Spotlight: Michele Rose Orne

Michele OrneToday on the blog we’re excited to feature the first part of an interview with Michele Rose Orne, Partner and Creative Director at Swans Island. Michele has been designing hand knits for over 25 years. She brings a rich combination of passion and experience to Swans Island’s line of all-natural, hand-dyed yarns and timeless patterns that are inspired by classic favorites and daily life along the coast of Maine. Michele is the author of Inspired to Knit (2008), and has published her patterns in many knitting magazines and now designs for Swans Island.

Could you tell us a little about what you did before you joined the Swans Island Team?
Before becoming a partner in Swans Island, I was a long-time freelance knitwear designer for many major yarn companies and major knitting magazines. I graduated from Yale in 1985 and moved to NYC to worked in the garment industry as a knitwear designer (Knit design was not something I studied at school… it was just a hobby!). That experience took me around the world to London, Paris, Italy, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, mainland China and various parts of the US both designing and working on production teams making large volumes of machine and hand knit goods that were sold in major retailers across the country.  (I even did a stint  designing hand knit “ugly” Christmas  sweaters for a few years—tens of thousands of them—that job paid for the addition on my house!)

I designed finished knit goods for large retailers and labels such as  Talbots, Anne Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, Nautica, and more. During that time I also did freelancing knit pattern designs for companies including Classic Elite, Tahki Stacey Charles, Reynolds, and magazines/books including Vogue Knitting, Interweave Knits, etc until 2002 when I “retired” after the birth of my fourth child. The international travel was fun at the time, but impossible with 4 kids! I started to get back into the design world in 2008 with publication of a book with Interweave Press.

Then in 2009 my friend Tom Laurita, who is also on the board of Swans Island approached me for some advice about the yarns that Swans Island was making. They had received a few inquiries from interested knitters whether or not they sold the yarns used to make their blankets.  Up until that time the answer had been no. I agreed to “consult” and gave them some advice about the yarn and hand knitting industry and I came on board as an investor and partner in the company in 2010. As it was a small company just up the road from my house, it seemed like a good opportunity to do something related to my previous life as a designer and yarn fanatic without all the far-flung travel.

What’s Your Role at Swans Island?
After working in so many environments abroad, and designing for other people, (many times things that I wasn’t particularly fond of on a personal level) I was excited for the opportunity to build something from the ground up that was based in the USA that had a classic design sensibility as well as a dedication to quality and Maine. It was important to me that I could have control over the creative process. I initially came into the company on a very part time basis (I still had four young kids!) as the Yarn Division Director to develop a yarn business from scratch.

At that time, all the dyeing was done on the porch of the 1790’s farmhouse in Northport, in a couple of small pots on burners.  There was no way that model was scaleable—so we built a big new dyehouse and learned how to dye our own naturally dyed yarns on a somewhat more commercial level.  It was  a work in progress with a substantial learning curve!  We developed our own unique dyeing technique in large 500 gallon tanks—and we have become the only large scale commercial natural dyehouse in the country.  My contribution was to coax the expansion of the yarn offerings from a merino fingering to add worsted and grow to 22 colors. I designed an initial offering of about 6 patterns, designed skein bands, color cards, and all the other materials needed to develop a sales presentation and attend The National Needle Arts (TNNA) trade show. Our first show was a huge success, even with our limited offering of 18 colors. The gorgeous saturation in our naturally dyed colors was not available anywhere else in the market and struck a chord with buyers and yarn shops.

Since then I have continued to be heavily involved with growing the yarn portion of our business—I have designed many of the patterns for the Swans Island collection and have directed the development of several other new yarns.We continue to offer our original naturally dyed collection but now offer 5 different yarn bases in multiple weights with well over 100 different color recipes, and we continue to develop new, domestically produced, high quality yarns. I am involved in every step of the process from fiber sourcing, to spinning, to setting the color palettes, and working with designers to develop the pattern support for all those lines.  It remains a priority to focus on the sourcing of the fiber, the quality level of the fiber, and the high quality level of the finished product. Our very talented yarn team brings an amazing skill set and level of dedication to this process—we are all fiber and knitting fanatics and we each bring our passion for fine fibers and years of varied experiences  into every product we make.DSC_0950_2

