What is Maritime Family Fiber?
What is Maritime Family Fiber?
August 14, 2017
Briggs and Little has been quietly churning wool into yarn next to the Magaguadavic river in Harvey Station New Brunswick for over 150 years. That's longer than Canada itself has even been a nation!
They're the last mill of their kind in Canada, which is in it's own way a source of both sadness and pride. They are and always have been a small family-run company. As soon as you step into the little yarn store you get the sense that people there just love making yarn. My kind of people!
About 2 hours away by land, across the border in downeast Maine (though more than once people have asked me if Maine is in Canada) you'll find a rocky coastline dotted with islands, lobster boats, and small family farms.
I grew up on such a farm, and each year we finish the sweaty work of shearing all the sheep and bringing our wool over the border to Briggs and Little Woolen Mill. I continue to help with my parents' farm while growing my own adventure across the bay (a short ride by boat) with my husband who works on a lobster wharf, digs clams, drags for scallops, and in other words works his guts out.
This past year, Briggs and Little approached me about becoming a regular importer of their yarn to the states. Those who love it know it can sometimes be hard to track down here. Hence...all this! I have a website (www.maritimefamilyfiber.com) where you can find many of their products. Maritime means 'connected by the sea', and we certainly feel that way.
The thing I love about their yarn is that when you work with it, you know you're working with real wool. It's been minimally processed, so it still has that beautifully earthy smell and you'll even find the occasional trace of grass. Be sure to pick them out and be on your way!
I know when I'm working with this yarn, it's the same yarn that has kept my ancestors warm in this very spot for hundreds of years. 409 years, actually, my family has been fishing and shepherding and knitting here. For them, it was more a way of life than a fun activity.
The next thing I love is the colors. They feature an array of solid colors, but their signature mark is the many shades of heathers they offer. They appear to be a solid color, but upon further inspection you find voices of various other tones.
Perhaps one of the biggest appeals to me is the price. I, like anyone, want to support small business, buy local, be environmentally cautious and ethically responsible in the things I buy. I understand the high prices on artisanally-made products...a lot of time, effort and skill goes into it! But when push comes to shove, sometimes there's just not enough money to fit all those criteria in all my purchases. The folks at Briggs and Little are practical people and make every effort to keep their yarn affordable so it can be enjoyed by everyone.
I am genuinely in love with this yarn! I'm not personally the salesman type...so there's no other way I'd be able to run a business if I wasn't actually obsessed with it.
And now, some random bits of knowledge about what it is we do around here:
-Briggs and Little has burned down and been rebuilt 4 times.
-They sometimes do tours of their mill where you can see how the yarn's made (highly recommended!)
-I once wrote a letter about a sheep and was invited to the White House because of it.
-You don't kill a sheep to get its wool. (Please tell everyone you know!)
-Briggs and Little didn't add any colored yarns (just black, white, and gray) until the 1940s. The first were Paddy Green, Scarlet, and Royal Blue.
-Canadians take their Tim's as seriously as they take their wool. These normally gentle folks do not take kindly to people blocking the drive-through lane. (Learned that one the hard way)
-Water from the river is still used to clean the wool.
-Sweaters worn by Canadian Olympians were made with Briggs and Little yarn.
-Scallop season is in the dead of winter and is one of the most dangerous jobs you can do.
-Canadian grocery stores offer a small selection of yarn (you know, in case you get hungry and need a skein).
-Magenta is the newest color (as of 2017).
-Both Rams and Ewes can have horns. Horns are breed-specific, not gender-specific.
-Lobsters shed their shells once a year, leaving them a gelatinous blob for a short time.