Monday, November 05, 2012

postcards from maine: swans island yarn

 Saturday 11/10 : a full day Photo for Knitters Workshop in Needham MA.
A one-of-a-kind class:  meeting in an historic schoolhouse (props! setting!), with enough time to learn, shoot, and to edit, look at work and critique too. Thanks to Elissa at Creative Warehouse for sponsoring this!
If  a hands-on photo workshop might be a bit much,  Friday night 11/9  I'm doing a slidetalk : 10 Tips for Fabulous Photos: Knitwear & Beyond  for the Common Cod Guild in Cambridge at MIT (heh , me teaching at MIT) 7pm.   Info here.
Back in September, one misty morning at Fiber College, I played tourist with  Mary Lou Egan. We set out on a short drive south to Northport.
0941_0912GaleZuckerFC Not on the island anymore.0995_0912GaleZuckerFCThey welcome visitors.0962_0912GaleZuckerFCWe're both crazy about Swans Island yarn, and this is where it comes from. 0964_0912GaleZuckerFCIt's all organic and naturally dyed. The displays show the plants & nature that go into the colors. 0961_0912GaleZuckerFCShowrooms of the stunning wool woven blankets (sliver at left) and the yarns. If I needed to receive to give a special gift, it'd be a Swans Island blanket. So elegant and simple. 0958_0912GaleZuckerFCSide room with irregular colors,  off dyelots. 0959_0912GaleZuckerFCThese are amongst the discounted skeins, from mixed dyes or limited runs. To call them seconds is unfair, they're so beautiful.  I bought one skein of a green, but wish now I'd chosen some of the indigo on the right, as well.0990_0912GaleZuckerFCWe toured behind the scenes too. Natural yarn, waiting to be measured out.0977_0912GaleZuckerFC 
Skeining yarn before dying.0985_0912GaleZuckerFCPre-soaked skeins waiting to go into dye baths.0978_0912GaleZuckerFC 
It was very very warm in the dyerooms. 0981_0912GaleZuckerFCYarn drying. Mary Lou had taken an all day workshop the day before, with head dyer, Jackie Degraff aka DyeMama. I was utterly impressed, as were the dyers working, that Mary Lou called out the name of the nature dye source on these skeins.0947_0912GaleZuckerFCWe visited the weaving rooms too. The looms are so wide, they have an airpump assisted shuttle that makes a satisying whooooooosh.0949_0912GaleZuckerFCWeavers' worktable.0956_0912GaleZuckerFCThe Swans Island woven signature.0969_0912GaleZuckerFCOne of the things I love best about visiting dyers is how their colors and sensibilities reflect the local palette.1015_0912GaleZucker_Camden MaineIn this case, the local palette couldn't be more beautiful. Camden harbor, just down the road.

A few last thoughts, if you're still with me: 
• Swans Island yarn may be available at your LYS. It is at mine :-)

• An oft repeated but wondrously true aspect of naturally dyed yarn is it all goes together. You can't make a bad color combo.

• Yarn like this, from small producers, costs more than commercially produced imported skeins. Choosing it is to vote with your pocketbook (as we like to say around here). To knit with it is a joy, no question.  When you buy it, you're supporting small business and  enabling real jobs in a challenged economy. These are people who put great care into what they create. You can read more about who's behind Swans Island here.

(sorry that was kind of preachy but I just had to say it, stepping off the soapbox now)


Susan in Katonah said...

Mmmmmm Swans Island. I love knitting with their yarns. We visited the studio this summer. Luminous.

Lisa/knitnzu said...

I like the splashes of color along the wall behind the dyebaths. Makes me wonder why they're there!

twinsetellen said...

I want to work here.

craftivore said...

I covet their blankets. Almost bought some of their fingering at Halcyon last summer, still thinking about it. Gorgeous photos.

Penny said...

Wow! Love to see how mass dyeing takes place. Thanks for posting.

Robin V said...

I came across Swans Island yarn at an lys while traveling, and fell in love immediately - but bought something else instead (following my 'only one souvenir yarn' rule). So I was thrilled to come across it again at Vogue Knitting Live in Chicago - now I have two precious skeins waiting to be knit up.