In addition to that yarn stuff, I evolved from Yarn Director to become the Creative Director of the whole company. So with that, I have become much more heavily involved in every aspect of the company. For those that only know our yarns, Swans Island was actually first known for our beautiful handwoven blanket collections. A feature by Martha Stewart and purchases by notables such as Mrs. Obama have propelled the small company to worldwide acclaim. I am now involved in the planning and execution of marketing, product packaging and branding, as well as all product development. We have put a great deal of effort lately into developing a line of knit products that are made with our yarns. We are working closely with several domestic knitting mills to produce a line of knit accessories which have been selling out in our new Camden store this summer. I am involved in designing and developing new products for our woven blanket lines as well. Pretty much anything that needs to be designed, I’m either doing it or directing it! It is exciting to be involved in the creation of so many beautiful products but also to be so thoroughly entrenched in the making of them. I go to the farms where the sheep live, go to the spinning mills where the yarn is spun, work in the dyehouse to develop the colors, design myself and work with designers to develop the styles and patterns, and work on the branding and presentation of the finished products. I am responsible for conceiving and setting the tones for our photoshoots and working closely with the photographers to try and convey a Swans Island look. I attend every photoshoot to oversee the images that capture our products. Many of these roles as Creative Director are new and evolving, so every day brings exciting new opportunities for me to learn something.

We recently opened our new flagship retail store in downtown Camden—st three minutes from my home. I was involved in selecting and designing the space there was well: layout, finishes, colors, signs, everything! It is a busy time here as Swans Island and the future only holds more promise as the brand continues to grow and more people become aware of  us. We really go to extremes to pay attention to every detail of everything we do. Swans Island is truly an authentic American brand. Being involved in every single step, from farm to finish, is a lot of work…but it’s also pretty cool. Not many jobs have this much room for creative expression.
In our next post we’ll be asking Michele more about her current knitwear design and her designs for Swans Island!

All American Collection Sport Weight

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Last year we launched our very popular All American Collection Worsted Weight, a blend of domestic wool and alpaca that’s soft and wonderful to work with. This year we’re excited to announce we’re adding to the All American Collection with the new Sport Weight, a 100% American Rambouillet wool yarn that’s lofty and perfect for colorwork. As the names suggest both yarns are 100% American made. The fiber is sourced from small domestic farms and the yarns are milled at a historic New England Mill. You can read more about how our All American Collection yarns are made in this blog post.

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Along with our new line of yarns we’ve released 17 new patterns featuring the new yarn in beautiful colorwork patterns!

Astrid Pullover

Astrid Pullover by Michele Rose Orne

Vivian Mitts by MIchele Rose Orne

Vivian Mitts by Michele Rose Orne

Sonja

Sonja Pullover by Michele Rose Orne

Simone Pullover by Stacey McCrea Warner

Simone Pullover by Stacey McCrea Warner

Phoebe Hat and Mitts by Michele Rose Orne

Phoebe Hat and Mitts by Michele Rose Orne

Paige Mitts by Melynda Bernardi

Paige Mitts by Melynda Bernardi

Octavia

Octavia by Hannah Maciejewska

Morgan Cowl

Morgan Cowl by Michele Rose Orne

Kelly Mitts

Kelly Mitts by Mary Jane Mucklestone

Kaarina Pullover by Isabell Kraemer

Kaarina Pullover by Isabell Kraemer

Ingrid Pullover by Isabell Kraemer

Ingrid Pullover by Isabell Kraemer

Hazel Hat by Michele Rose Orne

Hazel Hat by Michele Rose Orne

Fiona Coat by Justyna Lorkowska

Fiona Coat by Justyna Lorkowska

Erika Cardigan by Michele Rose Orne

Erika Cardigan by Michele Rose Orne

Ella Pullover by Justyna Lorkowska

Ella Pullover by Justyna Lorkowska

Bridget Pullover by Michele Rose Orne

Bridget Pullover by Michele Rose Orne

Swans Island yarn Fair Isle hand knits

Frances Hat by Melynda Bernardi

Giveaway

Now through July 31 purchase any pattern from the new All American Collection Sport Collection Fall 2015 patterns and you’ll automatically be entered to win a sweater quantity of our new yarn! Each pattern purchase will count as an entry, so for more chances to win purchase more patterns!

