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Category: Blankets & Throws

Swans Island Legacy Winner

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Today’s Legacy Story comes from Swans Island Legacy Contest Winner, Carey from Nashville, TN.

This Peter Rabbit quilt was made by my mother in 1982 when she was pregnant with me.  I can only imagine the patches were sewn while she was daydreaming about days, months, and years to come with her first child.  I have loved this quilt my entire life and it has accompanied me through many adventures!  Growing up in Nashville, TN, my college years in Charlottesville, VA, young adult years in New York City, and finally back to Nashville where I am raising a family of my own.  It lived through over 11,000 days and had become tattered and worn, many of the patches shred.


When my mother asked me what I wanted as a gift during my pregnancy with my daughter, I told her that all I wanted was for her to repair my Peter Rabbit quilt so it could be passed on to Campbell.  She did a beautiful job reworking the quilt and I know those days at her sewing machine were filled again with daydreams of her first granddaughter.  Campbell and I have already spent many precious days wrapped together in this special quilt and I only hope it will accompany her on adventures of her own!


I am sure you also notice her beautiful Swans Island blanket!  This has become a tradition in my family after my parents stumbled upon the company while visiting Maine several years ago, before they had any grandchildren.  During the tour, my father decided he would purchase a blanket to bring home- a baby blanket he would give to the first grandchild born.  Unbeknownst to him, I was pregnant at the time with my son!  Oliver received the white and yellow baby blanket purchased on that first trip.  Since then, my parents have visited again and now my nephew and baby girl have also been lucky enough to receive their own Swans Island blankets!

Campbell, in her Swans Island blanket on an heirloom Peter Rabbit blanket

Swans Island Legacy: Bill’s Blanket

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Today’s post comes from the President of Swans Island, Bill Laurita.

I own a lot of Swans Island Blankets. After all, I am the head of the company and truly love sleeping under a Swans Island Blanket. It sound’s crazy, but I actually enjoy making the bed in the morning and watching my blanket float over the sheets and settle in with its rich texture and gorgeous color.

A summer weight indigo queen, is my favorite. We made that blanket in the first couple of months after we moved the company from Swans Island to the coast in Northport. My wife, Jody, was our first dyer. We decided that we would do all of the indigo dyeing for the winter, summer, and indigo throw blankets at once. This proved to probably be not the best idea. Indigo is almost a separate art form from other natural plant dyeing. There have to be many protocols in place so that things do not become a complete mess. Well, we hadn’t developed those systems yet. Jody dove into dyeing what for us at the time was a huge amount of yarn: 100 pounds.

It was not long before indigo was everywhere. It was on our clothes, smudged on our faces, we were walking it all over the weaving studio, the showroom and our apartment (at the time we lived on top of the showroom). It started to feel like the wheels might be coming off the bus, we couldn’t seem to tame the indigo. In every serious endeavor there seems to come a point where the existential question, “can we do this?”, presents itself. This was it. We looked at each other, wiped the indigo off our faces, which only smudged it more, and decided then and there that we were not going to let indigo defeat us.

We scrubbed the place from top to bottom, organized some better protocols for the next go around, and realized that despite the mess, Jody had dyed some stunningly beautiful indigo yarn. Out of that batch came the our indigo throw blanket – still just as beautiful as the day we brought it home. When I fold that blanket back to hop into bed at night, if I’m still awake and alert enough, I get just a slight tinge of that feeling of being overwhelmed and of not giving into it. That experience is in my blanket.

Bill's Swans Island Blanket

I continue to be inspired by the challenge and beauty of creating hand crafted blankets each and every day. Our newest endeavor, the Whitecaps Throw, was inspired by living on the coast of Maine. Every day I come into work I drive through Lincolnville Beach, right on Penobscot Bay. Very often the seas are churning, producing white caps amidst the deep blue waters. Sometimes, when the sky is overcast the sea takes on a more charcoal hue. For years I had wanted to somehow capture the impact that compelling view had on me in a throw blanket. We tried several versions over the years, but nothing really captured the right feel. Last year Jackie, our everything fiber expert, was working with some roving. Roving is fiber in a state after raw and before yarn. Everyone at Swans Island loved the quality and feel of Jackie’s roving. Laura, our floor manager, decided to use a little of it in making her employee blanket (everyone at Swans Island gets to make their own blanket once a year). When I saw that woven into Laura’s blanket I knew I had found our whitecaps!

