About Icelandic wool

  • What is special about Icelandic wool?
    Icelandic sheep wool is unique in that it contains two different types of hair: The outer layer is composed of coarse, long hair known in Icelandic as tog, a tough and water-resistant layer. Underneath, there is a layer of short hair, called þel. It is finer and softer. The two different layers can be separated and used i.e. for different types of yarn. 

  • Sheep shearing 
    Most Icelandic sheep are shorn twice a year, i.e. in the autumn and spring. The autumn shearing in October – November is done when the sheep are taken into their winter sheds. Autumn wool has the best quality, it's free from contamination from the sheds and good fibre length. The spring shearing (snod) is done in February-April before sheep are send into the highlands. Spring wool can be used e.g. as a filler or in non-woven applications. Most farmers hire professional sheep shearers and sell the majority of their wool to Ístex wool factory. (See also: https://www.istexwool.is/home/icelandic-sheep/)

  • Wool categories (classes) - Abbreviations:
    H - White - Autum & spring shearing 
    M - Multicolored - Autumn & spring shearing
    L - Lambs wool - Autumn & spring shearing
    V - Winter wool - Spring (winter) shearing 

    Further divided into categories depending on quality, i.e. "H2, H3" (See also: https://ullarmat.is/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Ullarflokkun-2020.pdf) Here's a video from Ístex-Lopi on how wool is classed:

       

  • Most profitable categories 
    Single colour (white, grey, black, brown) in first class quality =  clean and free of any impurities. In 2021, 1kg. of 1st class white lambswool from autumn shearing - the most valuable category - pays around €9 (payment to farmers, including subsidies from the government). In comparison, 1kg of 2nd class white sheep wool pays €3,85; M2 multicoloured wool €1,20. The best wool is used for yarn production;  there tends to be more demand than supply. Less valuable categories are exported and used e.g. for making carpets. (See also: https://www.bbl.is/frettir/fraedsluhornid/stada-i-ullarmalum-vegna-covid-19). 

Least profitable categories 

  • Autumn wool: H 2, H 3 og M 2. White and multicoloured wool of lesser quality. M stands for multicoloured (Icel. "mislit") wool from brown / brindle sheep, or any other mixed colour. The roughest bits of wool, such as the "tog" (outer layer) from a sheep's leg, are categorised as third class and have no value. 
  • Winter wool: Wool shorn in February / March. The wool from sheep fed outside during the winter months tends to be dirtier and contains traces of hay. It is also oilier, since winter wool has a higher Lanolin content than autumn wool does. (See also: https://ullarmat.is/ullarflokkar/hvit-vetrarull/ og https://ullarmat.is/ullarflokkar/saudalitir-vetraull/)

         Lömb

                                      Image: Róbert Daníel Jónsson

  • Unprocessed wool 
    Wool that has not been spun yet. May have been washed and carded; washed and / or carded wool is still considered unprocessed wool.