Designer Spotlight: Melynda Bernardi

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Melynda BernardiWe’re working on the final touches for the Swans Island Fall 2015 pattern collection. Today we’re excited to feature an interview with talented designer Melynda Bernardi, who has designed two pieces for the new collection in a new sport weight version of our All American Collection Worsted Weight yarn.

Growing up, Melynda never found a wardrobe problem that could not be solved with some fabric, a needle, and thread.  This early proficiency eventually led to teaching herself knitting in high school, as a way to keep her ever-creating hands busy.  A few years later, when the day to day stresses of a job pressed in, her creative needs burst forth onto the internet as French Press Knits.

What started as a simple Etsy shop that sold hand knit goods quickly shifted focus to a new market- knitters who were interested in Melynda’s designs to knit for themselves.  Soon after this, Melynda discovered Ravelry and the world of knitting expanded beyond what she ever imagined!

How did you get started knitting and then make the transition into designing?
I learned how to knit in High school at some point, but probably just the most basic of stitches. I know that when knitting became “cool” in college I felt super cool, because I was the one who already knew how to knit. Little did I know, at the time, I knew basically nothing about knitting. Years later, when I became an aunt, I decided it was time to get serious about knitting and learn how to read a pattern so I could knit my nieces and nephews gifts beyond just lumpy, (unintentionally) triangular shaped scarves.

Swans Island Frances Hat

Frances Hat

I bought a book about knitting and started to learn. The stitches began to make more sense with every new skill I tried, and before I knew it, knitting ‘clicked’. I had ideas for patterns, and fully jumped in without a ton of knitting knowledge. It’s been a learning process ever since!

Can you give us a peek into your day-to-day as a designer? Do you design full time?
Oh my, if I can fit more than two hours of knitting in a week, that’s a good knitting week. I started French Press Knits right before I had children. I worked full time then, but my evenings were free for designing/knitting and it’s how I loved to spend my time. Now, five years later, I still work full time but also have three children. Now, knitting/designing is how I long to spend my time! One day I do plan to pursue knitting as a career, but for now, knitting time is limited to stealing a few minutes during a teleconference or long car ride.

What inspired your designs for Swans Island?
The Paige Mitts and Frances Hat were both inspired by a trip ‘Up North’ we took with our friends this past fall. Early fall is my favorite time of year. The first night chills we feel in September always gets my fingers itching for some quality knitting time. On our car ride to Northern Michigan, I was swatching with my Swan’s Island yarn as the colors changed around me. The farther north we traveled, the more the rich autumn colors came in to view.

Paige Mitts

Paige Mitts

What excites you most in knitting?
There are certain techniques that I long to become more familiar with: Brioche, steeking, and double knitting were all on my ‘knitting goals’ list for 2015. I am always excited by colorwork- playing with different color schemes, watching colors blend and pictures form as you knit with different colors; it’s my favorite type of knitting. But ultimately, the thing that excites me most about knitting is the hope that someday there will be more of it in my life!

Melynda's work space

Melynda’s work space

 

How has your designing changed over time?
I would say that I try to approach designing in a much more professional way than when I first started. I realize now how much goes in to it- it’s not just the designer. There’s sample knitters, tech editors, graphic designers, and photographers. It’s a team that really produces professional work. That being said, I am much more willing to pay for a good pattern than I was when I first started knitting/designing!

 

Melynda's work space

Melynda’s work space

Washable Wool Collection

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Most people have used, or at least heard of, Superwash yarns. Superwash is a process by which the scales of the wool fiber are burned off with chorine and then the fibers are coated in a plastic polymer. When the friction of washing is applied, the fibers slide over each other and don’t felt, the way untreated wool will. While it’s extremely convenient to have knitwear that will stand up to the rigors of washing, the process leaves much to be desired. Chlorine? Plastic? All those chemicals aren’t great for the environment, either.

