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Archive: 2014

Last Minute Holiday Stitching

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Christmas is just over a week away, and there are only a few days left to finish up those hand crafted holiday gifts. If you need to get a few more done before the big day we have some great quick knit inspiration today! These projects look impressive and will be sure to please your loved ones but are small and simple enough to get done in plenty of time.

First we have worsted weight patterns. These projects take just one skein of Swans Island Natural Colors Merino Worsted or our new All American Collection. For most knitters these projects can be knit in just a couple nights of dedicated knitting.

Spruce Head Hat by Michele Rose Orne
Spruce Head hat from Swans Island

Sophia Mitts by Nell Ziroli

Sophia Mitts from Swans Island

Blackberry Mitts by Michele Rose Orne
Blackberry Mitts Swans Island

Timeberline Hat by Nell Ziroli

Timberline Hat from Swans Island

Sebago Hat by Michele Rose Orne

Sebago Hat from Swans Island

Celtic Mitts by Michele Rose Orne

Celtic Mitts from Swans Island

Spindrift Cowl by Stacey McCrea Warner

Spindrift Cowl from Swans Island

The following patterns are designed for one skein of Natural Colors Merino Bulky Weight, and are even quicker to work up than the patterns above!

Twisted Wristers and Headband by Michele Rose Orne Twisted Wristers from Swans Island

Elizabeth Cowl by Michele Rose Orne

Elizabeth Cowl from Swans Island

A Very Simple Hat by Michele Rose Orne

A Very Simple Hat from Swans Island

Nor’Easter Hat by Michele Rose OrneNor'Easter Hat from Swans Island

Designer Spotlight: Bristol Ivy

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We continue our designer spotlight series with our friend and fellow Mainer, Bristol Ivy. Bristol has designed two patterns for Swans Island this fall, the Offshore V-Neck from the All American Collection and the Mt Katahdin Cowl in Natural Colors Merino Worsted. Bristol Ivy, Swans Island Designer Spotlight

Bristol Ivy is a knitting designer from Portland, Maine.  Her work focuses on the intersection of innovative shaping and technique with classic tailoring and clean lines; in addition to her work with Swans Island, she has been published with Quince & Co., Brooklyn Tweed, Knitty, Twist Collective, Interweave Knits, Knitscene, knit.wear and knit.purl, PomPom Quarterly, and number self-publications.  When she isn’t knitting or thinking about knitting (which doesn’t happen frequently), she can be found working behind the scenes at Brooklyn Tweed, cooking, baking, watching way too much British TV, and going for long walks on the crooked brick sidewalks of her neighborhood.

SI: How did you get started knitting and then make the transition into designing?
BI: It’s been a long road! I was homeschooled all the way through, and part of our curriculum when I was around 6 was that my mom would read aloud to us.  I was a huge fidgeter then (and still am!), so mom taught me how to knit to keep me sitting still while she was reading. There was about a ten year gap in interest, but when I went off to college I just got obsessed with it and never looked back.  Designing was a natural extension; I’ve never been someone who follows other people’s rules super well, so I was always tweaking patterns to get what I wanted.  After a while it just became easier to write my own!

Bristol's Workspace

Bristol’s workspace


SI: Can you give us a peek into your day-to-day as a designer? Do you 
design full time? How much of your day do you spend knitting?
BI: I currently work full-time as the operations coordinator at Brooklyn Tweed, so design work gets squeezed in around that.  Nights and weekends are my prime designing time! I don’t get as much time to knit as I’d like, just because the computer work of design often takes precedence, but if I get a day where there’s nothing else on my agenda but knitting, I’m a very happy lady!

Offshore V-Neck  by Bristol Ivy

Offshore V-Neck by Bristol Ivy

 

SI: What inspired your designs for Swans Island?
BI: Swans Island’s yarns themselves are a huge source of inspiration! The work that Jackie and her dyeing crew do is magical, and the bases that they work upon are some of the best on the market.  Working with a local company also gave me the opportunity to focus on some of the things here in Maine that inspire me–the nautical tradition, the history of Portland, the native flora, and so on.

SI: What excites you most in knitting?
BI: The “what if?” moments.  I tend to design based on technique, putting together a final piece that utilizes a skill or concept I wanted to explore in wearable form. So for me, when those lightbulb moments of “oh my gosh, what if I used that there, or what if I turned that 90 degrees, or what if I used that stitch pattern to do this?” occur, it’s so exciting.

