Photographer Peter Ralston and his wife Terri have long been great friends of Swans Island. Peter’s heralded studies of the Maine coast convey the same aesthetic that informs our work and is the subject of a documentary called “Peter’s Eye,” which will be featured among a program of short films at this year’s Camden International Film Festival. Be sure to check it out this Saturday at the Strand.
This past weekend, MOFGA hosted the Common Ground Country Fair, its annual celebration of rural living which showcases the best of the state’s organic harvests, livestock, and local food. Crowds travel from all over for the three-day festival, where there is something for everyone. There is a marketplace, a spotlight stage and a sustainable living tent. There are artisans, wool spinners, stilt walkers, and musicians. A 5K foot race always takes place on the last day. We spent Sunday strolling in and out of the various vendor booths, tasting a variety of treats, and marveling at the display of award-winning harvests.
Our favorite booth of all was Tony Vinci’s Finns & Flowers Handmade Toys. Tony, one of our talented dyers, crafts beautiful handmade teethers, rattles, block sets and other wooden toys.
The finishing room is the most hidden of the Swans Island work spaces, but it’s just as busy as our dye house, administrative offices, weaver’s studio and showroom. It’s tucked away above our weaver’s studio, up a flight of stairs where sounds alternate between the silent concentration of chaff-picking and the hum of sewing machines. After our weavers complete a series of scarves, blankets or throws, they gather their work from the looms and take them to the finishing room, where our very talented seamstresses inspect and put the finishing touches on all handmade wovens. It’s also here in the finishing room where we make our linen bags, as well as the linen satchels in which protective scraps of cedar are stuffed. The edges of woven products are hemmed with silk, and remnant chaff is removed with tiny tweezers. Monograms, if they’re requested, are implemented with meticulous care and precision by hand. The wovens are then gently washed, block-dried and iron-pressed before the weaver’s logo is trimmed and a product label is sewn in. Afterwards, they’re placed in linen bags or linen covered gift boxes, and shipped out to their final destinations.
Last week we were treated to a very special visit from two of our fabulous yarn reps, Antonia and Narda. When they visited us last year, we were still dyeing yarn from our farmhouse porch, and we’d only had few yarn colors and patterns. But we were brimming with ideas, and we were eager for our yarn collection to take off. This time, Antonia and Narda got to see exactly how far we’ve come since their last visit: 20 colors in three weights of yarn, additional patterns we’ll be making available soon, and a bigger dyehouse to facilitate our growing needs. After spending the morning observing the dye process and exploring the new dyehouse, the ladies joined us for coffee and treats at Dot’s, where we exchanged ideas and feedback, talked about the current trends and state of the yarn industry, and discussed future Swans Island projects. It was a wonderful, productive meeting, and we were so happy that Antonia and Narda were able to join us again this year.
Our lead dyer Jackie Graf has been in her dye lab experimenting on a recipe for our newest color concoction: lemongrass. At Swans Island, we use all plant or insect based dye-stuff to get the natural colors we love. Here’s a sneak peak of the process and the color, which will weave its way into our Swans Island woven and yarn collection in the very near future.
If you’ve ever seen a Swans Island blanket, you’ll notice a very distinct logo woven into the corner. It’s our Swans Island weaver’s mark, and it can be found on most Swans Island blankets, as well as all of our throws, scarves and pillows. What makes the weaver’s mark so special is that no industrial loom can perform this task — it can only be done with a hand loom. The original owners of Swans Island, John and Carolyn Grace, conceptualized our weaver’s mark, visualizing the logo to stand for “A”, “B”, and “C” (Atlantic Blanket Company). It’s our very own seal of authenticity, and it adds a nice touch to our unique and beautiful products.
It’s hard to believe that Fall is right around the corner. We’ll miss the long warm days, walking barefoot on wet grass, berry picking, and the crystalline smell of the ocean being carried in by the summer breeze. But we have plenty of things to get excited about in the coming months. Here are a few of them. Camden International Film Festival September 29 – October 2 Camden, Rockport, and Rockland, The motto for the Camden International Film Festival says it all: Small towns, big films. Now in its seventh season, CIFF started out modestly and has grown into a destination festival that lures hundreds of national and international independent documentary film entries every year. This year’s lineup of films promises to be its best yet.
Above, an audience gets ready to enjoy a screening of one of hundreds of CIFF documentaries. Below, movie-goers wait for a screening at the Strand Theater in Rockland. (Photos courtesy of the Camden International Film Festival.)
Susan Williams, our creative director, spent a recent Sunday with our friend Cig Harvey during her photo shoot for our next big project — a collection of home, wedding and baby knit patterns due out in the Spring. Cig, who is the talented photographer behind many of Maine Magazine‘s covers, boasts a collection of work that is stunning, dreamy and introspective. We were so thrilled with Cig’s photos for us that we wanted to share one of them, as well as a few pictures from the photo shoot. Thank you to Cig, who is a new mommy herself, and to Beauty Mark Spa‘s Jennifer Ross-Boshes, who was kind enough to let us photograph her adorable baby boy, Ronan.