Sheep to Shawl at the Mission Mill

Our Founder

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.

Exhibits

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.

A sheep looks through the bars of his pen, awaiting shearing.

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.

Today

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Columbian Profiles Pendleton

In Print

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, and stay tuned for more as Washougal approaches its 100th anniversary of producing fine Pendleton textiles right here in the USA.

Read it here: Adaptability and Pendleton

A man works on the Washougal loom. Photo courtesy The Columbian
Photo by Zachary Kaufman, courtesy of The Columbian, copyright 2012

The Pendleton Vintage Collection Blankets

A Special Opportunity

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.

Poster for the Pendleton Vintage COllection

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.”

The blankets were finally ready to go in 2008. The collection unveiled with four designs in 2008: Window Rock, Los Lunas, Gallup and Flagstaff. In 2009, Ganado joined the mix. Unlike most actual vintage Pendleton blankets, they are square-edged and carry a modern label. They are uniform in size, but the process insures that each blanket is slightly unique.

These blankets caught the eye of the press immediately and have been featured in Martha Stewart, ELLE Decor, VOGUE and many more. This collection was always intended to be limited. All five styles have been retired officially for 2012. They will go fast this weekend, so pay us a visit at pendleton-usa.com and complete your collection!

Introduced in 2008:

Window Rock Vintage Collection Blanket

Window Rock

Los Lunas Vintage COllection Blanket

Los Lunas

Gallup Vintage Collection Blanket

Gallup

Flagstaff Vintage COllection Blanket

Flagstaff

Added to production in 2009:

Ganado Vintage Collection Blanket

Ganado

Retired from production in 2012:

Made in USA label with eagle for Pendleton