Our Washable Wool yarn Collection is made with Eco-wash, a gentle process that uses an enzyme to gently treat the fibers so they will not felt. Both the yarn and the process are certified organic. The resulting yarns are crisp and bouncy with excellent stitch definition. We feel good about offering a product that is both user friendly and kind to the environment.

Caring for Washable Wool

The Swans Island Washable Wool yarn Collection is machine washable–feel free to toss it in with the rest of your laundry! We do recommend that to ensure that your item will last you lay it flat to dry or let it dry on a drying rack.

Our Washable Wool yarn is available in Sport weight and DK weight.

We have a new free pattern available for our Washable Wool Sport Weight: Twinkle Toes are striped socks for kids with a couple of different striping options!

Twinkle Toes Sock pattern from Swans Island

Here are some of our favorite patterns in Washable Wool DK:

Venus Cardigan, in Washable Wool DK

Washable Wool yarn knit into a cardigan

 

Caesious, by Hunter Hammersen in Washable Wool DK

Shawl in Swans Island Washable Wool Yarn DK weight

Baby Bomber, in Washable Wool DK

Baby hat in Swans Island Washable Wool Yarn

Where It Comes From: The All American Collection

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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.

It all starts with a big pile of fiber.
Mountain of wool ready at the fiber mill

Next the wool goes through the picker, this process opens up the fibers so they will be ready for carding next.Wool moving through the picker at the fiber mill

And next, it goes through the carder. In the carder the fiber goes in unordered and comes out ready to be spun. The carder at the fiber mill, processing Swans Island yarn

Next the yarn finally gets spun! Here’s a huge spinning frame, for spinning lots of yarn! Spinning frames inside the fiber mill, making Swans Island yarn

Some empty bobbins, just waiting to be filled with yarn.
Empty bobbins at the fiber mill, ready for Swans Island Yarn

The yarn is first spun into singles, and then will be plied.
yarn spinning, Swans Island

Singles on the bobbins, waiting to be plied, skeins, washed, and then dyed! This grey yarn below will actually go inside baseballs! singles, Swans Island

A photo of the finished yarn, our All American Collection WorstedSwans Island All American Collection
Check out the All American Collection for 11 patterns using this fabulous yarn!

IKAT hand dyed yarn

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IKAT is a Indonesian method for hand dyed yarn using a resist dyeing technique for a woven fabric. Here at Swans Island we’re releasing a limited edition IKAT hand woven wrap that we’ll be debuting soon, and also skeins of the IKAT Indigo hand dyed yarn for hand knitters. For both the wraps and the hand dyed yarn we’ve used Indigo to hand dye the yarn. Today we’re taking you through the process of creating these beautiful unique skeins of hand dyed yarn.

First, the 100 merino wool skeins are tied with cord. The portions of yarn underneath the cord will not be dyed.

Swans Island IKAT Yarn

It takes a while, but once we have enough skeins tied with cord, it’s time to dye!

Hand Dyed Yarn from Swans Island in the IKAT tradition of Hand Dyeing

Then, it’s time to put the skeins into the dye pot full of indigo.

Hand dyed Yarn from Swans Island going into dye bath 
100 Wool Yarn in the dye pot. Because the yarn is hand dyed with indigo, a pigment not a dye, you may experience crocking (when excess dye rubs off of one dry fabric onto another dry fabric) while knitting with the IKAT yarn. It will not, however, bleed into the white or fade. On a molecular level, indigo imparts its color onto whatever you are dyeing by means of tiny molecules of indigo pigment adhering to the fibers.  When the fibers are rinsed and dried, the molecules of indigo expand to fit the spaces between fibers.  Sometimes, if the molecules are especially tiny, or the fibers are especially fine, (like the merino used in IKAT) the loose indigo molecules can slough off with friction.  You will see this as your bamboo needles turn blue, or a blue line across the finger you carry your working yarn with.