Mt Katahdin Cowl by Bristol Ivy

Mt Katahdin Cowl by Bristol Ivy

 

SI: What makes Maine special to you?
BI: Oh goodness, where to start? There’s just something about this place. I’ve tried to move away many times (I reeeeally don’t like being cold), but something about it always draws me back.  I love the history of it–I love that my walk to work in the mornings is the same path people have been treading for over two hundred years.  I love the fact that most towns on the coast still have working waterfronts.  I love that you go ten minutes outside of Portland (our biggest city) and there’s farmland.  I love that Portland has so many people who unabashedly enjoy music, art, and food.  I love most everything about it–though I could probably skip the cold in winter and mosquitoes in summer! It’s truly an amazing place to live, and I feel privileged every day that I get to do so.

Learn more about Bristol on her blog, in her Ravelry group, and follower her on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest as BristolIvy.

A Glimpse Inside Margo Moore Interiors: Infusing New Life Into Traditional Styles

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You can’t miss Margo Moore Interiors. Driving North on Route 1 into downtown Camden, the shop is one of the first points to catch your eye. Its ever-vibrant, ever-changing street-front window display room engenders a distinct joie de vivre that is the mark of the Margo Moore sensibility.

    Margo Moore DesignsMargo Moore Interiors for the home

Walking into the shop gives one a complete picture of the breadth of its offerings: boldly colored home wares, elegant furnishings, bedding, carpets, lighting, soaps, gift trinkets, and more can be found for sale on the first floor of the shop. Also on the first floor is their famous display room usually showcasing a thoughtfully laid out and well-curated bedroom or cottage dining room. On the second floor is an interior design studio complete with thousands of fabric swatches, a textile library, trims and wallpapers, and other design samplings. The desks of Marcy Van der Kieft and her daughter, Megan, also live on the second floor.

It is a family affair, with Marcy at the helm, her husband Peter focused on the marketing and the designing of the window displays, and Megan instilling her own personal touch as a partner in both the interior design aspect of the business as well as in the curation of the shop’s offerings. On this particular day, Megan and staff are rearranging displays on the first floor. Marcy is tending to her golden lab, a friendly fixture at the shop.

Margo Moore triptych

We’ve long been fans of Margo Moore Interiors, which has been a staple of the community for more than 40 years. We were so thrilled when they started to carry Swans Island blankets, so we decided to stop in one day and hear a little more about the history of the shop, which we were surprised to learn started neither in Maine nor in interior design. The seed was first planted with Marcy’s mother (and the shop’s namesake), Margo, who opened a women’s clothing shop in Darien, Connecticut. Margo’s passion for fashion and clothing and her keen sense of style greatly influenced daughter Marcy, who went on to a career in textiles and fashion, which included a stint as associate fashion editor for Mademoiselle. Marcy took over the Darien shop but eventually moved headquarters to Camden and shifted her focus on to interiors. Ever since then, Marcy and Co. have established themselves as authorities on the Maine style vernacular — transforming houses into homes by incorporating their distinct warmth, meshing old traditions with new, refreshed styles, and elevating simple elements with pops of color or with unique twists on pattern combinations. All the while ever respectful of and highlighting the beauty and splendor of Maine.

“This is a very special, magical place,” says Megan. “I’ve traveled to a lot of places, but there’s nothing like Maine. And the sense of community you find right here in this pocket of the midcoast is something we don’t take for granted, not in our personal lives nor in our work.”

Indeed they are designers who pride themselves on their ability to listen to their clients and to balance this with their own respective design philosophies, which, as you can imagine for a mother and daughter, are slightly distinct from one another. Marcy favors traditional styles and bold colors. Megan, who grew up in Camden and graduated from the Wentworth Institute of Design, has a more understated and modern palette. Yet they work together in complementary ways. And their experiences have offered them an intuitiveness and a knack for what patterns and styles will go well together.

“I was working on a woman’s bedroom and she grabbed a bunch of blankets that she then laid out on the bed for styling,” says Megan. “They looked completely fine and beautiful, but I had a sense that I could elevate that warmth and sophistication.”

So she made a suggestion: Replace the blankets with Swans Island blankets. Immediately, Megan says, it changed the setting of the bed and the space, giving it beautiful, understated hues of color and a style that was both classic and modern.

