfriend cardigan with inset pockets : Color 1402 (sky blue)
– Short, long-sleeve v-neck pullover: Color 1400 (camel)
– Crewneck pullover, long full sleeves : Color 1413 (lilac)
– Short, elbow-sleeve crewneck pullover (same as the black one) : Color 9421  (army)

Along with the black (Color 0005), that’s my whole life palette right there, by the way — it doesn’t seem to ever change.

Look, I have to say this: This yarn is not for everyone. If you like gooey soft marshmallow yarns, you probably won’t like lopi. It is soft, but not that kind of soft. It’s airy and hairy and does magical things when you soak it — at least (or especially?) at this gauge. It’s fascinating.


Lettlopi photos © Tolt Yarn and Wool

63 thoughts on “The ultimate handknit sweater, $28

  1. I love this yarn too. I just used it for the first time to knit MaryJane Mucklestone’s Stopover sweater. I whipped that up in two weeks and promptly bought the same yarn in a different colorway to make another one.

  2. Is it light? how much does your entire sweater weight? One of the things i like about Loft from Brooklyn tweed is how light it feels when you wear it but it is fingering after all. This will be great to have in a aran yarn

    • Yes it is ! My Sounds of Life cardigan (by Andrea Rangel) is knitted at a tighter gauge (4 mm needles) and it’s light. And if you go for a looser gauge (Stopover pattern is calling for 6,5 mm needles) it really can be airy.

  3. I did order the 4 colors for the colorwork in LettLopi but used Louet Riverton worsted as the body because it is in my stash. Even though the label calls for #8, I bravely used the 10 1/2 with the Louet too and it’s perfect!! As a result of this I even upped the needle size on several other sweaters I’m knitting. They all look great and since they’re all t-shirt style for summer I’m not real concerned about row gauge. Thank you Mary Jane for this amazing information!!

  4. Karen, your excitement is contagious! I’m so happy for you that your sweater turned out so well. Some projects you finish and go “yeah, that turned out well enough” but then others you finish and just go “OMG OMG OMG” – which is the best feeling ever! I truly smiled reading this post.

    • And sometimes it takes a while. I thought Bob’s sweater was just fine, and then I machine washed it. I’d forgotten how much I love what the machine does to O-Wool Balance, and now I’m in love with that sweater, too.

  5. I believe it is Laura Nelkin who has organized a knitting themed tour in Iceland for later this year. (I SO want to go but don’t have the type of life at the moment where I can pick up and go to Iceland for a week. ). Apparently the yarn is sold at the grocery store! I can not stop thinking about that trip. Lopi everywhere.

  6. The one ting that’s been holding me back from knitting more with Lopi was not knowing how ethical it is. Thank you for clearing that up for me – full steam ahead!

  7. How is this yarn in terms of softness? Is it scratchy or tolerable? How does it compare to some of the wool everyone knows?

    • I’m sorry, I don’t know how to answer that other than what I said in the post — softness/scratchiness is just too subjective, and this yarn is not comparable to other yarns. Icelandic wool is lighter and hairier and makes a very different fabric. It’s so cheap, I would say buy a ball, knit a big swatch, soak it, and see what you think.

      • You are right Karen that it is highly subjective. From the various comments I’m reading, I can tell that I would want to wear this only over something else. I don’t have to wear only the softest merino. I do fine with Quince & Co wool right against my skin, but I can’t have Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft or Shelter rub against my neck, for example. I’m thinking of trying this LettLopi for a v-neck cardigan vest.

      • I thought i couldn’t wear it against my skin, but i do wear short sleeves t-shirt under the cardigan i made in lett-lopi and it’s really tolerable. I have just noticed that i don’t like to wear layers over it : when i add my coat or a shawl, i feel the scratchy-ness a bit more. But as it has been said, it’s subjective. Before I knitted this cardi i also was looking for feed back from other knitters, but i realised that the only way to know was to try, to make a garment and to wear it. And last thing, a lett-lopi knit is getting softer use after use ! I have already noticed it on the cardigan i have been wearing several times in february.

      • I react badly to wool, particularly wool like Lopi. However, someone suggested giving the Lopi cardi I had just made a final rinse in a good quality hair conditioner. Genius!! I can wear it with the thinnest top underneath, now. It really is worth trying.

  8. I’ve got a LettLopi sweater just about ready to block (hence the fact I was talking about casting on for a Brooklyn Tweed sweater yesterday), and I’ve been fantasizing about using my leftover yarn to make a vest where I try my hand at steeking. The fact that I just saw the Icelandic film Rams helps (see it if you can!)

  9. I have a couple skeins of unspun lopi (from schoolhouse press) can anyone compare this to lett lopi?

    I can’t wait for icelandic wool month at tolt!!!! I’m sure I’ll get some great ideas on how to use this up :) (although, I am contemplating another cowichanish sweater)

  10. Great pitch and recommendation, I will be trying it for sure. (No muslin needed for anything that fast and easy. 😋) And I can’t wait to see that fab black sweater!

  11. I’m so glad your on the lettlopi bandwagon and spreading the gospel! I’m sitting outside in the desert right now, drinking tea and wearing mine.

