The looms continue weaving in Washougal, Washington, as the mill celebrates 100 years as a key part of Pendleton Woolen Mills’ operations. Running three shifts a day, the mill’s 190 employees keep the dye house, looms and sewing rooms humming to produce the virgin wool fabric used in Pendleton products.
Washougal sits on the banks of the Columbia River at the entry to the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Pendleton was already operating a mill in Pendleton, Oregon, when the company acquired the Washougal mill in 1912. The additional mill gave Pendleton the ability to weave a wider variety of fabrics. Sir Pendleton worsted and Umatilla woolen fabric are both woven in Washougal, as well as fabrics for the women’s line. “The Washougal community helped fund the startup of this mill and has supported Pendleton ever since,” said Charlie Bishop, VP of Mill Operations. In turn, the mill has been a major employer in this small Washington town since it opened.
We take a lot of calls at Pendleton from people hoping to learn the value, the year, or sometimes just the name of a particular garment. We can’t help with the value, we try to help with the year, and we can almost always come up with the name. When a man calls and asks about a jacket, he’s usually trying to figure whether it’s a Topster or a Topsman, two very popular jackets from Pendleton’s past.
As an American company with strong roots in the West, Pendleton Woolen Mills seeks to make blankets that are meaningful as well as beautiful. Four blankets in particular deserve recognition on this important holiday.
The Brave Star blanket celebrates the patriotism of Native Americans who have defended our country in battles since the 19th century. The design, based on the American flag, marries modern asymmetry and vintage Americana. The unique striations reflect a time when dyes were made from plants.
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.
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.
Photo by Zachary Kaufman, courtesy of The Columbian, copyright 2012
This weekend (starting March 3rd, 2012), collectors will have a chance to purchase Pendleton’s Vintage Collection Blankets at 20% off during the Retired Blanket Sale.
These blankets were introduced in 2008 to offer the aged allure of a vintage wool blanket to boutique customers and collectors.
Our 2008 wholesale catalog copy described the blankets: “At first glance, these lovely blankets seems to have been discovered in the hacienda of a beloved grandmother. But they are newly woven in our own Northwest woolen mills. The blankets reflect both our reverence for Pendleton history and the wealth of design inspiration in our design archives. We have given these fresh interpretations a luxurious finish with the rich patina of age – a fitting tribute to our heritage. The stonewashed, distressed surface lends the feeling of a well-loved and well cared for heirloom. The colors are softly muted and the hand is sumptuously soft.”
What these beautiful words can’t describe is the hard work, experimentation and sheer number of blankets that went into refining the “aging” of a Pendleton Vintage Collection blanket.
“We burned through so many of them!” says Robert Christnacht, the head of the Pendleton Home Division. “We wove and finished the blankets in our mills, minus any labels. Then we sent them to an outside commercial laundry, where they were washed and shrunk down to the right dimensions. It was a huge job to get the process right, because we wanted to take out a certain amount of color and we needed the right appearance and hand. Time after time, we’d pull a load of wool mush out of the machine. We’d have to start over.”
Barrett Christie is an accomplished athlete who has won more medals in the Winter X Games than any other female competitor. She competed in the 1998 Winter Olympics as part of the first US women’s snowboarding team. She oversees the design of women’s snowboards for Gnu Snowboards, including the Gnu Barrett Christy Pro Model, the most enduring women’s pro model snowboard on the market.
When Barrett needed an eye-catching graphic that still looked like a serious snowboard, she approached Pendleton. The result is our newest co-branding effort; a limited edition snowboard from GNU, featuring a graphic based on our Day of the Dead blanket. Every board comes with a specially labeled Day of the Dead blanket.
Life in the Pacific Northwest is very, very busy for Barrett. She’s a serious competitor and product developer, as well as a mom. But she recently found a little time to talk to us about the new design.
Karen: I’m sure you’re always looking for inspiration. What initially drew you to Pendleton?
Barrett: My husband I have a collection of Pendleton blankets we’ve won as prizes at the Mt. Baker Slalom. We’ve won a lot of races, so we’ve won a lot of blankets.
Along with springtime, the Northwest Flower & Garden Show is coming soon. From February 8th through 12th, the Washington State Convention Centerwill host a beautiful array of events and vendors.
The display gardens will be amazing!
Pendleton Woolen Mills has partnered with the show in supporting the Seattle Children’s Play Garden, through the sale of a special edition of our Counting Sheep blanket.
When an especially unique vintage Pendleton garment comes through our design areas, it can cause a stir. It’s like a new baby. People from other divisions come to visit, photos circulate in email, and everyone asks a lot of questions. What was it called? When was it made? And most importantly, what will we do with it?
A jacquard coat that came to the sewing room of the Men’s division was no exception. The Crossroads pattern was bold and dramatic, and the coloration was unique. Menswear decided to bring it back, so Fabric Design got to work redesigning and coloring the pattern. Womenswear and Home saw the possibilities…and that’s how a corporate jacquard is born.
From the sheep to the shelf, Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® passes strict standards of sustainability and stewardship. That sounds admirable, doesn’t it? But those lofty words would mean nothing at all if Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® products weren’t soft, richly colored and delightful to touch.
There are many, many products out there claiming to be green. Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® has been Cradle to Cradle Certified© by MBDC, a respected product and process design firm dedicated to promoting sustainable production. If you’re curious, you can find out more here. The best way to explain it? If you were to take a Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® blanket and bury it (but please don’t!), it would leave the earth better, not worse, for the addition.
Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® is an innovation in the Umatilla wool we’ve woven for over a century that uses nontoxic biodegradable dyes. Pendleton is known for the depth and intensity of our colors. Vegetable dyes are not as stable as chemical dyes, and the formula took some tinkering, especially the red spectrum. But with a great deal of trial and a reasonable amount of error, we produced Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool® that we could guarantee for quality.
So maybe you want to wrap yourself up in environmental responsibility this year, or maybe you just want something beautiful, wooly and Pendleton. In either case, we have plenty to show you.