Saturday, July 17, 2010

Swans Island-- Full of Sheep!

When Suzanne calls something at Market a Big Find, you know she's serious. The woman sees so many incredible yarns and products that singling out one as Especially Special means you better believe it's a big deal. For her last trip to Market in June with Lindsay (see post below for details about that adventure), her Big Find was getting to meet the folks from Swans Island.

We talked about her meetup recently, but this wasn't the first time I'd heard her gush about the company. Really, what they do is amazing. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, a bunch of sheep were rowed out to Nash Island off the coast of Maine. With no brush or trees to offer the sheep shelter, they improvised protection by huddling together. This out-in-the-open lifestyle of theirs prompted the growing of super thick, super luxurious fleeces which are rich in lanolin. This makes for really clean wool.

Once a year, in mid-June, shearers from a small business called Swans Island head over to Nash Island to shear the sheep. This outrageously fabulous wool is then spun into organic merino yarn and dyed using natural plant dyes like Indigo and madder, and they're mordented with non-metallic mordents. It is then used to make handwoven blankets which have been recognized internationally and awarded a Smithsonian Blue Ribbon for Craft.

Now let me explain a little about the company called Swans Island. There's actually a place called Swans Island, also off the coast of Maine. A couple, John and Carolyn Grace, moved there in the 1990s to live off the land, so to speak. They started a weaving studio using local wool. They moved back to the mainland in 2003, but the company and the blankets are still known as Swan Island.

The Graces and some partners who joined them, work out of a farmhouse built in 1780. They also sell yarn, which is spun from the fleece of Corriedale sheep and other breeds raised in Maine. It's sold in 100gm skeins and, yes, that's right, Suzanne ordered some up so we can all pleasantly wrestle over it when it arrives. This is a major score-- the yarn is available at fewer than two dozen retailers around the country.

Meanwhile-- to keep you occupied while you wait-- you can head down to the shop and check out the gorgeous Swans Island booklet Suzanne brought back with her. And you can also go to their website and learn more about their sheep and gush over the gorgeous handwoven blankets they sell. Plus, you can scroll down here and see some more pictures:

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