  12. Aha! I have fallen in Lettlopi-love as well. I have a very poor track record with sweaters and it felt miraculous to bang out a Stopover in 10 days. I used fewer than 5 balls MC for a medium size, and that seemed doubly and triply miraculous. The colors are stunning, and as you say, the lightness is unfamiliar even to longtime knitters who’ve knit with other wool.

    I got great results with hair conditioner in the wash for softening it up but I agree it is not the best for a hat or scarf. I like what the designer of Moon Pulls did- line the collar and cuffs with cashmere. :)

  13. I hope you share/sell your pattern! I am really good at following knitting patterns, but not so good at improvisation. I am totally going to buy some of this wool though!

  14. I just finished my Stopover sweater last night and I feel EXACTLY the way you do about lopi yarn. I could hardly sleep last night thinking about other possibilities for this yarn! A book with classic Icelandic sweaters patterns is on its way from Amazon and, best of all, my husband and I are planning a trip to Iceland this summer. I can’t wait to see this place where such incredible yarn is produced! P.S. Tolt Yarns is sponsoring a KAL in March focused on Icelandic sweaters.

  15. Mason-Dixon got me going on the Stopover KAL and the color possibilities are endless. My LYS stocks it at $4.50 a skein so here goes sweater #2.

  16. Don’t want to be a downer, but the long-term viability of lettlopi at this gauge is a big unknown; I’ve knit several at looser-than-typical gauges (i.e. Stopover-ish gauge), and the elbows do tend to thin, distort, and I’ve had a bad tear in one, as well. Because of the nature of the fleece, lopi isn’t a very tightly spun yarn (it doesn’t need to be, especially when knit at more typical gauges) – so, when we knit it at a looser gauge, the yarn doesn’t have a lot of the strength it needs to withstand a lot of wearing over long periods of time. Just saying. Swatch, folks, and treat those swatches the way you’ll treat the finished sweater!

  17. Your excitement is contagious, and I too can’t wait to see your black sweater! The first two “real” sweaters I knitted were what we used to call “ski sweaters” out of Lopi brand yarn–Christmas presents for my dad and brother in the early 70s. Of course it would have helped to thoroughly measure their chests and arms prior to knitting! But the sweaters were beautiful and inexpensive to knit. They also wore like iron. Now dreaming of Stopover! Thanks for a fun and inspiring post–just the ticket for the end of February.

  18. I’ve used lettlopi as a substitute for Brooklyn Tweed Shelter on 4.5 mm and absolutely love it. It’s a tighter gauge than yours, I think, but still feels light and so warm.

  19. Well, I just bought the Stopover pattern AND this yarn from Tolt with which to make it. An entire sweater for less than $50??? Thanks for this post – lack of funds is the main thing that slows down my knitting and finding an affordable GOOD yarn is so hard! Can’t wait to see and feel it in person :)

  20. Finished my Stopover and ordered more Letti Lopi this morning — Kate Davies has a pretty Icelandic pattern I might try next (although I have to shorten the waist by about 4 inches — she’s so long waisted, and alas, I am not). I really like wearing the Stopover — I heat with a woodstove so the temperature varies considerably over the day in my house, and it’s both lightweight and warm. It *is* hairy though — doesn’t itch my the way mohair does, but I do occasionally get distracted by the wavy bits floating around.

  21. I’m so happy that Lopi is finally getting all the attention it so richly deserves! I made an Irish knit cardigan with Lettlopi at least 12 years ago in a beautiful rich purple…I wear it a lot and it still looks wonderful! I also decided to make an Icelandic sweater using Lopi yarn when I took my first knitting lessons…trying to learn as much as I could within the 8 weeks of lessons. It’s too heavy to wear inside, but it’s super warm and has lived through 14 New England winters and looks as if it just came off the needles! I can’t say enough about the yarn…it’s beyond fabulous!!! I’ve used it for hats and have lined the inside with a soft knit…and did the same for mittens or felted them…they’re incredibly warm!!!

  22. The colour palette is amazing!!! I’m heading to Iceland in a couple of months time and I’m definitely checking these yarns out. Do you have any suggestions as to other Icelandic yarns/ yarn shops to look out for? I’m doing the ring road round the whole of Iceland so I might be able to stop by some of the yarn shops along the way…

    • While I found a great yarn shop in Reykavik years ago, when my partner went recently, she picked up a lot of yarn for me at truck stops and grocery stores. Clearly, in Iceland, knitting is a basic human need. Have fun!

  23. I just finished my Stopover, too, in LettLopi. Love it! It’s airy and warm. I knit it to be worn over a turtleneck, but I tried it yesterday with a T. The hairiness/scritchiness doesn’t bother my arms, but it was a bit much around my neck (modified to a lower roll neck). It’s perfect with a turtleneck. I’d love to knit another of these sweaters and cardiganize it with a steek.

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  25. I will add to the chorus of praise for Lett-Lopi that I bought yarn in dye lots two years apart and couldn’t discern a difference. Maybe I just got lucky, but it was certainly a nice change from having to alternate rows of hand-dyed, a chore that can kill any project in my queue.

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