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Today we’re taking you behind the scenes to show you where Arbor gets its vibrant color: all aboard the bus for a field trip to Saco River Dyehouse!

When we set out to create a new palette of solid colors for Arbor, we felt Saco River Dyehouse in Biddeford, Maine would be the ideal partner for the job. We first worked with them on the colors for Plains, our single-batch Rambouillet laceweight, and the chance to collaborate on a fuller range of colors for Arbor was truly exciting. Apart from their skill at creating beautiful hues, Saco River stands apart in terms of environmental stewardship. This venerable company, which originally operated in Manhattan, changed ownership in 2012 and moved to an historic mill building on the banks of the Saco River in southern Maine. On a mission to bring their old-world craft into alignment with modern technologies and concerns, the dyehouse focused on making its processes organic and environmentally friendly. In 2013 it earned organic certification under the GOTS International Textile Standards, the only yarn-dyeing operation in the United States to have done so.

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Brooklyn Tweed’s woolen-spun heathered yarns are dyed in the fleece, but Arbor is different. It was spun in its natural sheep’s fleece white and then dyed in the skein. Skein-dyeing is a labor intensive and scientific process. It requires careful handling of the yarn and precise calibration of temperature and water flow to protect the lofty softness of the wool. The dyes must be mixed with perfect accuracy; it takes years of experience to master the chemical recipes that produce various colors and to achieve predictable and repeatable results—blue-greens are notoriously finicky, and even a single grain of pigment more or less can alter the final shade. The temperature must be adjusted over a process of several painstaking hours to develop certain colors or prevent a shift to unwanted overtones. Translating Jared’s vision for the Arbor palette into the final colors required many months of collaboration and test batches, but all that effort was well worth it. We love the depth and saturation the Saco River dyemasters were able to achieve.

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We’re excited about our partnership with Saco River Dyehouse and hope you’ll enjoy the many colors they’ve helped us create!

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Our shoot for BT Fall 14 took place in Red Hook, Brooklyn – the perfect backdrop for our fisherman-inspired knitwear. We wrote a bit about the neighborhood in our lookbook feature, and shot a companion video piece to go along with the article which we’re sharing today! The footage serves as a sort of visual journal of our own experience there – and sought to capture the character of Red Hook today. We’ve reposted the article below, too– hope you enjoy!

Nineteenth-century engravings show Red Hook, Brooklyn as a blunt spade of land bristling with steeples and smokestacks, a lively, hardworking neighborhood south of the Brooklyn Bridge pulsing with human energy and industry. A hundred years ago, Red Hook was the busiest freight port in the world, handling all the goods being shipped down the Erie Canal and then beyond.

Today many of its handsome brick factory buildings and warehouses stand empty; the local shipping industry withered on the vine in the 1960s, bypassed by new patterns of global trade. The subway doesn’t run here, eighty percent of the residents don’t own cars, and the only ferry service to Manhattan belongs to the new and controversial IKEA. The point of land once prized for its strategic location at the gates of one of the world’s great cities became so isolated that few visitors or even residents of more affluent parts of Brooklyn ever set foot here. Underserved by city government, burdened with environmental waste from elsewhere, wracked by decades of poverty and its attendant scourges, half-drowned by Hurricane Sandy, Red Hook is now muscling back up toward the sun.

Red Hook Circa 1875

 

Wanting a nautical backdrop for this collection of fishermen’s sweaters, the Brooklyn Tweed team headed for Red Hook’s wharves and tiny beachfront. We couldn’t stop shooting photos of picturesque brickwork and peeling paint, faded advertisements and weatherworn doorways, maritime relics, fresh flowers pertly adorning a few windowboxes, street art and bright graffiti replacing decay. The mood of this place, its admixture of struggle and pride, hard times and hope, moved us deeply.

Lines that once secured great oceangoing ships lie rotting in the sun and salt air, neatly coiled by longshoremen who honored their work even on the last day of the job. That haunting sense of dignity pervades this corner of Brooklyn, and it spoke to our ideals as a company. America is full of Red Hooks. All across this land are towns that boomed on manufacturing, places where people invented and made useful things, forges of change that drew people from all over the world to work and live and invent anew.

Brooklyn Docks 1916

Too many of those towns have fallen into decline, their industries gutted by cheaper competition. Brooklyn Tweed went into the business of making 100% American yarn because we wanted to participate in the revitalization of proud manufacturing traditions as well as contribute to a crafting renaissance. Working alongside other young businesses and in partnership with a remaining few that have survived for centuries, we hope to lift and energize local industries. Small as our impact might be in the face of colossal challenges, we can be part of a rising tide to reinvest in local resources and skills. The grit and passion of Red Hook’s community leaders inspires us and reminds us what’s possible when we commit to doing business in a way that creates work and boosts artistry in our country.

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This week we’re heading out west for Madrona Fiber Arts in Tacoma, Washington. Madrona is a special show that is well-loved by so many, and for good reason! Several aspects make this one of my own personal favorites among knitting events: the intimate and friendly vibe, the glass-art-filled hotel, a strong communal love of natural fibers, and a line-up of standout instructors and vendors to name a few. (Admittedly, I’m also biased by the fact that the event is held in my home town.)

We will be staked out in the marketplace all weekend – sharing a large booth with our friends at Churchmouse Yarns & Teas. We’ve got the booth packed to the gills with all 32 colors of both Shelter and Loft, so if you’re in the need of some quality US-grown wool, stop on by!

We’ll also be featuring the trunk show from our brand new BT Winter 13 collection throughout the weekend in the booth – all 24 samples that were featured in the look book will be available for visitors to try on.

Finally, I’ll be joined by three of our in-house designers (Julie Hoover, Leila Raabe, & Michele Wang) on Saturday from 10-2 for a meet-and-greet/pattern signing in the rotunda. We’ve prepared some visual displays that  illustrate our team’s design process so that knitters can get a taste of how things look behind the scenes when we’re putting together a new design collection.

It’s certainly shaping up to be a fun and busy weekend; for those attending, we hope to see you there!

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