The Pendleton 49’er is a perfect illustration of the adage that quality never goes out of style.
This jacket is an American classic, still going strong after more than sixty years. But where did it come from?
Long time Pendleton fans might know that Thomas Kay was an English weaver who came to Oregon in 1863 to found the business that became Pendleton Woolen Mills. You can still tour Thomas Kay’s mill today, at the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon.
A wonderful time to visit the center is the annual Sheep to Shawl event. Each year in early June, the Center hosts the proud owners of sheep, goats, alpacas, llamas and yes, bunnies. Children shyly or boldly approach the animals, offering grass and exclaiming at the coats, eyes, hooves and odors, while their parents shop for handicrafts and exotic yarns.
One of the more popular exhibits is the sheep shearing. This skill requires so much strength. It’s true, the sheep aren’t usually excited about their haircuts, but they are so much more comfortable afterwards.
Tours of the old mill run regularly. These are offered year-round, so don’t wait for Sheep to Shawl to go if you’re curious. The gigantic old looms, carts of spools and spindles, even the original time cards are still there. It’s a place to linger, to immerse yourself in a time long past.
Pendleton is still busy weaving in the USA. We have two union mills in Pendleton, Oregon and Washougal, Washington, and those are state-of-the-art, modern facilities kept very busy producing the textiles for our blankets and apparel. The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill is a different kind of mill; a little dusty, a lot nostalgic, and full of a history that continues today in Pendleton Woolen Mills. Go see it, but until you can, here’s a slideshow.
Pendleton Woolen Mills has woven a special blanket for the Girl Scouts’ 100 year celebration. “We are extremely honored to have been chosen to weave this blanket to help celebrate and raise funds for the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington,” says Robert Christnacht, manager of Pendleton’s Home Division and father to two former Girl Scouts.
Each custom blanket will have a commemorative label signed by Girl Scout alumna and former Governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts. The design, initiated by Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington, features the official anniversary logo at the blanket’s center.
Twenty-three scholars at the White Clay Language Immersion School worked hard for their new school uniforms: coats made of Pendleton’s “Big Thunder” wool. Students and their parents fundraised with bake sales, raffles and silent auctions. They didn’t just buy the fabric; students actually helped design and sew the coats.
The White Clay Immersion school was founded in 2003 under the guidance and direction of Dr. Lynette Chandler. It’s located in the Aaniiih Nakoda (Fort Belknap) College Cultural Center in Harlem, Montana. The school’s mission is to revitalize the White Clay language.
Dr. Chandler is an enrolled member of the A´aninin tribe. She has helped raise the amount of White Clay speakers from only eight to several hundred, bringing the language back from the edge of extinction.
For the students, the advantages are more than cultural. Students who learn their daily lessons in White Clay test high on standardized tests, due to the demands of learning a complex language.
This year, Dr. Chandler was selected as the Indian Educator of the year by the Montana Indian Education Association. Her inspiring story can be read here in “Circle of Hope,” the bulletin of the American Indian College Fund.
The story is just as clearly read in the proud faces of her young scholars.
Dear Friends at Pendleton;
Our first day on the Colorado started with a river rat breakfast, a ranger briefing of the do’s and dont’s of the Grand Canyon National Park, and a final equipment check before pushing off from Lee’s Ferry in the late morning sun on a beautiful March day in the canyon.
The oars flexed light and the boat rode high as the afternoon wind picked up. After less than ten miles of sluggish rowing, we pulled into our targeted campsite. I eased the 1962 replica Portola to shore, tied up to a sand stake, “unwedged” the yellow dry bag from the side hatch of the boat, grabbed three oars and trudged up the steep bank to our first campsite on the 24 day adventure.
I would be crashing in “canvas and wool” each night – a nod to the natural material of the ‘62 trip we were so carefully trying to replicate. A wool camp blanket from Pendleton and a David Ellis bed roll of canvas would be my mattress and comforter for this trip (with an occasional canvas tent for foul weather and photo ops). The natural fiber of cotton and wool seems more “authentic” and consistent with the spirit and intent of this adventure.
On Wednesday, March 21, Greg Hatten and company left Springfield, Oregon to start a Grand Adventure; the recreation of a historically significant trip on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon in boats that “linked” Oregon to the history of river running through that National Park.
The March 10th edition of Vancouver’s The Columbian profiled Pendleton’s Washougal, Washington mill. Reporter Cami Joner examines the key to Washougal’s longevity, remarking that “…The busy Washougal mill is evidence that textile manufacturing is not dead in America.” Read the full article here, and stay tuned for more as Washougal approaches its 100th anniversary of producing fine Pendleton textiles right here in the USA.
Pendleton’s Legendary Blankets are admired and treasured for their intricate, intriguing patterns and excellent quality. These original designs are inspired by Native American art, legends, belief, ceremonies and heroes. Native artists such as Lillian Pitt, Terry Whetstone and Joseph Chamberlain have designed for the series. Every design is exclusive, and each blanket has a commemorative label telling the design story. All blankets are napped, felt-bound and made with pure virgin wool in the USA.
The 2012 Spring legendary blanket is based on an original design by Chickasaw artist Dustin Mater. The blanket is rich with symbolism common to several tribes of the Mississippian/Muskegon culture of the southeastern United States. Mater’s design represents the annual rebirth of the Earth through the spring rains.
Kristen Philipkoski of GIZMODO.com called us to talk about the plaid shirt last week. She says, “Plaid shirts will always represent for me Kurt Cobain, riot grrrls and grunge music. That’s because I’m self-centered and lived my twenties in the ’90s. But today when I see my husband putting on a plaid shirt, it inspires entirely different connotations. He couldn’t be less grunge, but he is a certified geek. And it suits him perfectly.” She covers the history of plaid from tartans to Kurt Cobain, including Pendleton’s part of the story.
Read all about it here, and enjoy.
This past fall, Zoe Fisher and Matt Johnson tied the knot under an ancient tree in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park. The bride was beautiful and the groom was handsome, but here at Pendleton, our attention was drawn to the row of attending men.
There they are, standing proud in our Dude Cardigan, Pendleton’s tribute to the Westerley worn by Jeff Bridges as The Dude in “The Big Lebowski.”