Pendleton Blankets: What’s Behind This Famous Functional Art

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Pendleton blankets are top quality in every way and oh so soft and beautiful. When you snuggle under a Pendleton product, you can see and feel the quality. Using 100% pure virgin wool, these blankets are lightweight yet soft and warm.

For over 140 years this family-owned business has been producing products in the Northwest; for the past 96 years, Pendleton has been known for weaving world class wool. The Pendleton blanket comes from a long tradition.

In 1863, Thomas Kay, a young English weaver made a four-month trip down the Atlantic seaboard, through the Isthmus of Panama by burro and up the Pacific coast by sailing vessel. He was headed to a place where the conditions for raising the best wool-producing sheep were just right ? Oregon. The moderate weather and ready supply of water were perfect for obtaining the best wool available in the emerging Northwest of America.

Thomas Kay organized a second woolen mill in the Oregon town of Brownsville, where he supervised the weaving operation and later became supervisor of the company. In 1889, he chose Salem, Oregon to open a mill of his own. His story is truly a story of the American dream come true.

Thomas Kay’s oldest daughter, Fannie, assisted her father and learned every aspect of the mill operation. She married C.P. Bishop who was an expert with merchandising and manufacturing, firming a solid foundation for what was to become Pendleton Woolen Mills. Their three sons grew into this heritage and, in 1909, with the support of the family and town, the Bishop sons restarted an idle mill in Pendleton, Oregon. Located at a major railhead, the town was a wool center for the sheep growers in the region. The Bishops constructed a more efficient mill building and in September of 1909, the first products left the finishing department. This is the saga of the tradition of quality that is available only from Pendleton.

Pendleton produced quality Indian blankets using the distinctive designs and colors of the Southwest Native Americans. These vivid colors and intricate patterns included in the blankets made by Pendleton became sought after. Trade included the Nez Perce nation, expanding to include the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni nations.

Used as wearing apparel, the Pendleton made blankets became the standard for trading among the Native Americans and they were highly prized for tribal ceremonial use. Today, these ceremonial blankets by Pendleton are highly coveted collector’s items.

Pendleton thrives today and the Bishop family still directs the operations. There are now eight facilities and many Pendleton stores. Even today, Native American designs are created in blankets woven by Pendleton but many other beautiful, soft and cozy blankets are also part of the Pendleton line. Anyone who owns a Pendleton made blanket is proud of their fine blanket, whether it be a vintage collector’s item or a new blanket with modern styling. Let’s look at some of a blankets made today by the renowned Pendleton factories more closely.

Pendleton’s Textured Weave Summer Dreams Blanket is made of Merino wool, the finest wool available. This wool has the most loft and creates a blanket that is cool enough for spring and summer use. The 100% virgin Merino wool feels soft, smooth and silky against your skin when you need a light blanket. The Pendleton selection is available in awning stripe, plaid and eight colors. This blanket by Pendleton must be dry cleaned; you’ll only want the best treatment for your fine blanket.

Pendleton Solid Easy Care Blanket is a great choice because it is made of 100% virgin wool that is machine washable Yes, laundering this blanket by Pendleton is simple and easy. The hand of this blanket is particularly lush and with six solid colors to choose from, you’ll find one just right to blend with your bedding.

The All Season Blanket is Pendleton’s mid-weight 100% virgin wool blanket woven in basket weave to add texture. The small waffled pockets resulting from the basket weave causes air to be trapped in winter, keeping you toasty warm. You’ll find yourself pulling this Pendleton wool blanket out as soon as the crispy fall air begins to cool. Available colors are green, white and tan and this blanket must be dry cleaned.

From the Native American collection, Pendleton presents the Courting Robe blanket. Designed by Laurie Jacobie and based on an original drawing made by a Kiowa warrior, this blanket captures the courting custom of the Plains Indians. A young brave would wrap a young woman in a blanket and spend hours talking together are their courting ritual. Red, yellow, green, black, brown and camel make this 82% virgin wool / 18% cotton blanket beautiful. The blanket measures 80 X 64 inches and should be dry cleaned.

There are many other blankets in the Pendleton collection. Blankets for your bed in classic styles, novelty throws and many Native American designs are produced today, using the same top quality that began with Thomas Kay’s daughter and her husband back in 1909. You’ll love these blankets so much, you’ll want to be the proud owner of several, both vintage and modern.