We placed our naturally dyed indigo yarn on a grey warp to help get across the quality of the light hitting the water on Penobscot Bay, with the roving artfully placed here and there as whitecaps licking up on the surface when the wind is whipping around. We decided to make a second version with our charcoal yarn to better capture this effect when skies are grey. Each piece is woven to the weavers sense for how best to convey these sentiments.

Swans Island Whitecaps Throw

 

Celebrating Family Legacies: Shelby

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Today we continue our series introducing you to our weavers. At Swans Island we hand craft each piece to become an exquisite piece to be passed on from one generation to the next. Each family has their own treasured heirloom items. We paint these items with our memories and meaning, cherish each piece as a part of our own family history. These special pieces signify our love–for an individual, a moment in time, or an annual ritual.

Keep reading to learn more about Shelby, one of our weavers, and her the scrapbook she made of her great-grandfather, in this artisan spotlight.

What inspired you to become a weaver and what do you love most about the craft?

I have been a knitter for 20 years and have always enjoyed fiber arts. My Mom taught me to knit when I was a teenager and it was a nice way for us to connect when I was that age. We still enjoy getting together and knitting. I love the process of creating and find it gratifying to be involved in the creation of something beautiful and tangible. To be able to see and touch what I have made is really rewarding. It’s a great way for me to spend my work day.

What part of you is most engaged by weaving?

I like to create something that is functional and lovely to look at. I’ve worked in the service industry before and while I enjoyed getting to know people, it is not as gratifying as being involved in the creative process. Weaving touches a part of me that has just not been engaged by other work.

Do you have a particular process when you weave? For example, do you listen to certain music, do you have any tricks to throwing the shuttle? Is there a certain way you manage the warp? What’s special about how you weave that differs from any other weaver?

I take a conscientious approach to my weaving. For instance, I’m a stickler for making sure that there are no skips in my selvedge edges. I know that after I have completed weaving a throw it will be going up to the finishing room for stitching the binding and quality control. I’m friendly with that crew and I want to give them a piece that has few if any errors in the weave.

Do you have something something special in your life that you will pass on to your next generation?

My great-grandfather, Robert Weymouth, performed in air shows in the 1960’s through 80’s as Maine’s Flying Farmer. I have very fond memories of him, and I treasure a scrapbook that I made as a young child that contains photos, articles and other memorabilia. Robert started his career as a fighter pilot in World War II. His act really brought out both his skill as a flyer and his sense of humor. After working the crowd, he would hop the fence and run to his J3 Piper named “Mr. Ed”.  The shocked crowd would watch as he took off and performed stunts like stalling the engine and hanging out of the cabin.

He passed away in 1987 and Mr. Ed is now part of the Owls Head Transportation Museum collection. I want my son to know about his great-great-grandfather. I hope he gets to know him not just as a performer, but also as a wonderful person who loved his family, made the most of each day, and brought joy to many people’s lives. I see these qualities in my one year old son already, and through him I remember my great-grandfathers joyful smiles and hair raising stunts. 

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Celebrating Family Legacies: Alessandra

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At Swans Island we believe in creating items thoughtfully and responsibly. We craft items that are meant to last and be passed on from one generation to another. Today we’d like to introduce you to one of our weavers in this artisan spotlight. Alessandra hand weaves blankets and wraps here at Swans Island.

What inspired you to become a weaver?

The first time I visited Swans Island I brought my kids and we toured the workshop. The sales person gave my kids raw fleece which they played with while we watched the weavers ply their trade. I knew then, in the back of my mind, that I would come to work here some day. The fact that weaving is a traditional woman’s trade really inspired me.

What part of you is most engaged by weaving?

My timing comes through my feet. My feet need to be in rhythm with the loom in order to engage the shed pedal. My non-work life is very busy and involved in a multitude of daily tasks. My work at Swans allows me to be in the now, focused on the task of building this blanket. I’m able to get lost in the concentration.

