We are continually looking for quality companies to partner with on Alabama Chanin items and, once again, we are honored to showcase a collaboration with Maine-based operation, Swans Island Company. They have a team of craftspeople who marry old techniques with technology to produce handcrafted pieces. We find a kinship with them because of their commitment to responsible production, quality-sourced products, and dedication to carrying on a historic craft.
Founded in 1992, the company has produced textiles and yarns that begin as natural fibers sourced from responsible suppliers. Swans Island proudly supports many local New England farms and domestic, family-run farms that have been producing for generations. They source organic merino wool from South America but ensure that it has been certified organic by the Global Organic Textile Standard before putting it into production.
Before knitting, all yarns are spun in New England on vintage machinery and then dyed in Swans Island’s dye house. This is just another quality control measure and a way for their artisanal dye house to perfect each colorway to just the right shade. Swans Island dyes many of their products using naturally derived pigments like cochineal, indigo, and madder root. Others are dyed using low-impact dyes (like some of the ones we use at Alabama Chanin) that have deep and rich colors but use less water and energy than traditional dyes.
The manufacturing itself has taken place for over 15 years in a farmhouse built in the 1800s. Within the building, artisans operate handlooms, dye and skein yarn, and hand-finish each of their products—going over every piece with a comb to look for stray threads. Swans Island’s processes celebrate slow, handmade, and traditional over fast-paced and disposable. Their industrial looms are vintage and dye vats are carefully monitored. For them, the process and the product are inseparable.
Just as with Alabama Chanin, Swans Island Company takes a great deal of their inspiration from the community and their surroundings. They claim their home in Maine as their biggest design inspiration. “Clean lines, vibrant hues, and the inherent beauty of raw natural materials” draw directly from their environment and are the foundation for their way of working and their products. They also offer a unique cleaning and repair program (known as the Blanket Hospital) that helps extend the life of each product. Again, as with Alabama Chanin, Swans Island Company makes goods that are meant to last a lifetime and to be integrated into the daily lives of their owners—timeless and modern all at once.
We are proud to partner with Swans Island Company on both the woven wrap Dayton Scarf and knit Union Wrap, both made with organic merino yarns, organic cotton jersey, and embroidery floss. The Dayton Scarf is handwoven in Northport, Maine, in the Swans Island studio. It is made from 100% certified organic merino wool and hand-dyed with all natural dyes. In our community of The Shoals, Alabama Chanin artisans add the finishing touches with their hand embroidery.
The Union Wrap is custom knit in New Jersey for Swans Island and hand-dyed with low impact dyes. The wrap is made from a blend of merino wool and tussah silk with hand embroideries completed by our artisans.
Photos of Swans Island courtesy of Rinne Allen, taken on location this summer.