© The Fibre Co.
Yarns are shaped by the characteristics of the fibers that go into them, and the same may be said of people. For Daphne Marinopoulos, the founder of The Fibre Co., it is safe to say that textiles are in her blood. Her grandparents, immigrants from Greece in the early twentieth century, worked in the famous fiber mills of Lowell, MA, and her father attended the textile trade school there before going on to become a textile engineer for Dupont. Although she had an early interest in handcrafts and fashion, Daphne was encouraged to enter the more practical field of finance, and made a successful career in business and financial management, flying around the world for work, carrying her knitting with her into business class. In 2002, however, she needed a change and, given the opportunity to buy a small mill in Portland, ME, she took the chance and founded the Fibre Co. in 2003.
© The Fibre Co
From the start, The Fibre Co. was about experimentation. Although she had initially planned to partner with local farmers to process their fiber, because she was working at such a small scale, Marinopoulos was able to try out a wide range of different natural fiber types in her small milling machine, using trial and error to find out which blends worked well together and which did not. Although known for smooth, luminescent luxury fiber blends such as Road to China – which combines baby alpaca, cashmere, camel, and silk – one of The Fibre Co.’s main innovations was to combine plant and animal fibres into a single yarn, producing the sort of rustic luxury one finds in Meadow, the laceweight combination of wool, llama, silk, and linen, where the plant fibers stand out and create a heathered effect. These novel combinations of fibers produce yarns that play with qualities of the fibers from which they are made – mohair adding weightless warmth, or silk adding a surprise strength along with its softness and sheen.
© The Fibre Co
The quest for color was one of the main reasons for Marinopoulos’ experimentation with fiber. The different fibers and fiber blends take up dye different – silk absorbs differently from wool, and alpaca from linen. In order to produce the ideal combination of color tones and combinations in a single skein, The Fibre Co. chooses fibers that will produce a richly varied colorway in a single skein. Sometimes that means using caramel colored camel to add a warm undertone, or using silk to give an otherwise staid wool interesting flecks of color, as in Acadia, a combination of wool, baby alpaca, and silk noil; no matter what the combination, yarns from The Fibre Co. are engineered for beauty. Dye blends are produced with the same care and sense of experimentation that goes into the fiber blends: to produce a final palette of 12 to 14 colors for one yarn line, Marinopoulos produced around 85 potential colorways before selecting the ones she wished to bring to market. As the company scaled up and production shifted from the mini mill in Maine to commercial mills in Peru, Marinopoulos traveled to the mill to work with the dyers there to develop a process that would create the results she wanted – strong, artisanal, and deeply evocative of a sense of place.
The palette for each yarn from The Fibre Company is built around a theme, usually with the intent of creating a sense of place. Acadia, though dyed in Peru, brings to mind the colors of the woods in Maine, with rich earth tones combining with greens, reds, and cooler toned neutrals. The palette for Tundra – a surprisingly light bulky weight blend of baby alpaca, merino wool, and silk – suggests the coolness of winter in its icy blues and sunset jewel tones, while a pop of brighter green hints at the coming spring. When the company moved to Britain in 2015, the source of their inspiration changed as well. The colors of the Irish milled Arranmore – a tweedy blend of merino, cashmere, and silk – reflect the dramatic landscape of the Irish coast, with rich blues, greens, and heathery sunset colors.
How does your knitting connect you with your surroundings?