By Lynn Byrne. Blankets are not just warm, they are HOT.
But, of course, the Pendleton and Hudson Bay variety have a rich history.
HUDSON BAY COMPANY
The Hudson Bay Company actually preceded Pendleton by more than 100 years. Hudson Bay has manufactured blankets since 1779 and are known best for its striped blankets in indigo, yellow, red and green as seen in the first photo above, although they do come in other colors.
Native Americans prized the blankets for their ability to hold warmth even when wet and because they were easier to sew than animal skins. They traded beaver pelts, moccasins, buffalo skins and other trade goods for them. Yep, Indian trade blankets were not made by Indians, they were made for them.
The short vertical lines seen on the traditional capote shown below, made from a Hudson Bay blanket, are known as “points” and the number of lines denote the size of the blanket.
In 1890, because other companies (including Pendleton) were making similar blankets, Hudson Bay began to label its blankets. The labels are how most collectors date the age of the blanket.
If you ever spy an unlabeled, round corner blanket, scoop it up. It could date before 1890.* Click here for more information on collecting these blankets. Here is an example of the Hudson Bay label used between 1934-1940.
PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS
Pendleton’s earliest roots began when Thomas Kay travelled across the country in 1863. Kay landed in Oregon and began working in the woolen mills. But, it wasn’t until 1909 when Kay’s grandsons, Clarence, Roy and Chauncey Bishop, moved the business to Pendleton, Oregon and took over an idle woolen mill located there, that the company Pendleton Woolen Mills was born. The company still operates a mill in Pendleton and continues to be run by the Bishop family. It handles all aspects of production from sourcing the wool to the actual weaving of the blankets.
With fabled Indian chief Geronimo as its first celebrity customer, it is Pendleton Woolen Mills that developed the brightly hued Native American blanket designs. The company took particular care to learn about the native mythologies and design preferences of its Native American customers.
That tradition continues today. Each year Pendleton Woolen Mills, issues a “Legendary Collectible Blanket” that they design in close consultation with Native Americans. The blankets are intended to be “heirlooms for tomorrow” and each bears a suede patch telling the blanket’s story. Click here to see the series. I particularly like the blanket issued in 2010. Known as as the Lakota Way of Life, it is intended to represent the Buffalo Nation.
Pendleton expanded into clothing, first for men in 1924, and then for women in 1949. Fun fact: The Beach Boys were originally know as the “Pendletones.” Even after they changed their name, they continued to wear Pendleton wool shirts on album covers throughout the 1960s.
The company’s first design for women was known as the 49er jacket. An immediate hit, it was the “must have” jacket throughout the 1950s. Lucille Ball wore one in a famous episode of ”I Love Lucy” called “The Camping Trip” in 1953. Pendleton still offers them.
If you are interested in collecting Pendleton vintage blankets, they, like the Hudson Bay blankets, are often dated by their labels. Click here for more information.
I picked up my vintage Pendleton blanket on Ebay for around $60. It is warm and cozy and not at all itchy. I bought it because I liked the colors. It can’t be that old—the label on my blanket bears the woolmark logo, which was designed in 1964.
So get snuggly everyone. Whether I have inspired you to start a collection, or you decide to buy new, wearing a blanket, or accessorizing your home with one is right on trend.
*When researching this post, I came up with several different dates and makers of the round cornered blanket, ranging from 1890 to 1909. All sources agreed, however, that a round corner could indicate age.
Photo credits: 1. Marion House Book 2. From Me To You tumblr 3. Schoolhouse Electric 4. UrbanOutfitters.com 5. Dwellstudio 6. Design Sponge 7. Linda in Wonderland 8. Urban Outfitters 9. Pendleton for Opening Ceremony 10. Pendleton Fall/Winter 2011 11. J.Crew 12. Couture Allure 13. pointblanket.com 14.-15. Wikipedia 16. Pendleton via National Musuem of the American Indian, Newservice 17. Pendleton 18. LA Times 19. Sailing Over A Cardboard Sea 20. LA Times 21. Barry Friedman’s Indian Blanket page