A Gift to Honor: Pendleton Blankets and U.S. Presidents

In honor of Presents’ Day, please enjoy this guest post by Pendleton’s Archivist and Historian, Richard Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs wishes to thank Verna Ashton for her research assistance for this article.

 

“Gifting to politicians is basically about status and respect.”

— Robert Christnacht

 

At Pendleton Woolen Mills, “robe” is both a noun and a verb.  And, it’s no accident.

Giving a Pendleton blanket to a family member, friend, or distinguished person—for example, a U. S. President—is a powerful symbol that carries a wealth of history and tradition.  “It is the ultimate in showing respect,” notes Bob Christnacht, EVP Sales and Marketing.

Pendleton has been producing beautiful wool blankets for Native Americans (and others, of course) since 1909.  Two of the distinctive features of the company’s culture interwoven throughout its history are our alliance with Native American tribes, and our unwavering commitment to making premium quality merchandise.

For tribal members, the custom of “robing” may be used to mark an important event, to Honor a dignitary, or to recognize a significant achievement in one’s life.  At the most elemental level, it represents a gift that has life-sustaining properties.  The custom attracted media attention in 2016 at the White House-sponsored National Congress of American Indians when President of the Congress, Brian Cladoosby, emphasized, “To blanket is to remember those we honor, those we lost, and those who are going to build our futures.”

For nearly a century, various tribes have occasionally honored a visiting President (and sometimes First Lady) with one of Pendleton’s fine “Warranted To Be …” blankets.  “Gifting to politicians,” says Christnacht, “is basically about status and respect.”

For Pendleton, the custom began in 1923 when local tribes presented President Warren G. and Mrs. Florence Harding with the special “Harding” shawl, named in honor of the First Lady, at the dedication of the Oregon Trail marker in Meacham, Oregon.  Presidents and First Ladies robed since then include Calvin Coolidge (1925; he was also adopted into the Osage tribe), Herbert Hoover (1930), Eleanor Roosevelt (1941), Harry Truman (1950), Dwight Eisenhower (1954), Barbara Bush (1992), Bill Clinton (2000), George Bush, Sr. (2005), Laura Bush (2005), Barack Obama (2016) and Michelle Obama (2016).

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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt accepts a Pendleton blanket (about 1941).

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President Harry Truman receives a “Chief Joseph” blanket while on tour in Pendleton, Oregon, 1950.

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President Dwight Eisenhower accepts a “Harding” blanket during the dedication  ceremony for McNary Dam in eastern Oregon, 1954

 

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President Bill Clinton shows off the “White Buffalo Calf Woman” blanket he received at the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument in Nebraska, 2000.

 

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President Barack Obama is wrapped in a custom tribal robe, woven for the Swinomish Tribe, at the Tribal Nations Conference in Washington, D.C., 2016.

 

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First Lady Michelle Obama is robed with a “Chief Joseph” blanket at Santa Fe Indian School, 2016

Serape Blankets and a Valentine Giveaway

Ah, the serape. Just looking at it makes you happy. This blanket reads modern, but it’s been around for a long time. Colorful, sturdy and functional, this blanket shawl was part of life in the traditional Mexican home, where it could serve as clothing, bedding and shelter. Colorful, versatile and fun; no wonder it’s a Pendleton customer favorite.

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The serape’s roots are in the Mexican weaving tradition, but it is now common to both Spanish and Native American textiles. It’s known by many names throughout Mexico, including chamarro, cobiga, and gaban. It can be woven of a variety of materials and patterns but is generally lighter in weight. Different regions use different palettes, from the elegant neutrals of the Mexican highlands to the bold gradients of Coahuila.

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Here’s a photo of a Native family in a historic Babbitt Brothers wagon with a serape peeking over the edge. This was taken in the Southwest, where the Babbitts plied (and still ply) their trade.

Pendleton’s serapes are woven of 82% wool/18% cotton in bands of gradient colors to achieve that beautiful eye-popping dimensional effect.

This is your perfect spring and summer blanket, just waiting to be invited along wherever you go. And this week (2/14/19 through 2/17/19) we are giving one away on Instagram! So go enter!

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P.S. Serape stripes are not just for blankets!

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While you’re visiting www.pendleton-usa.com , Be sure to check out our serape stripe beach towels, the Pendleton and Tommy Bahama collaboration, and our men’s popover hoodie in a special heavy cotton chamois that’s brushed on both sides for ultimate comfort.

