A Traditional Chilkat Robe in Pendleton Wool

A Celebration of Earth Day

On Earth Day, we shared on Instagram a beautiful photo of Linda Benson Kusumoto in her traditional Chilkat robe standing in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.

Linda Benson Kusumoto in her traditional Chilkat robe standing in front of the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska.

To us, it captured the spirit of celebrating the Earth. Linda’s robe is made entirely of Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool, and was handmade by her. She was gracious enough to give us some information on it, as well as some photos of it at celebrations. Along with her Chilkat robe, she sent photos of her family wearing traditional button blankets, also made by Linda with Pendleton wool.

Here is some background, courtesy of Linda.

My name is Linda Benson Kusumoto. I am a Tsimshian Native, from Metlakatla, Alaska. I lived part of my life in Portland, Oregon, where I found your wool and studied our traditional arts. Benson is my maiden name and is a Tsimshian family name.  When our tribe moved to Alaska, transitioned by Father Duncan (a missionary from England), the individuals were given English names.  My grandparents were given the name of Benson.

Linda and family in their handmade blankets in front of a mural

Chilkat robe – I believe that this started with the Tsimshian (my tribe). Our tribe originated from British Columbia long the Nash River, Father Duncan moved half of our tribe to Metlakatla, Alaska.  It is said that the Tsimshian were once of the Nisgaa tribe.  I belong to both tribes as a registered tribal member, my primary tribe is the Tsimshian Nation of Metlakatla, Alaska. Our cities are Old Metlakatla, British Columbia and Metlakatla, Alaska on Annette Island (sometimes referred to as New Metlakatla). My father and grandparents were born and raised on Annette Island, Metlakatla, Alaska.  I was born in Seattle, Washington. With me in the photos are my daughter, Kelli  Jean Coy; my sister, Valerie Benson Callahan; and my first cousin, Coral Sumner Lehtinen.

See more information here: Chilkat robe

Linda and her family displaying their handmade robes and blankets.

Traditional Alaska Native Button Blanket – These are made in traditional colors of red & black, and sometimes in royal blue and/or ivory.  These are designed, created and worn by the Tsimshian, Haida, and the Tlingit tribes of Alaska, especially for Celebration, held every other year in Juneau, Alaska.

See more information here: Traditional Alaska Native Button Blanket

Celebration – The button blankets and Chilkat robe shown in these photos have all been worn during Celebration, multiple years and for traditional potlatch ceremonies in Alaska.

See more information here: Celebration

Here are some images:  2016 Celebration.

Dancing in robes at Celebration

This is a photo of me wearing my full regalia for Celebration 2016.  I also made leggings to match using Pendleton wool.  And I am wearing our traditional red cedar bark hat.

Linda Kusumoto in her full regalia

Here is a button blanket that I made over 15 years ago and it still looks the same today.  This photo was featured in the “Winds of Change” magazine when I won the Executive Excellence Professional award 2012 from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (www.aises.org).

Linda in her button blanket.

All photos Linda Benson Kusumoto, used with permission

Thank you so much, Linda…

…for sharing your traditions and robes with us. For anyone wondering where to buy Pendleton wool by the yard, here are two sources.

Pendleton Woolen Mill Store in Milwaukie, Oregon: You can stop by the store and see all the fabric offerings and special cuts in person! Or, you can peruse fabrics on the store’s blog and order over the phone. The store does ship internationally.

Woolen Mill Store Blog: Shop Fabrics

Woolen  Mill Store Facebook (for store location, hours and phone number)

A wide selection of fabric is also available at the Pendleton website here: SHOP FABRIC

Types of wool explained: merino, lambswool, Shetland & more

Do you know your types of wool?

From Shetland to merino, it can vary widely. Earlier, we covered the differences between virgin and recycled wool. Today we’ll help you understand the main types of wool, including:

  • Merino wool
  • Lambswool
  • Shetland wool
  • Cashmere
  • Alpaca
  • Mohair

Quick note: Fibers are only wool if they come from sheep. So cashmere, alpaca and mohair (which come from goats and alpacas) are actually hair, not wool. Interesting, right? Now let’s get started!

Merino wool

This soft fiber comes from Merino sheep, mostly found in Australia and New Zealand. Merino wool is finer (or thinner) than your average wool, which makes it softer, less itchy and more flexible. Our 5th avenue throw is a great example. It’s also cool, breathable and moisture-wicking, which is why merino makes for such a good base layer during hiking or exercise. Whether you’re hot or cold, merino wool keeps you comfortable—no wonder it’s so popular!

merino-wool-blanket-pendleton

Merino wool 5th avenue throw

Even within merino wool, there are several different categories. Not to get too technical, but the larger the diameter of the wool fiber, the coarser and more itchy it will be. Some wool fibers can be 25 microns in diameter or more, and your hair is 50-100 microns thick. In comparison, merino wool fibers are typically 24 microns in diameter or smaller. Fine merino is less than 19.5 microns, superfine is less than 18.5 and ultrafine merino is less than 15. For sweaters, socks, blankets and more, merino wool is an excellent (and premium) choice. Check out all Pendleton’s merino wool blankets here.

