A Weavers’ Road Trip: Two Stops in Maine

So . . . Maine.

Crashing ocean waves. Rocky shore. Pine trees. Mountains. Autumn color.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

That’s all very nice, I hear you cry, but what about the important stuff?

Shopping!

In truth, I am not a shopper. My usual stance is that if I can’t buy it from the LL Bean catalog, I don’t need it. And, of course, LL Bean’s flagship store is in Freeport, Maine, and yes, we did go there.

But of the gazillion other retail and outlet stores in that area, we bothered with only one and then we got out of there as fast as we could.

But that doesn’t mean we stopped shopping. Oh, no, not at all.

Within 60 miles of each other, along Route 1 in Maine, two shops make the hearts of weavers, and all enthusiasts of fibers and textiles and beautiful American crafts, sing.

These two shops, Swans Island Company and Halcyon Yarns, are very different and both well worth a stop.

Swans Island, in Northport, is a place to go to feast your eyes on exquisitely hand-crafted textiles made the old-fashioned way. It’s a place to go to appreciate that some people still dream of living in a small community and engaging their fellows in traditional work, sharing values of doing the work by hand, doing it exceedingly well, and doing it together.

When John and Carolyn Grace began the company in the early 1990s, they “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.”

The company now offers other items in addition to their blankets, including their yarn so the rest of us can enjoy it in our own creations. The shop is serene and spare, the textiles are simply displayed, and the quality and authenticity of the work is undeniable. I could live there.

If Swans Island is an oasis, a place apart from 21st century hubbub, Halcyon Yarns is a carnival of color and creativity and “oh-my-goodness-I-want-it-all-and-I-want-it-now-now-now.”

Halcyon Yarns, in Bath, caters to all of us who make things from fibers. Spinners? Yup. Crocheters? You bet. Felters? Uh huh. Knitters? Got you covered. Weavers? Yes, yes, yes!!!

We’ve purchased yarn from Halcyon’s website and catalog but there’s nothing like going to the store and wandering the aisles. The feel is sort of like an old general store, with not a lot of attention paid to fancy displays. The floor and shelves are bare wood and there’s lots of stuff just sitting around on the floor.

But there is beauty and inspiration everywhere you look! Walk in the door! Look up! Look down! Walk around a dozen times and see something new with every pass.

It’s actually pretty overwhelming. As usual, all ideas of actual items I might want to weave flew from my head and I spent an hour wandering around with a cone of black cotton thread.

My eyes were dazzled and my mind was boggled.

Eventually, of course, I chose some yarns, almost at random, thinking that since they were all pretty they could certainly be turned into something pretty.

The ones I chose and the ones my husband chose have been added to the pile of yarns we bought on our previous weavers’ road trip to Maurice Brassard. The pile is getting a little embarrassing, truth be told.

But we also bought a new book, full of tempting project ideas, and we have a long North Country winter ahead. We have plenty of time and inspiration to help us use up that stash of yarn.

And we have no weavers’ road trips planned in the future. Oh, except that one in April . . .


If you can’t make your own road trip to Maine, both Halcyon and Swans Island have good websites and I know from my own experience that Halcyon has excellent customer service.

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64 thoughts on “A Weavers’ Road Trip: Two Stops in Maine

    • The craftsmanship at Swans Island was amazing–their commitment to doing things just so. I loved the muted, mellow tones they get in their yarns–nothing flashy, nothing loud.

  1. Sounds like a wonderful spree. You’d better be careful. Pretty soon you’ll be dyeing your own yarn. And we know that leads to spinning your own. Then it’s only logical to own a few of the wool sources – sheep. alpaca, etc.

    • It’s a slippery slope!! I actually had a spinning wheel about 30 years ago and did learn the basics. I can’t say that part of the process really moved me. And having grown up on a farm, I’m not all that tempted tor raise animals either. I think I’ll stick with Halcyon to do the hard work! 🙂

  2. You make me want to jump on a plane and go today! But I would have to go with a specific list so I would know where to start. I have a habit of bringing home luscious yarns, but not knowing how best to use them!

    • Oh, do stop someday! I’d probably never buy any of their blankets–they are gorgeous but so expensive and not especially suited to a house full of cats! But just seeing the place is worth the stop. AND they sell “seconds” of their yarn!