Swans Island Blankets on display     Pink Swans Island Blanket

“It just looked so elegant and perfect,” says Megan. “When Mom and I believe in something, we can sell it. When we understand and know the product, like we do Swans Island blankets, there is an organic way in which we are able to incorporate those products into the style of a home. What I love about Swans Island is its natural look; it’s not overly colorful or pretentious. There is a natural touch and feel that is unique to these blankets.”

“Part of our job is not just to make a room distinct but to also make it feel like home. When you add in accents of Maine, it really transforms a house into a home.”

 

One of a Kind Handmade Blankets Made in Maine for Winter

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There are few things more comforting than curling up in a handmade blanket on a cold day. Blankets keep us warm in bed, on the couch, on our porch or at our writing desk. They soothe us when we’re unwell, provide warmth for our little ones asleep in bed, and help us unwind after a long day at work.

But what separates Swans Island winter-weight handmade blankets from most other handmade blankets is that our wool blankets are made in the USA and are designed with both practicality and beauty in mind, providing breathable warmth and an inimitably classic style. Thanks to the processes we honor and use at Swans Island, much of the natural lanolin in the wool is retained, making for the softest, most supple and loftiest handmade blanket you’ll ever own. And each Swans Island winter blanket is hand-woven with two layers of 100 wool, which means extra warmth for colder climes. And with a handful of styles to choose from, you’ll find one that suits your personal style. Our natural colors range from solid colors—like our all-indigo or all-white blanket—to checked colors—like our white with yellow checks and the popular white with grey checks. There is also our rare wool equinox blanket, made from naturally brown and black sheep, and designed in longitudinal, alternating lines of dark and light.

Best of all, the lasting quality of our winter blankets make them wonderful heirlooms, cherished and memorialized from one generation to the next. Create memories with your very own Swans Island handmade blanket.

handmade wool blankets made in Maine USA 100 wool blanket made in USA

handmade baby gifts, luxury baby gifts, organic baby gifts

 

Swans Island Artisans at Work

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Don’t forget to check out our event this Friday, October 24th at Portland Dry Goods! Swans Island Artisans, dyer Jackie Graf and weaving studio manager Laura Matthews, will be on-hand for demonstrations in spinning, dyeing, and weaving – all processes involved in making our beautiful blankets, throws, wraps, scarves and cowls.

Jackie has been with Swans Island for 5 years, and is heavily involved with product development and colors in the yarn department.  She is an accomplished fiber artist who also teaches spinning and natural dyeing at fibers events throughout the country.  She will bring her dyepot and spinning skills to PDG for an afternoon of fiber and color! Laura has a degree in fibers and is the weaving manager at the Swans Island studios.  She creates custom designs for our clients and keeps the looms running smoothly.  She will bring her weaving and knitting skills!

Swans Island Artisans Demonstrations

 

Fall Weekend Escapes in Maine

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Weekend escapes about Maine in October are our favorite times of the year. The leaves turn delicious hues of red, gold, and orange, giving every town a vibrant glow. Pumpkins abound. And the colder days and nights call for light layers and hats. Swans Island cowls and scarves are perfect for fall days–crafted with the finest organic merino wool and using processes that uphold their natural loft, they’re the quintessence of style and warm sophistication.

We love the way they keep us warm on short walks into town or on long drives to our favorite leaf-peeping spots right here in Maine. Here is a short list of where we like to play, explore, and soak in the natural beauty of Maine. Where do you like to spend your days in October?

Top 5 Spots to visit this Fall for weekend escapes in Maine:

Acadia National Park

Acadia National Park

Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake

Mt. Katahdin

Mt. Katahdin

Swans Island suggests Kennebunkport for a Fall weekend escapes in Maine

Kennebunkport

Bethel, a weekend escape in Maine

Bethel

All American Collection

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We’re excited to announce that our new yarn, the All American Collection, is finally available for sale on our website! This lofty and soft 2-ply yarn begins with 100% All American Rambouillet wool from the Erk Ranch in South Dakota. We blend this fine quality wool with alpaca sourced from small family farms along the East Coast. Blended and spun at the oldest woolen mill in New England, this worsted weight 2-ply yarn is then carefully hand-dyed at our studio in Maine. Our All American Collection worsted weight yarn celebrates centuries of American textile tradition.

We’ve also worked with a group of talented designers on a collection of patterns for our new yarn. You can see all 11 patterns from the All American Collection of patterns on Ravelry. We’re thrilled to finally share the yarns and patterns with the world!

