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.
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.