Our Founder's Inspiration
Our story started in May 2008 when Tom Chappell hiked across the rolling pastures and steep hills of Wales. He tried a variety of performance gear throughout the hike, but struggled to find a layering shirt that kept him warm and dry – and fresh enough to go directly from the trail to the inn. (He also found himself admiring the sheep he saw along the hike; they seemed so comfortable no matter the weather.)
When he got back to Maine, Tom set off on a journey to create the perfect next-to-skin shirt inspired by wool. It needed to come from a cloth that soaked up sweat, didn’t rub uncomfortably against the skin, kept you warm even when wet, and allowed body odor to escape.
Our family roots in New England textile manufacturing run deep. We know first-hand the impacts of the textile industry on our community and environment. Massive, vacant stone mills and tainted rivers attest to the rise and fall of our predecessors.
We are rejuvenating the American clothing industry using time-tested fibers, modern innovation and entrepreneurial boldness. Our goal: work with nature to make responsibly sourced, skillfully crafted, American made sustainable clothing.
All About Wool
We chose wool, a renewable fiber used by humans for more than 5,000 years, for its remarkable natural properties. Wool is known for its protection in cold and damp conditions. Sheep and wool are familiar in New England, arriving with the earliest settlers; sheep are well adapted to our landscape. We appreciated the rugged woolen clothes worn in the woods and on the water, and also the fine suiting made for “town.” We asked ourselves: could we create everyday wool clothing that borrowed from these traditional uses in a way that makes them useful anytime? Could we use American wool, machinery and hands to do the work?
It took some digging, knocking on doors and persistence, but the answer was “yes.” The clothing we envisioned was possible by combining a specific class of wool with special manufacturing techniques dedicated to making soft, strong and light yarn and fabrics. We were advised of the type of superfine wool required (half the diameter of human hair!), a cleaning and combing process, and world-class spinning – all attainable within the United States. So we hit the road to meet the ranchers and processors who could do the work. And our excitement mounted with each visit.
We learned how sheep are bred and cared for to produce superfine wool, managing a small farm flock of our own to deepen our appreciation for their needs. We followed their wool from shearing into scouring: when dirt, lanolin and plant matter is removed. Then we saw the wool fiber combed twice to best align the individual strands to make long-lasting worsted yarns. And we watched the yarn creeled onto a circular knitting machine to knit our vision into reality with each revolution.
A Commitment to Sustainable Clothing
The people we met strengthened our conviction for American-made quality. We walked through their process from start to finish, front door to back, so we could understand the end product and the byproducts. They shared our commitment to producing sustainable apparel. Over time, one relationship at a time, the Ramblers Way sustainable supply chain was born.
But the story doesn’t end there. Making premium quality clothing sustainably requires ongoing attentiveness to both natural and human resources. In order to stay close to the production process we’ve invested in our sewing facility here in Maine. This design, patterning and sewing capability tops off a manufacturing process mindful of quality and responsible use of resources that we know our conscious customers appreciate.
Three Joyful Generations
Tom Chappell grew up in the family textile business in Uxbridge, Massachusetts. Kate Chappell has fabric in her blood, too – her family ran Cheney Brothers, the largest manufacturer of silk and velvet for over a century in the US until the late1940s. With Ramblers Way, Tom and Kate are introduced their love of fiber and cloth to the next generation. Daughter Eliza drew upon her talents as a designer and consumer advocate as the lead women's wear designer. Son-in-law Nick managed the full supply chain, from sheep farmers to fabric makers. And eldest son Chris led the marketing and e-commerce efforts from his base in Northern California.
Although the Chappell family is no longer involved with the company, Tom's spirit and inspiration can be felt throughout the business.