Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Seacolors

The most marvelous part of my trip to Maine - other than seeing my friends, of course - was our visit to Nanney Kennedy's farm. I first read about her in Shear Spirit and then tracked her down at Maryland Sheep and Wool, and that set the stage for this visit in Maine.


Nanney is an oracle, an incredible swirl of energy and movement, an extraordinary sheep farmer, dyer, spinner, knitter, thinker, activist, entrepreneur.

When we pulled up to her farm, she was up to her elbows in yarn, working all stages of her dyeing from the solar dye vats to the final rinse in an open-air bathtub.

Yarn rinsing in the outdoor bathtub. Photo by Kristen Von Minden

Everything was so vibrantly alive and intense: the colors of the yarn, the sparkling midday sun, the green pastures rolling down to the forest, and the conversation, which excitedly ranged from color theory to sustainable agriculture to the politics of information. The experience was almost surreal in its beauty and vividness.

Barn, with yarn drying. Photo by Kristen Von Minden

And I can't even begin to express how inspired I was by Nan's energy. Everything that she does -- from being an sustainable and politically active farmer, to developing her innnovative solar dyeing methods, to coordinating with local craftswomen to make sweaters and blankets, to starting up an internship program -- is infused with conscientiousness for her animals, her environment, and her community.

Daisy the donkey, protectively watching over the flock of sheep.

The visit got me thinking again about the ways in which we weigh different meanings of greenness - organic, sustainable, local, natural - and the degree to which these words capture the meanings we want them to. Her wool is no longer certified organic, but it's as sustainably-produced as you can imagine. Her dyeing isn't called 'natural' because she doesn't use plant-based pigments, but it incorporates mineral pigments and seawater and is incredibly low-impact. It really emphasizes, for me, how keywords are no substitute for getting to know your producers personally.


In the end, I can't imagine any yarn being more sustainably created. Oh, and did I mention how superlatively gorgeous and soft they are? If you're interested, you can find her Seacolors Yarn and Maine blankets on her website, Get Wool. Or even better, check out her show schedule (including Rhinebeck!) and see her wonderful yarn for yourself ...

7 comments:

Veronique said...

What gorgeous colors! I'll definitely keep an eye out for her stand at Rhinebeck!

Bob said...

Hi Veronique, You don't have to wait....Nanney also sells yarn on her website... Enjoy the beautiful selection here: http://getwool.com/show/seacolorsyarn/

-MaineBob

Gustavo said...

I'm jealous of your inspiring trip. I want to basque in and by nourished by someones creative farm energy.

Christy said...

Oh, wipe the drool from me--I love that yarn. I would have loved to go on that trip

Kathy said...

Wow. I love all the images shared. What a fun trip you had. I think I am in yarn withdrawal.

Sue said...

Fab photos, lovely countryside, beautiful yarn! I just wish I didn't live 3,000 miles away...

Anonymous said...

Her yarn is so beautiful and I love the huge skeins!! The color variations are stunning. She uses reactive dyes which use sodium and carbonate to bind the chemically produced pigments (which are not plant based at all) to the fibers. It's just like acid dyes- only difference is with acid dyes, citric acid is used to bind the chemically produced pigments to the fiber. Which is the same with Kool-aid:) The reason for the beautiful muted tones is because not a strong and consistent heat is used during dyeing and because reactive dyes are made for plant based fibers. When we visited her farm about 2 years ago she was working on recycling the water from her dye baths back into her pastures. I love that way of thinking. She was in the process of getting testing done from the state and was super excited about it. Because she uses seawater from the nearby river, and labels her yarn as such, people far and wide make the assumptions it's all natural and it is not at all. She does have mad sheep breeding skills though which she's so proud of. Such a power house!