Last year we launched our very popular All American Collection yarn, a wonderful blend of alpaca from east cost farms and Rambouillet wool from domestic farms. The fiber is then processed at a historic mill here in New England. Today we’re excited to share some photos of the fiber mill where our yarn is spun and how the yarn is made.
Centuries of selective breeding have yielded hundreds of varieties of wool with highly specialized characteristics. There are different wools from different breeds of sheep for carpets and for sweaters, for the top of a sock and for the heel, for winter blankets and for summer. Wool breathes and absorbs moisture without feeling damp, so when the early sun warms you will stay equally comfortable.
Swans Island Company was founded on Swans Island in 1992. Right from the start we had a deep commitment to the quality of the goods that we produced. Now located on the coast of Maine, we continue to be deeply influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement as well as the reawakening of the craft movement in this country with its commitment to high quality hand work. Swans Island Company’s location on the rugged coast of Maine is not just happenstance. We find ourselves impacted by the natural beauty of our home. The ragged granite cliffs, the winter sea smoke coming off the Atlantic on a frigid morning, the quality of the light – all these elements affect our approach to design and our choice of natural fibers.
Swans Island continues to produce its signature hand woven blankets and throws. We also now make scarves, wraps, cowls, gloves, and hats and a new line of blankets and throws. All of these items are made at our studio in Northport or with high quality production partners in the U.S. Every item we sell has our hand dyed artisanal yarn that we painstakingly produce at our dye house in Northport. Each skein of yarn bears the imprint of our master dyer’s years of experience and loving care.
Dyeing the Ikat yarn is a process that took years to perfect. “Ikat” literally translates into “to tie”. In most dyeing endeavors we are attempting to have full penetration of the dye into the yarn. The Ikat approach seeks to allow penetration in some areas of the yarn while resisting in other areas. It is an extremely labor intensive process, but one that results in a natural dispersal of lighter to darker indigo saturation.
Hand weaving the Ikat wrap is a true labor of love. Once the weaver selects the hand dyed skeins that she feels work best together the weaving can commence. It is then a matter of laying down each strand, one after the other, making sure that they blend beautifully with one another. Each Ikat wrap is somewhat different. It reflects the Ikat hand tying and dyeing process and the choices that each weaver makes as they create these timeless pieces.
The term “heirloom” typically refers to a possession that has accumulated some history of its own, that has served and been cared for by a succession of owners. But age alone is not enough. Certain essential qualities must be built into the object from the beginning. It must be functional; it must be sturdy enough to survive generations of use; it must be pleasing to use and own, so that people will value it enough, even when it is old, to make it a gift to someone they love. It is those qualities–functionality, durability, and simple, timeless beauty–that artisans of Swans Island seek in their work. In an age of burgeoning consumer choices, they choose to pour their skill, effort, and time into making signature hand woven blankets that that might stand out as special.