 

Thistle for Spring

Why thistle?

There are two stories behind Pendleton’s affinity with thistle. One is about the thistle’s long-ago part in getting fleece ready for weaving.

The process of carding wool cleans, mixes and smooths fibers as part of the transformation of fleece into yarn. The word “carding,” from the Latin carduus, means thistle or teasel. In weaving’s earliest days, dried teasels and thistles were used to pick raw wool as the first step in carding.

Once wool was spun and woven, handheld combs called “teasel crosses” were used to ‘full’ woven goods to raise the nap. You can see one here: teasel cross  So you can understand our love for a plant that was an actual tool for wool processing!

Tartans & Pendleton

The thistle stands fair and tall, with a nectar-filled flower that is well-protected. This duality of nectar and spike befits the national bloom of Scotland, home to the tartans for which Pendleton Woolen Mills is renowned. Our affinity for tartans is so strong that Pendleton used thistle-patterned buttons on many items of tartan womenswear in the 1950s through the 1970s.

You can see those buttons and learn about the vintage skirt that inspired our modern Thistle pattern in this video. It features some of our favorite designers talking about adapting vintage inspiration to modern designs.

Thistle for Spring

We took our Thistle inspiration into Spring with lighter weight wool, for a versatile layer that keeps you just the right amount of warm during transitional weather. It’s a lined dress-up-or-down jacket with a flattering neckline, cozy cuffs, neck and hem, and those all-important pockets. The fabric is woven in our own USA mills.

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We love the colors. Check it out here: Thistle Bomber Jacket  

New for Spring 2019 – Spirit Seeker

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Another beautiful blanket for Spring 2018 has arrived at the website!

Spirit Seeker

The Spirit Seeker blanket is predominantly woven in indigo and cream. Accent colors of lime green, orange and fuchsia are used sparingly in complex bands of arrows and flowers. It’s a beautiful arrangement of line and color!

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The blanket’s reverse lets the accent colors shine.

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Spirit Seeker:

The quest for knowledge leads the spiritual seeker on many paths. In Australia, bush people go on ritual wanderings known as walkabouts. The Babongo people of Africa have a rebirthing ritual that includes a journey to find spiritual truth.  Native Americans from many different tribes go on vision quests, rites of passage that include fasting, prayer, and a solitary journey to find life’s purpose. Spirit Seeker celebrates Spirit Seekers and their journeys with multi-directional arrows bordering a medallion, the central truth reached by multiple paths.

Perfect for Spring, perfectly Pendleton.

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Pendleton Fabric Expertise – A Story of Generations

Pendleton textiles are renowned for their quality, beauty and craftsmanship. Where did we learn to make fabric like this? Our expertise is generational, earned over a century of weaving in America.

The Beginning

The company known today as Pendleton Woolen Mills actually had its genesis in one mill; the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill in Salem, Oregon, founded by Thomas Kay, a master weaver from England.

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Thomas Kay brought extensive knowledge to his own mill, after a career that started in his childhood as a bobbin boy, and grew into management of large mills in the UK and the US before he finally opened his own. He specialized in fabrics for tailoring, and produced the first bolt of worsted wool west of the Mississippi.

The Next Generation

His daughter, Fannie Kay, became her father’s protégé in her teen years. She learned weaving and mill management at her father’s side. Fannie Kay became Fannie Bishop upon her marriage to Charles P. Bishop, a prominent Salem merchant. Their three sons opened the Pendleton Woolen Mill in Pendleton, Oregon, in 1909. That mill is still running today! The Kay/Bishop history extends through today’s Pendleton. The Bishop family still owns and operates Pendleton Woolen Mills. And Pendleton’s fabric expertise grows each year, as we challenge ourselves to do more with wool.

Today’s Mills

Fabric weaving was once a major industry in the United States, with more than 800 mills in operation. Today only a handful of those mills remain.  Our facilities in Pendleton, Oregon, and Washougal, Washington, are two of the very few woolen mills still operating in North America.

Pendleton, Oregon

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The Pendleton, Oregon mill opened in 1909, taking over a defunct wool-scouring plant on the banks of the Columbia River and transforming it into a full mill under the direction of Clarence, Roy and Chauncey Bishop. The location had been scouted by Fannie Kay Bishop, who encouraged her sons to make use of the existing building, the nearby Columbia River, and the supply of high quality wool fleece available from local sheep ranchers.