 

Offshore V-Neck by Bristol Ivy

Offshore V-Neck from Swans Island Yarn

Breakwater Pullover by Leah B. Thibault 

Breakwater Pullover from Swans Island Yarn

Brigantine Sweater by Michele Rose Orne

Brigantine Sweater from Swans Island Yarn

Celtic Mitts by Michele Rose Orne

Celtic Mitts from Swans Island Yarn

Turk’s Head Loop by Michele Rose Orne

Turks Head Loop from Swans Island Yarn

Arrowhead Shawl by Alicia Plummer

Arrowhead Shawl from Swans Island YarnRangeley Pillow by Stacey McCrea Warner

Rangeley Pillow from Swans Island Yarn

Acadia Cowl by Alicia Plummer

Acadia Cowl from Swans Island Yarn

Spindrift Cowl by Stacey McCrea Warner

Spindrift Cowl from Swans Island Yarn

Sebago Hat by Michele Rose Orne

Sebago Hat from Swans Island Yarn

Plimoth Hat by Alicia Plummer


Plimoth Hat from Swans Island Yarn

 

 

 

 

 

Designer Spotlight: Isabell Kraemer

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We’re excited to start a new series of blog posts here on the Swans Island blog, featuring interviews with designers we’ve worked with and their patterns in Swans Island yarns. For our first spotlight we’re excited to feature Isabell Kraemertalented German knitwear designer Isabell Kraemer.

Isabell creates everyday items for modern knitters. Loving the outdoors, she is heavily influenced by nature; and those who know her designs love her casual, contemporary pieces that all come with a little twist. A confessed stripe addict herself, she is also hooked on seamless construction; not because she doesn’t like seaming (she is a fully qualified dressmaker after all), but because she loves to see garments take shape and being able to adjust the fit on the go. Although hugely successful as a knitwear designer, she says that the biggest accomplishment is her son (there is even a pullover named after him) – becoming a mother was the best thing that has happened to her, followed a close second by her husband of a few years and her three cats.

She’s recently published two sweater patterns with Swans Island, the Audrey Cardigan and the Gretchen Pullover.

SI: How did you get started knitting and then make the transition into designing?

IK: My Grandma tried to teach me, when I was about 15. She tried — and failed!!! She never made a second attempt! So, a few years later I had to teach myself and learned to knit from old knitting books. When I finally discovered Ravelry my knitting life took its own course…the designing came gradually. I discovered that there might be some interest in what I did with sticks and yarns and after refreshing my  knowledge about the construction of garments (I am – was – a dressmaker) I took my first steps into designing and pattern writing.

Audrey Cardigan by Isabell Kraemer

Audrey Cardigan by Isabell Kraemer

SI: Can you give us a peek into your day-to-day as a designer? Do you design full time? How much of your day do you spend knitting?

IK: My day starts with a cup of coffee (or sometimes several) and my current knitting project, after being at work (I still work part-time at an arts and craft store, teaching kids craft classes) some back office work needs to be done and then, depending on priority (and my liking…), I do some pattern writing, have fun with new yarns, sample knitting…and so on.

I am (since February 2012) married to the best man of the world, who does most of the housework, like cooking, cleaning, shopping…so I can spend around 4 to 5 hours (sometimes even more) a day with my knitting and knitting related things.

Gretchen Pullover by Isabell Kraemer

Gretchen Pullover by Isabell Kraemer


SI: What inspired your designs for Swans Island? 

IK: When I first got my hands on Swans Island yarns I was impressed by the incredible rich colors and the heavenly soft yarn bases. Most of my designs are inspired by our wonderful surrounding nature, or even, in general, the world around me…I think one can describe me as some kind of sponge – soaking up nearly everything I see…

SI: What excites you most in knitting?

I am excited about the endless possibilities of combining knits and purls (does this sound quirky?)

SI: Which designers do you admire? Do you have any projects in the works or planned that were designed by someone else? 

I love the work of Jared Flood, Joji Locatelli, Veera Valimäki, Heidi Kirrmaier, Kirsten Johnstone and so many more…this list would never end…just finished the lovely shawl “campside” by Alicia Plummer, before a few days I started (finally) a “nanook” by Heidi Kirrmaier and every now and then I have a testknit for Joji on my needles.

All photos (C) Isabell Kraemer and used with permission.

