Guðrún Bjarnadóttir shares her knowledge about Icelandic plants and wool.
Guðrún Bjarnadóttir is a fascinating woman with seemingly eclectic interests. Her diverse resume includes teaching botany and plant identification at the Agricultural University of Iceland at Hvanneyri near Borgarnes, being a published author, analyzing sperm for the Icelandic Bull Center, volunteering for the American Red Cross in West Africa, being an entrepreneur using native plants to naturally dye and make yarn, and, along with her two sisters, is a triplet!
The upcoming webinar with Icelandic Roots will feature her entrepreneurial side, collecting plants to color the yarn she makes from Icelandic wool. She says, “Plants, knitting and nature are my favorite things and I am so lucky to be able to combine them all in my work and life.” She maintains a studio near Selfoss where traditional methods of dyeing yarn from Icelandic plants or lichens can be observed, along with the products created from utilizing those methods.
Guðrún began coloring with plants while writing her master's thesis in ethnobotany. She became fascinated with this skill and feels it combines everything she is interested in as well as using natural products and traditional methods provides an uncertainty of outcome leading to continual surprises that help to hold her interest, and provide an incentive to try again! Her grandmother taught her to identify plants along with their traditional uses. Growing up with a mother who taught handcraft, she naturally followed suit. Guðrún lives in a rural area and, in general, just has to walk out her door to locate what she needs.
Guðrðun collects plants in autumn to do most of her dying over the winter and anxiously awaits spring when the plants start growing again. She explains that Iceland has a relatively small number of plant species, some 500, compared to, for example, Great Britain, which has about 4,000 to 5,000 different plant species. That can make it challenging to get just the right color, with blues and reds not present naturally in the Icelandic landscape. In bygone times, plants like indigo and madder root were imported to obtain those hues, which she still does. Other differences from the traditional methods employed by Guðrún are using better dye pots made from stainless steel and household ammonia cleaner instead of cow urine! Her methods today are more environmentally friendly and she takes the remnants of the dyeing process to be recycled rather than pouring them into the ground or down the drain.
Please see her website at
and her Hespa Etsy shop
You will find offerings such as as dyed yarn, hand-knitted and handcrafted items, kits to make your own knitted items, books highlighting native Icelandic plants in both Icelandic and English, games featuring different plants species for adults and children, as well as a plant dyeing jigsaw puzzle. All items are delightfully colorful, a real treat for the eye.
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