The company’s original products were wool blankets for Native American customers. Today, the Pendleton mill is open for tours. Travelers can watch those world-famous blankets being woven on two-story looms.

Washougal, Washington

Our Washougal facility sits on the banks of the Columbia River at the entry to the scenic Columbia River Gorge. The Washougal community helped fund the startup of this mill in 1912, and it has been a major employer in this small Washington town ever since.

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The additional mill gave Pendleton the ability to weave a wider variety of fabrics.

AirLoom Merino (found in our Sir Pendleton shirts) and Umatilla woolen fabric (found in so many of our flannel shirt styles) are both woven in Washougal, as well as fabrics for the women’s line.

Its roots may be historic, but the Washougal mill is a 300,000-square-foot model of modern efficiency. Mill owners come from around the world to tour it, and to learn about Pendleton’s weaving techniques, dyeing processes, and fabric finishing.

The Fabrics

Pendleton Woolen Mills has maintained the quality and craftsmanship of its textiles through decade upon decade of manufacturing in its own facilities. This allows us to maintain quality control from start to finish, from fleece to fashion. Our state-of-the-art computer dyeing technology controls water, dyes, heat, and more. Carding machines, looms and finishing processes are also computer-controlled, allowing for minute adjustments to guarantee uniformity of weave, weight and hand.

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We can perfect it because we control it, and it shows in our fabrics. We will be exploring some of those special fabrics in the months to come. We hope you’ll follow along.

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Magic Wash Merino is magical.

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By the end of January, we’re all looking forward to warmer days. What do you wear when you’re tired of winter clothes, ready to transition into Spring, but still need warmth?

Magic Wash Merino

Magic Wash Merino knits feature the luxe, silky hand of knitted merino, in a range of colors that look to the season ahead. The crewneck (above) features some very cool neck detailing, ribbed trim, and raglan sleeves. See all the colors here: Magic Wash Merino Crew

What is the Magic?

It’s a special treatment that makes each garment unique. These sweaters are hand-dyed for unique variations in color, transforming each piece into a one-of-a-kind find, with unique shading along necklines, seams and hems.

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Look closely at this pullover–it has the cutest (faux) pocket ever, and a relaxed hem to keep it easy to wear. Our design team thought a lot about the sleeve length to get it just right. See all the colors here: Magic Wash Merino Pullover

Why Merino?

Merino is one of our favorite luxury yarns, thanks to its sheen, airy lightness, and comfort. That’s right – you can layer for warmth and/or fashion, but this wool feels wonderful next to your skin. So slip on the V-Neck, and enjoy the silky, thermo-regulating comfort of pure merino wool. See all the colors here: Magic Wash Merino V-neck

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Merino Sheep

If you’d like to learn more about Merino sheep and what makes their wool so special, we suggest this page: Merino Sheep Info.  They are a special breed, carefully husbanded over centuries to create this outstanding wool. Plus, they’re handsome, and they know it.

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And speaking of handsome, we have men’s pieces too: Men’s Magic Wash Merino

New for Spring 2019 – Pagosa Springs Blanket

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Our newest blankets are arriving at the website, and you’re going to love them; Pagosa Springs is a beauty.

Pagosa Springs

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Pagosa Springs is woven in turquoise and earth tones inspired by hot springs all over the world, like the Grand Prismatic Spring here in the USA.

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The reverse has a light ground, for completely different look. That can be one of the beautiful benefits of jacquard loom weaving.

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Pagosa Springs:

Long ago, the Southern Utes of Colorado told of a plague that medicine men could not cure. A council gathered on the riverbank and built a gigantic fire, danced and prayed for help, then fell into a deep sleep. When they woke, the fire was replaced by a pool of fragrant hot water. They bathed and were healed by the springs, naming it “Pah” (water) and “Gosa” (boiling). In the center of this design, blue hot springs rise through a medallion of fire to bring peace and health.

Pagosa Hot Springs is the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring.  Check it out here: Pagosa Hot Springs

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Spring is a beautiful time for Pendleton.

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Baby New Year, with Pendleton

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Happy 2019! We are celebrating with photos shared by proud Pendleton-loving parents…and their adorable babies.

