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?
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.
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 . . .