In the early 1990’s John and Carolyn Grace moved to Swans Island off the coast of Acadia National Park and commenced a small weaving operation using local wool. They had been lawyers in Boston and had finally realized their dream of living close to the land in Maine. They knew that many Maine islands were traditionally sheep islands, and that the wool they produced was used in textile mills that today stand idle or have found new uses. The Graces decided to create wool blankets by hand using time-honored and still-remembered traditions. They found people who raised sheep and learned to make their own dyestuffs, to weave on hand looms, and gradually discovered how to produce beautiful blankets.
By 1996 Swans Island Blankets was nationally recognized and won a Smithsonian Blue Ribbon for Craft. It appeared the Graces had tapped into a longing for authentic objects of real utility and beauty. With recognition came the impulse to grow and meet demand that increased as editors and television crews made the pilgrimage from Bass Harbor on the ferry to Swans Island and the Graces’ studio.
By 2003 the company moved to the mainland in the hands of new partners who joined the Graces. Brothers Tom and Bill Laurita together with Rufus and Susan Williams and several others, moved the looms, sheep, and ideals of the company to Northport, about two hours south of Swans Island, and began weaving in a 1780 farmhouse. They were able to find weavers and finishers in the Midcoast area, allowing the company to flourish.
Today Swans Island Blankets is known as Swans Island. The original promise the Graces made to themselves and their customers to hand-make everything in authentic fashion and always to the highest possible standard continues to be the foundation of the company. Expanding from blankets to other woven products using the winter and summer weight fabrics was a natural step. Now people can decorate their homes with throws and pillows, wrap baby in merino blankets, and wear beautiful Swans Island scarves and wraps.
Swans Island is a company and a community centered in Maine and determined to create objects of beauty and utility in authentic and earth-friendly ways. Everyone is invited to contact the company or visit in Maine.