Hand dyed yarn blooming in indigo 100 merino

What should you do if your hand dyed yarn is crocking?  Well, first know that it will wash off your hands easily with soap and water after your knitting sessions.  When you have finished your project, give it a wash in warm soapy water.  The water will likely turn blue, as the loose molecules are rinsed off.  Simply rinse until the water is clear, and your project should remain stable for its lifetime.
100 organic merino hand dyed IKAT yarn from Swans Island

hand dyed 100 merino wool, IKAT dyes Swans Island

A finished skein of hand dyed IKAT yarn!

hand dyed yarn from Swans Island in 100% organic merino wool

Washable Wool Collection

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At Swans Island we are dedicated to sourcing and using the finest materials. When we were looking into introducing a washable yarn to the line, we knew that we didn’t want to do a Superwash product. Superwash is the name of a process that strips the scales from the wool fiber, and coats the fibers in a plastic polymer to prevent it from felting when washed. It’s not an eco friendly process, and it affects the hand of the wool.

Swans Island Washable Wool Collection

We were very excited to come across the Eco-wash process, which has been around in Europe for awhile, but is not common yet in the US. Eco-wash technology leaves the scales on the wool, and gently coats the fiber with an organic compound that leaves the yarn less stripped feeling, keeping the soft hand of the merino wool. Our GOTS certified organic wool is spun at a historic Maine Mill, then skein dyed with low impact dyes in our studio here in Maine. We love it for everything from sweaters to socks.

We’ve recently added a ton of great new colors to the Washable Wool Collection, and we now have 28 hand dyed colors that maintain our variegated tonalities, available in Sport and DK weights.

Swans Island Washable Wool Collection 28 colors

Since the yarn is washable the sport weight is great for nice, thick, warm socks. We’ve knit up a collection of colorful kids socks. We’ll be releasing this as a free pattern soon. Sign up for the Swans Island Newsletter to be the first to know when this free pattern is available!

Washable sport weight sock yarn for knit socks

Natural Dyes

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Here at Swans Island we love to highlight the natural beauty of the materials we use. Our Natural Colors line of yarn uses only the highest quality certified organic merino wool which is spun here in Maine, and then all dyed by hand with natural dyes in our studio here in Northport, ME. We’re lucky to have working with us our color creator and dye maven Jackie Ottino Graf, and today we’re sharing some photos from a class she taught last summer on the natural dye process.

 

Natural dye process at Swans Island

 

When using natural materials to dye yarn instead of adding synthetic dye to a pot of water, we add vegetable matter (plants, minerals, or insects).  This is dried Cochineal, the dried bodies of the cochineal beetle, used for centuries to create rich, vibrant shades of red.  At Swans Island, we use Cochineal in our Garnet and Beetroot colorways.

Dried Cochineal for the natural dye process at Swans Island

 

These students are breaking up the roots of the Alkanet plant, which will be later used to create a deep purple. Notice how it’s staining their gloves!
natural dye process at Swans Island

 

In this pot the Cochineal beetles have been finely ground and boiled with water to create the dye bath.  In Medieval Europe, Cochineal was highly prized, and used to dye the robes worn by Cardinals in the Catholic church.

Cochineal for red, part natural dye process at Swans Island

 

Natural dyestuffs in their pots!  Tansy, Butternuts, Alkanet root and Butternut wood shavings.
Assortment of natural dyes in their pots

 

After the natural dyes are mixed we place the yarn in the pot and heat dyepot so that the yarn absorbs the color. Yellow is the most common color achieved with natural plantstuffs, this pot contains the pigment from the Tansy plant.

Yellow is the most common natural dye

 

The beginning stages of the Cochineal dyepot!  After some heat is added, these yarns will turn a deep, rich red.
Cochineal Dyepot natural dye progress

 

Would you like to take a natural dye workshop with Jackie?  You can find her next at Halcyon Yarn in Bath, Maine where she’ll be teaching a Natural Dye Workshop and an Indigo Dye Workshop.  For a complete list of 2015 offerings, feel free to contact her at jackie@swansislandcompany.com

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.

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.

Swans Island Company, Handcrafted in Maine USA Since 1992

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