Lambswool

Lambswool, a hardworking and durable favorite fiber, is the finest, softest fleece that comes from a lamb’s first shearing, usually when the lamb is six or seven months old. It’s smooth, strong and flexible, plus it doesn’t need much processing. Lambswool is excellent for blankets and bedding (and allergy sufferers) because it’s hypoallergenic and resists dust mites. Like merino and all wool, lambswool is breathable and helps your body regulate temperature. Check out our plaid lambswool throw and see for yourself!

Shetland wool

Authentic Shetland wool comes from Shetland sheep, originally found on Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Over 200 years ago, Sir John Sinclair praised Shetland wool as having “the gloss and softness of silk, the strength of cotton, the whiteness of linen, and the warmth of wool.” The fibers are 23 microns thick on average, making it generally thicker than merino. Shetland wool is known for being durable and hardy, as the climate on the northern island can get quite cold. That means Shetland wool is terrific for warm and toasty sweaters. If it’s too rough for your liking, layer it over a shirt.

A sweet-faced sheep looks at the camera.

Cashmere

This silky soft fiber comes from the fine undercoat of the cashmere (or Kashmir) goat and is known for being supersoft, delicate and luxurious. Most cashmere comes from goats in China and Mongolia. Fibers are about 18 microns in diameter, so about the same as superfine merino. It’s often expensive: Only about 25% of a cashmere goat’s fleece is used, so it takes the hair of two goats just to make one cashmere sweater. Some of Pendleton’s wool blankets, sweaters and coats contain cashmere to make the texture blissfully soft yet still warm and insulating—like this throw.

Alpaca

Alpaca hair is strong, silky, warm and durable…plus alpacas are cute! (They’re related to llamas.) Alpacas were originally bred in South America and especially prized in Inca culture in Peru’s Andes Mountains. Their hair is hypoallergenic, so if you’re allergic to wool, try alpaca. If not, alpaca and merino wool create a wonderfully soft and light yet insulating blend. Fibers are similarly sized as cashmere and fine merino. Several of our women’s sweaters and cardigans are made with alpaca yarn.

Three shorn alpacas relax in a pasture.Shorn alpacas at rest. They are the cutest.

Mohair

This fiber is hair from the angora goat. It’s smoother than wool (and slightly more expensive) but not as soft as cashmere, so it’s kind of a middle ground. Fibers are 25-40 microns in diameter, roughly the same as Shetland wool and even some merino. Mohair is known to have a fuzzy texture, because the goat’s coarser outer hairs mix in with its fluffy undercoat. Like wool, it’s wrinkle- and dirt-resistant. Pendleton’s new boucle wool throw blends mohair with lambswool for warmth and unique texture.

Any other types of wool you’re curious about? Let us know in the comments below!

What is virgin wool? And is it better than recycled wool?

Wool experts

a Shetland sheep

Here at Pendleton, we use pure virgin wool for our famous blankets and shirts – but what is virgin wool, and why does that matter? Keep reading to learn the difference between virgin and recycled wool and what each is best for.

Virgin wool

Virgin wool is simply wool that’s never been used before–but that difference matters. It’s better than recycled wool because it’s stronger and higher quality. Pure virgin wool is naturally breathable in both cold and warm weather, water-repellent, durable and insulating. It also resists wrinkles, stains and odors. Even though you can dry-clean wool shirts, many people simply hang them up and let them air out, finding that to be just as effective.

Since virgin wool fibers haven’t been shredded like recycled wool, they’re more resilient—they don’t break or wrinkle as easily and can provide more stretch. A shirt made of virgin wool can last for decades—some Pendleton customers pass down their Board Shirts through several generations. Not something you can say about cotton or synthetic materials, right?

A wool weaving loom

Recycled wool

You wouldn’t necessarily think of wool in the same category as paper bags, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, but like those three, it’s recyclable. Recycled wool got a burst of popularity during World War II, when fabrics were rationed because wool was needed for military uniforms. As a result, civilians would recycle wool blankets into coats, or use the yarn from wool socks to knit sweaters. Very resourceful, right?

Recycled wool is also called “reclaimed wool” or “shoddy wool.” Recycled wool is exactly what it sounds like: wool that’s been used to make one product, then used to make something else. Recycled wool is great for insulation, cloth diaper covers, DIY rugs, polishing metal, applying wood stain, absorbing spills and more.

bags of scoured, undyed wool fleece

However, recycled wool isn’t the best for clothing and blankets if softness is your goal. To recycle wool, the fibers are torn apart and respun, which lowers the quality. Recycled wool can be “a little more harsh or fuzzy,” explains a wool crafting site. Adds one yarn site, “Most recycled wool goods have a harsh feel to them.” At Pendleton, our goal is soft, premium wool clothing and blankets, which is why we exclusively use pure virgin wool.

