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Not all wool sweaters for sale in Iceland were made in Iceland
Photo by Cosmic Timetraveler on Unsplash

It’s no secret that visitation to Iceland has been up in recent years. In addition to photos of the volcanic landscapes, many who travel to the island nation return home with Icelandic sweaters hand-knit from local wool. They’re warm, but as written in a recent CBS News story, many of these sweaters weren’t knitted in Iceland. Instead, they were knitted in China, where labor is cheaper and more available. From the story:

“Local knitters are upset at seeing their profit margins diminished by the appearance of sweaters actually made in China, albeit from authentic Icelandic wool. The practice was started by some local manufacturers who have successfully outsourced the labor to China. Containers full of local yarn are shipped from the North Atlantic island nation, made into sweaters, then shipped back again, labeled as ‘hand-knitted from Icelandic wool.'”

The famous sweaters are known as lopi sweaters or lopapeysa (from lopi, denoting the particular kind of unspun yarn, and peysa meaning “sweater, jumper, pullover”), and each is necessarily hand-knitted (no machines involved) from the wool of Icelandic sheep. Where they are hand-knitted is a different story, though. The assumption from tourists is likely to be that a lopi sweater they find for sale in Iceland was made in Iceland, but the story estimates that two-thirds of them were made in China.

Going forward, knitting co-ops in Iceland have urged the government to put forward legislation on the issue. But for now, how do you know what you’re buying? First, you should look at the tag. If it was knitted in China, it should say that. You might even ask the seller directly. Beyond that, you should consider the price, as “locally made sweaters retail for about $200, while the Chinese ones sell for around $170, reflecting the wage gap between the two nations.”

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