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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
The beautiful bride wore an elegant white 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.
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.
* Photography by Sharyn Peavey
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 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)
2. Swans Island summer weight Coastal Throw
3. Sunpocket Sunglasses (available at Day Trip Society)
4. Pinstripe beach towel (More & Co.)
5. The Rangeley Camp Collection Market Bag
6. ANK Ceramics Beer Cups (available at Sugar Tools and More & Co.)
7. Native Shoes
8. Soludos Beach Paddles
9. A Sunny Afternoon Picnic Basket
10. The Maine Dog Collar (available at The Maine Dog store in Camden)