Looking For A Unique Wedding Gift?

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Unique Wedding Gift for the Couple

Finding a unique wedding gift for the couple can be challenging. The perfect gift is something that is stylish and beautiful, as well as timeless; something both the bride and groom can enjoy; and something meaningful that can be passed on from one generation to the next. Swans Island products make exquisite gifts and come elegantly packaged in a Swans Island gift box. Handcrafted with care, using the best fibers and processes, Swans Island blankets and throws are a one-of-a-kind way to commemorate new beginnings. We’ll even help you customize them for a uniquely personal, elegantly packaged gift.

SharynPeaveyPhotorgaphy-3754

Photography by Sharyn Peavey

Visit our new Swans Island Company Wedding Page, and let us help you choose the perfect gift for the perfect couple! When you arrive at Swans Island Wedding just fill out the form and we will be in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keepsakes for the Bride and Her Maidens

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Wedding season is a time of excitement here in Maine! With an endless array of breathtaking vistas and waterfront locations, many flock here for their special day. Recently, our friend Jessie tied the knot, and as a special thank you to her bridesmaids, she gifted them with Swans Island grey-and-white wraps, each trimmed in silk and bearing the Swans Island weaver’s mark.

Elegant Bride in a Swans Island White Woven Wrap

The beautiful bride wore an elegant white wrap.

Elegant Bride in a Swans Island White Woven Wrap  Elegant Bride in a Swans Island White Woven Wrap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We think it’s the perfect keepsake for any bridal party: they are luxuriously soft, add a touch of elegance, and their sleek and simple design make them versatile enough to be worn at a relaxed rehearsal dinner, a pre-wedding bridal celebration, as well as the grand ceremony itself.

Swans Island Wrap is an elegant gift for bridesmaids  Swans Island Wrap is an elegant gift for bridesmaids

 

 

Might we suggest our Swans Island Wrap when you’re thinking of a unique and stunning gift for your maid of honor and bridesmaids? They can be customized for a personal touch and come packaged in a linen clutch.

Elegant wrap comes packaged in a linen clutch.

* Photography by Sharyn Peavey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timeless Warmth While Staying Cool During Summer

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Summers in Maine are characterized by hot days and cool evenings. That’s why we love our Swans Island coastal throws, hand loomed with light, summer-weight wool. They’re light enough to keep you cool when you’re lounging on your porch in the morning, and they’re the perfect weight to keep you warm on a beach-side evening. Our summer blankets and throws are made with our special wool, which keeps heat, but wicks away moisture. It’s much more ideal than cotton throws and blankets, which lose their warmth when they soak up water and sweat. And because the process we use to spin and treat our wool is less harsh than typical processes, we retain much of the wool’s natural lanolin, resulting in luxurious loft and softness. A lot of thought and care go into our summer weight coastal throws. But don’t take our word for it.

Visit our studio to feel the difference for yourself! All of our summer weight products can be purchased online at www.swansislandcompany.com

Summer Blankets in BlueSummer Blankets in Purple Stripe

Summer Blankets in Purple and GreySummer blankets assortment

10 Of Our Favorite Items This Summer

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Summer is, hands-down, the best time to experience in Maine. In celebration of our favorite season, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite items this summer. What are some of the things on your summer must-have list?

1. Boardworks Raven Stand-Up Paddleboard (L.L. Bean)

Boardworks Raven Stand-Up Paddleboard from L.L. Bean

2. Swans Island summer weight Coastal Throw

Swans Island summer weight Coastal Throw  blog-2-2

3. Sunpocket Sunglasses (available at Day Trip Society)

Sunpocket Sunglasses available at Day Trip Society

4. Pinstripe beach towel (More & Co.)

Pinstripe beach towel from More & Co.

5. The Rangeley Camp Collection Market Bag

The Rangeley Camp Collection Market Bag

6. ANK Ceramics Beer Cups (available at Sugar Tools and More & Co.)

ANK Ceramics Beer Cups (available at Sugar Tools and More & Co.)

7. Native Shoes

Native Shoes

8. Soludos Beach Paddles

Soludos Beach Paddles

9. A Sunny Afternoon Picnic Basket

A Sunny Afternoon Picnic Basket

10. The Maine Dog Collar (available at The Maine Dog store in Camden)

The Maine Dog Collar (available at The Maine Dog store in Camden)

Swans Island Company, Handcrafted in Maine USA Since 1992

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