Wool is a fine choice for baby blankets. It’s natural, breathable, warm, lofty, and light. If you’ve ever touched one of our beautiful napped blankets, you know how soft they are. Above, Tiffany Galindo shows us some happiness on the newest Pendleton national park blanket – which celebrates Olympic National Park in Washington state.

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See the blanket here: OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK BLANKET

This blanket also supports a good cause. The National Park Foundation receives a royalty from the purchase of each national park blanket. Pendleton and our partners have donated more than $700,000 so far to support critical restoration projects in our national parks.

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Oh, my goodness. Another adorable baby, this one with a Chief Joseph patterned child’s blanket. These blankets, like our parked blankets, are napped for extra softness and insulation.

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Napping is a special mill process that brushes up wool fibers. This creates a softer surface, and more air pockets to hold warm air.  In other words, napping wool doubles the cozy. Napping also makes wool easy to clean, as most soil doesn’t settle into the blanket–it brushes away. All the better for your little ones.

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You can see a range of colors here: CHIEF JOSEPH CHILD’S BLANKET

Cotton blankets have advantages, too. Knit blankets are stretchy, which is great for swaddling.

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Cotton is also machine washable. If you’ve noticed how leaky babies can be, you’ll see the benefit there. Our Canyonlands Knit Cotton Baby Blanket is a beautiful way to wrap your baby in softness.

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You can see the blanket here: Canyonlands Blanket for Baby

All Pendleton baby blankets are awesome stroller mates. But we do have a special stroller blanket in one of our most popular stripes, for baby’s adventures in the outdoors.

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This cuddly cotton knit blanket is backed with faux Sherpa fleece for the ultimate in snuggle factor. You can see it here: STROLLER BLANKET

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These are all wonderful ways to celebrate the new babies in your life; to greet them with open arms and soft, warm Pendleton blankets.

Happy New Year!

 

 

GINEW Thunderbird Coat – a closer look

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As we come to the end of a year of stellar projects, co-brandings and collaborations, we want to call out the GINEW Thunderbird coats as one of our favorite projects. These coats are made by GINEW, the only Native American owned premium denim collection. Focusing on American-made materials, GINEW incorporate elements of their Native American heritage (Ojibwe, Oneida, & Mohican) to express a contemporary, Native voice through premium apparel and accessories.

Here is GINEW’s press release about the coat:

Native American-owned apparel co. Ginew of Portland, Oregon announces the release of the THUNDERBIRD COAT. An elevation of a classic piece with intricate details throughout. The THUNDERBIRD COAT tastefully incorporates the tribal (Ojibwe & Oneida) designs and textiles of the brand owners, with hunted deerskin collar (YES! Hunted by Ginew + family), premium denim, custom PENDLETON® lining, and Ft Lonesome chain-stitched Thunderbird…

The pinnacle of our inspiration for the collection this year – the THUNDERBIRD COAT – encompasses a range of emotions and experiences from an eleven-day road trip in our 1971 F250…from our ancestral homelands of the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest. Through the boreal forests along Lake Superior, across the plains and badlands of Dakota & Cheyenne lands, to the high desert and ultimately the temperate rainforest of the Pacific…each morning, day, and night an act of intention and, in many ways a prayer. Crisp sunrises, afternoon thunderstorms, still sunsets, and brilliantly starry nights were our muse as we bore witness to the change of seasons. Woven into each fabric of this coat is the intention, observation, and emotion of this experience.

When you put on the THUNDERBIRD COAT, you are wearing a coat built to express our Ojibwe & Oneida heritages and the experience of our journey from the Great Lakes to Portland, OR. Designed with the classic American silhouette of a lined ranch coat, yet taken steps beyond as we incorporate our tribal symbols, traditional textiles, way of life, and emotions into the coat.

The coat includes the Ginew® “WE WALK TOGETHER” wool blanket lining – exclusively woven for Ginew® by PENDLETON®. It is customary in our communities to wrap a newly joined couple in a blanket to symbolize their union. The WE WALK TOGETHER blanket colors represent the sacred day (sunrise to sunset) and wampum belt (purples), teachings which impart values to guide us in our life together. The lodges are in the shape of traditional Ojibwe and Oneida dwellings. The crest fuses timeless symbols from each of our tribes, the dwelling (Ojibwe) and Skydome (Oneida). Together, the colors and symbols represent how we value our traditional beliefs in our home as we walk this journey of life together.

See it here: GINEW

Photos by Ginew & Rowdy Dugan