  3. Good yarn shops cause me to go into village idiot mode too – drooling, wandering aimlessly, pointing and laughing, touching, caressing, whispering softly to the stock…………. Rainbows of colour make me want to take home my own rainbow – the inner struggle that goes on between wanting and bankruptcy ………… And I leave because I’m exhausted 🙂

  4. I have been on a hiatus from crafting after burning myself out making hats for everyone in my family out of all my yarn scraps a couple of seasons ago. However, a new baby is impending after we thought the next generation was done, I inherited a whole bunch more yarn from an elderly relative, and my husband is planning a road trip which will require me as passenger to keep my hands busy.. Now I just need a couple more skeins to flesh out the idea that is bubbling in my mind, so it’s off to the yarn shop! (The local is not nearly so inspirational as the ones you show, but you’ve got my fingers itching to start.)

    • I know–me, too. I feel quite superior because i don’t get into shopping for clothing or for home decor stuff . . . but then I look at my craft materials and have to admit that I, too, am quite the shopper.

  5. “An hour wandering around with a cone of black cotton thread…” really gave me a chuckle. That’s what happens to me when I go to some flea markets like Brimfield…fields and fields, acres and acres full of antiques. Where do you start? How do you focus? It’s not easy.

    So glad you had such a wonderful time!

    • I’ve never been to Brimfield or any of those really huge flea markets. I can’t decide if I’d even like them–because of exactly what you describe. Buy I am intrigued and feel like I should go at least once, just for the experience!

    • Chenille!! It’s so soft and yummy! We have a LOT of chenille and I have yet to weave with it. If you ever order from Halcyon, I think you’ll like the quality and the customer service.

    • I think you’d enjoy them just for the seeing the sumptuous colors and textures. And, of course, the yarn doesn’t have to be woven–it can be knitted or crocheted, too!

  6. I am so inspired by all the beautiful yarn. I am sure that the colors will come together perfectly when you make your winter projects.

    • I think the colors will work nicely together–most of what we’ve picked are mellow, heathery sorts of colors that should be easy to use. We’ll find out, won’t we?!

  7. Wow! Thank you for putting these places on my radar! The knitting yarns at Swan’s down !!!! I recently went to a shop that sold over 4000 kinds of paper so I know that OVERWHELM you describe!

    P

  8. I love shops like that, filled with color and texture and items to stimulate one’s creativity. Great photos and descriptions in kind, Kerry. I’m glad you’re having fun, and that you made it out of there, too, without breaking the bank.

      • It is a busy time of year. I was thinking the other day how for many years as an adult my hobbies come last. With small boys, of course, their needs came first, but now that they’re 18 and 15 I still don’t seem to carve out the time for all the things I love. One of the small joys, using that term loosely, of having my feet up in the air after surgery, is finding time to color in my coloring book, a gift from a friend, and when I’m too tired for that, I’ve also discovered two coloring apps on my phone. It is therapeutic and fun. Make a deal with yourself that you’ll find more time in the new year to enjoy your favorite pursuits. I plan to do the same.

  9. You much have been in heaven, Kerry. It’ll be fun to see what you create with your lovely new treasures.
    While I’ve not created much by hand in a few years, I do love to support people who like to do things the traditional way, and who are saving those skills to be passed on to the next generation.
    It’s so nice to be back to blogging and visiting!

    • And it’s so nice to have you back! Maybe you will find your way back to creating by hand, when you have more free time. It’s been part of what I do all my life but I certainly can focus on it more these days, now that I’ve retired.

  10. Kerry, your right there’s nothing like going to a good yarn store and being able to touch and see all the yarns. Hard not to add to your stash, I’m sure I would have if I was at Halcyon too.

    • I think it’s just as well that Halcyon is about a 6-hour drive away–I would get in over my head if it was closer! But visiting once a year or so–yes, I think that makes sense!

  11. Maine sounds gorgeous, I’ve always wanted to visit that part of the US. And that yarn shop! The colours are so beautiful, fabric / craft material shopping has to be one of the best activities. It’s so fun to wander around and dream of all the projects that you could begin xx

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