We were cruising down Route #1 in Maine when I spotted a sign that said Swans Island. I have been a fan of Swans Island blankets since I first experienced them at the Nicky-Kehoe shop in LA several years ago. Could it be that I had serendipitously found the place where they are made, right on the highway in mid-coast Maine?
Indeed, this unexpected find is housed in a charming, central chimney farmhouse with bright white trim set on a knoll back from the road. Open the door to find a simple white space that features, on one side, a room with a a four-poster bed clad in a softly colored, double-weight bed cover that makes you want to instantly redecorate your bedroom. The back room has a divine display of blankets in shades of natural brown, creamy white and even purple and red. Hanging on the walls are washed and air-dried, skein-dyed yarns that have been transformed from raw wool by skilled artisans in an historic Maine mill. The fibers are certified organic, produced without any harsh chemicals that can rob the wool of its natural lanolin and softness.
The wool is dyed with natural materials from plants and insects. Like many handmade things, there is variation in every batch of wool even though essentially the same ingredients are used for the color. The range of variation depends of the quality of the water, the time of year the plants are harvested or where they are grown, the rainfall and the amount time they spent in the vats. It doesn’t matter because everything they make and do is beautiful.
The looms are another story. Clacking away in the background, the weavers are plying their skills honed over time. Warp over weft time and time again until a piece comes to life. The finishing team then meticulously stitches, washes and air dries the blankets and picks out any stray chaff with surgical tweezers.
From the right breed of sheep, to natural dyes and skilled weavers, Swans Island is creating woven goods to be passed down from one generation to the next. What a treat to experience the art of this craft.
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