Swans Island Company’s place of business is an ancient farm house built in 1790. Situated across from Penobscot Bay, its hand-hewn beams, wide pumpkin pine floors and huge central brick stack supporting four fireplaces exude the essence of a handmade life. This early colonial-era farmhouse was wrought from the mutual relationship with the natural world, the give and take that created skilled, hard-working hands. It is inspiring to think of the physical work that went into clearing the land and then using those trees to form the post and beam structure of the barn.
“Swans Island Company’s place of business is an ancient farmhouse built in 1790.”
Two hundred and thirty two years later this structure, and some additions, continue to support individuals working with their hands with as much mutuality with the natural world as seems possible in this day and age. We make hand woven blankets and throws and stitch and hand dye in ways that would not be surprising to the original builders and occupants of this house.
“When you walk through the old pine double front doors it feels like you’ve stepped back in time.”
An original milk paint red plank door hides a former food drying closet, now used to hold linen boxes and bags for our products. Walk further in underneath the exposed hand hewn beams, complete with rough hewing marks, and you’ll feel like you’re in a home from a different era. A multitude of handmade products are displayed against uneven plaster walls and sit on locally made tables and salvaged furniture.
An enclosed porch, which served as our first dye house, now houses our hand-dyed yarns along with an assortment of seconds, discontinued items and one-of-a-kind items available at discounted prices. Here you might discover a unique one-of-a-kind Maine-made souvenir or gift.
“What was once the main living area now houses a colorful gallery of blankets and throws, many of which were handcrafted in the next rooms.”
Visitors can tour the weaving studio to see our talented weavers at work.
Walk through an arched windowed reclaimed door and you are in our weaving studio. Made up of an old barn and a purpose-built structure, our hand looms sit among boxes of yarns and weaving equipment. The clickety clack of the shuttle races back and forth while the weavers beat the yarns into place. From time to time one can witness a weaver sitting on the floor cutting off several blankets from the take-up beam and bringing them upstairs to the finishing room.
Upstairs the finishing team turns bolts of handwoven cloth into blankets, throws, wraps and scarves.
Located one floor above the studio, the finishing team does all the work of turning a woven piece into a finished product. One can see all of the seamstress arts deployed: stitching, both hand and machine, hand embroidery, cutting cloth, washing and blocking. Our dedicated and talented finishers pay attention to every little detail, even utilizing surgical tweezers to remove any remaining farm chaff from the finished blankets.
Out back in the dyehouse, plain skeins of wool and cotton are transformed into a rainbow of colorful yarns for weaving and knitting.
Beyond the weaving studio, through a small tool area, is our dye house. Here, plumes of steam rolling off steaming baths of dye, waft up to the tall ceiling. Drying yarns of every imaginable color hang from racks high in the rafters while boxes of undyed yarn await their destiny fate in the dye pot. Tony, our long time dyer, is busy with his lab pots and scales, matching colors and notating recipes. He hand-dyes all the colorful yarns we use to make our products right here.
To the side of the farmhouse sits a large post and beam barn.
We currently use this structure mainly for storage and sometimes as an impromptu photography studio. Up in the rafters sits the chassis of an old hay wagon. A testament to our progenitors and physical proof that this property has long been used for wrestling a living off of the fruits of the land.
Stop in for visit or a tour any time.
If you’re driving up (or down) the Atlantic Highway (also known as Route 1) be sure to plan a stop at the Swans Island farmhouse. If you’re heading north, we’re just a little over 8 miles past Camden in Northport on the left—just past the crest of the hill. You can purchase any of our products here or just come in for a tour. We’ll happily show you around! No matter the time of year, we’ll be here waiting to welcome you.
“No matter the time of year, we’ll be here waiting to welcome you.”