Artisan spotlight Swans Island Weaver Alexandra

Do you have a particular process when you weave? For example, do you listen to certain music, do you have any tricks to throwing the shuttle? Is there a certain way you manage the warp? What’s special about how you weave that differs from any other weaver?

When I get to my loom I like to do a thorough check of the loom. I pay particular attention to the pedal position. I like to listen to classic rock because I know all the words and love the uptempo beat.

Each of us have items that are special to us–legacy items that are passed down from one generation to another, could you tell us about something that’s special to you? 

My Granddad retired the year I was born. He became my primary babysitter. I’d spend the summers with him on Sanibel Island in Florida and he’d take me fishing, shelling, and woodworking in his workshop. Each day we’d spend hours on the beach watching sand pipers weaving in and out of the waves. From an early age, I brought him his tools as he worked on various woodworking projects. Eventually, I was allowed to help finish sand the pieces. Granddad made many carvings of sand pipers, and I have one that I actually sanded. It lives in my kitchen next to my cookbooks.

My own children knew my grandfather when he was alive and love to hear stories about my early childhood with him. They are captivated by the carved sand piper. It’s a piece of him that is also a part of our household and reminds me of those warm summer days spent with Granddad.

Artisan spotlight Swans Island Weaver AlexandraNext time we’ll be featuring Shelby’s interview and her legacy item.

Custom Blanket in Tar Heel Blue and Summer Weight

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Our blankets tell a lot of stories. Of people, place, history, and tradition. But we’re always ready to add new chapters, especially at the request of our customers.

Last summer, one of these customers visited us in our Northport showroom, excited about the prospect of a custom blanket. He talked with General Manager Scott McCormac about what he had in mind: a summer-weight blanket with larger gingham-type checks in the colors of the University of North Carolina, where he is a professor. It was going to be a special Christmas gift for his wife.

Coincidentally, Swans Island President Bill Laurita had been wanting to translate the large-checked design of our winter-weight blankets into a summer-weight version. “Making a custom blanket like this was the perfect opportunity for us to do a little research and development,” says McCormac, “and find ways to perfect the blanket.”

Wovens Production Manager Laura Matthews and her weavers warped the 90-inch loom with alternating four-inch swathes of blue and white yarn. For the weft, they chose an alternating scheme of white and sky blue. “The interesting thing about this is how dark the indigo seems on the warp,” says McCormac. “But the effect is diminished when combined with the white and sky blue weft. It lends itself nicely to Tar Heel colors”—as well as to the ever-growing Swans Island story.

Tar Heel Custom blanket

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

The Swans Island Story

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Swans Island isn’t just a blanket. It is a story. It is history and tradition interwoven with craft, vision and painstaking labor. We take pride in every aspect of our production, and we think it’s what sets us apart from other blanket companies.

Swans Island Sheep Swans Island Wool at Green Mountain Spinnery Swans Island Indigo Yarn Drying Weaving Swans Island Blankets

Some of our fleece comes from a 250-acre sheep farm in Winterport, not too far from our Northport studio, and is spun into yarn at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont, where it is then scoured in organic soap, its lanolin preserved for loft and moisture-wicking warmth. When it arrives at our dye house, we give it the best treatment possible, imparting dyes that are comprised of plants, minerals and insect shells, and that have been tested and modulated until its color is just right. Once dyed, our yarn is transformed into blankets, throws, and accessories by our team of talented weavers, who use air-assisted shuttle looms that require the utmost precision, patience, and delicacy.

Our minimalist design gives each of our products a timeless feel. Our respect for traditional processes and hand-crafted perfection make each Swans Island product a work of art, as well as a treasure for the home. Tour our website, or check out our blog, for more information on our history, process, and products. Or visit our studio to feel the luxurious warmth of Swans Island blankets.

Swans Island Blanket in an elegant box Swans Island blankets packaging Swans Island Blankets stacked Swans Island Blanket features a minimalist design

Wrap yourself in timeless warmth.

Swans Island Company, Handcrafted in Maine USA Since 1992

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