Ramblers Way - Made in the USA Comfortwear

In 2009, Tom and Kate Chappell, the founders
of Tom's of Maine, started a new family business
creating soft, comfortable next-to-skin worsted
wool apparel entirely on American soil.

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Ramblers Way - Made in the USA Sustainable Clothing at Cuddledown

In 2011, in partnership with Cuddledown, they decided to offer their full line of comfortwear
garments on the Cuddledown website.

1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3 sheep…

…that’s how it all began back in 2007 when Ramblers Way Farm started on the path to producing its superfine wool comfortwear. Those first four ewes and one curly-horned ram (named “Abraham”) have now grown into a flock of more than 50 Rambouillet sheep, known for their superfine fleece, flocking instinct, larger size and good mothering skills — all of which were good reasons to bring this heritage breed back to prominence. But Ramblers Way Farm is no ordinary sheep farm — the 75-acre farm, located in Kennebunk, Maine is at the forefront of bringing back the bygone days of quality American-made apparel to Maine and the region.

When Kate and Tom Chappell, the founders of Tom’s of Maine, sold their highly successful company in 2006, Tom’s intent was to retire. But during a hike with his son in Wales, he observed the flocks of sheep on the Welsh hills, seemingly oblivious to the freezing cold, soaking wet weather, and was inspired to start a new venture. The Chappells’ new company, named Ramblers Way after the British term for trekking, creates lightweight, superfine wool comfortwear, entirely made in the USA. And as with Tom’s of Maine, this new venture follows business practices in keeping with the Chappells’ philosophy of meaningful, humanitarian work and environmental sustainability.

Ramblers Way’s environmentally sustainable ethos is practiced everywhere throughout the company, from the offices, to the dyehouse to the farm itself. The corporate office is located in downtown Kennebunk, Maine, near the Chappells’ home, in a charmingly restored, LEED certified, colonial-era office building powered by solar and geothermal energy and furnished with furniture from a local Kennebunkport furniture maker (Huston and Company). Ramblers Way Farm operates as a sustainable, organic and humane farm. The sheep are well cared for, and the farm follows humane shearing practices. They munch happily on the acres of grass and hay grown at the farm, and the pastures are rotated to sustain the land, plus the fields are fertilized with organic compost. More recently, Ramblers Way purchased a nearby farm that would have otherwise been sold to a developer, thereby saving its rippling fields of grass and hay and continuing its use for farming. In addition to the Maine farms, Ramblers Way partners with other farms throughout the US to produce the finest US-grown wool for its products.

Ramblers Way sheep poses for the camera

Tom and Kate’s work has always included a desire to create quality products in the US. They both come from a rich heritage of textiles and apparel. Kate’s family was known for their silk production in 19th century Connecticut and Tom'’s ancestors were tailors, plus his father started work in a mill and eventually owned his own women’s wear woolen business in Massachusetts. In a nice turn of history, Ramblers Way’s garments are cut and sewn in Fall River, Massachusetts, and hand-dyed in Maine, bringing back to the region, at least in small part, an industry many thought was gone forever.

Ramblers Way’s garments, which Tom appropriately has named “comfortwear” are made from finely spun, 18.5 micron wool grown at the farm and their partner farms. “The Rambouillet superfine wool is so silky smooth and lightweight, you not only won't feel any scratchiness, you wouldn’t have any idea you were wearing wool unless someone told you,” Tom says. Not only is it super comfortable, but the natural properties of wool mean that the garments are breathable, moisture wicking and they can go with you everywhere, like a second skin for year-round protection from the elements.

Ramblers’ comfortwear can be worn anywhere from outdoors to the office, as the garments are attractive and finely made in rich colors from all-natural dyes with no stabilizers or chlorine, plus they are machine washable. Dyeing is a hands-on process, involving dipping the garments in vats of all-natural dyes such as indigo and madder rose, and hanging them up to dry on old-fashioned drying racks. Everything about these garments is crafted to make them ultra comfortable as well as long-lasting.

Beyond creating a profitable, yet environmentally sustainable company and bringing back textiles jobs to the US, Tom and Kate and their family believe in “doing good.” As a young boy, Tom witnessed firsthand the dissipation of the textile industry, which prepared

Ramblers Way Owners, Tom and Kate Chappell

him for a lifetime of social and environmental responsibility as a business model. In fact, he’s written two books on the topic: The Soul of a Business, Managing for Profit and the Common Good, and Managing Upside Down: the Seven Intentions of Values-Centered Leadership. With Tom’s of Maine, and now Ramblers Way, Tom continues his quest for “doing good” while running a profitable business.

In partnership with Cuddledown, he has supported several local groups promoting environmental sustainability and education, and continues to give back to his community. Tom says, “We like to think that we wear our values on our sleeves — and we wouldn’t have it any other way!”

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