The FTC

Today, companies are legally required by the Federal Trade Commission to specify if wool is recycled. So if a wool garment isn’t specified as virgin or recycled, it’s probably virgin wool. Now the next time someone wonders, “What is virgin wool?” you’ll know the answer!

For pure virgin wool blankets, clothing and accessories designed to last for decades, shop Pendleton at pendleton-usa.com.

Help support the Adopt-a-Native-Elder Program

Authentic weaving, Pendleton wool

A handwoven Navajo piece

This authentic Navajo rug is being offered by Pendleton Woolen Mills in support of Utah’s Adopt-a-Native-Elder program. This outreach program helps Navajo elders, as they carry on the oldest cultural and spiritual traditions of the Dine People. Many elders are located in remote areas, living in hogans and raising sheep. The program provides food, clothing, fabrics, yarns and other needs. In return, the Elders share their expertise, especially in weaving.

Pendleton Support

For this project, Pendleton donated bales of dyed virgin wool, which ANE volunteers divided into bags and distributed after an Adopt-a-Native-Elder dinner. The Grandmothers were invited to choose their own wool, and were quite enthusiastic to be involved.

collage

The weavers returned fifteen completed rugs for judging. From a host of beautiful entries, this rug was the winner.

It was woven by Gloria Hardy with assistance from her mother, Louise. It is spun and woven from 100% Pendleton wool. Mother Louise spun the wool, and daughter Gloria designed the pattern and did the weaving. The size is impressive (48″ x 46″), and it is a beautiful pattern.

The stripes in the pattern represent the calm and steady wind of the desert sky. The crosses represent the Prayer of the Four Directions:  I pray with beauty before me, behind me, above me and all around me. May I walk in beauty.

The rug on a tile floor

This rug is one-of-a-kind, authentically Navajo, and is being offered to support the fine work of Adopt-a-Native-Elder. Pendleton is proud to support Adopt-a-Native-Elder.

More Information

More information on Adopt a Native Elder can be found here: http://www.anelder.org/

PDX Adult Soap Box Derby, ADX Portland, and The Arrow

In early August, we got a shout-out on Twitter from Matt Preston, asking if we’d be interested in helping with the finishing  of his Soap Box Derby car. Matt is part the ADX Portland community, and we will talk more about the derby, but first we want to tell you about ADX. ADX brings together thinkers, makers, students and experts in a shared 14,000 square foot fabrication facility where dreams are made. Once you read about it, you will want to be part of it.

ADX lab

Now, back to the derby. Each year since 1997, Portland has been home to the PDX Adult Soap Box Derby. According to their website, “Now in its 18th year, the PDX Adult Soap Box Derby continues a beloved summertime tradition at Mt. Tabor Parkl—a community event that draws crowds of 7,000 – 10,000 people to watch a colorful and sidesplitting spectacle of 40+ coaster cars powered only by gravity, whimsy, and attitude.”

2015-Soapbox Poster-Final-Web

Matt’s entry was framed but not finished.

frame of soapbox derby car
frame of soapbox derby car
A cone for the nose of the car, fabricated in copper

Would we be willing to furnish some of our wool to cover it? Oh you bet.

Matt made a trip to our Woolen Mill Store in Milwaukie, Oregon. With the help of our manager, Mary, he picked his favorite. You might remember this Serape pattern from our second collaboration with Doc Martens.

choosing fabric at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store in Milwaukie, Oregon
Pendleton fabrics
Fabric is chosen!

It wasn’t quite “off to the races” yet. First, Matt went back to ADX for final construction.

Construction of the soapbox derby car
Construction of the soapbox derby car
Construction of the soapbox derby car
fitting fabric to the frame
Construction of the soapbox derby car
Construction of the soapbox derby car

We were delighted to see that Matt was inspired by “The Point,” the Harry Nisson 70s classic.

drawing of "Arrow" the dog from The Point

Arrow was a great best friend. Here’s a little clip for those of you who weren’t around back then.

Construction of the soapbox derby car
Arrow's "nose"

The derby was held on August 15th. We don’t have any images of Matt’s car in action. It was sidelined in a crash! Here’s what Matt had to say about it: The race was a great time and we got a lot of comments on our craft and on the wool covering. Unfortunately, our tire wrecked during the race and so the craft only got one good run in her, but we will be reusing the wool and structure for next year’s race and it will be even better!

finished car on the day of the race
"Nilsson's Arrow" painted on the car

So, let’s all think good thoughts for next year.

Pendleton Heritage Umatilla Wool — VIDEO with Cameron Krebs

Two men (Cameron Krebs and his father) stand in a flock of sheep. The younger man is holding his toddler-aged daughter in his arms.

Wool is What We Do

We are Pendleton Woolen Mills, and wool is what we do. Just watch and listen to Cameron Krebs, a wool grower from Umatilla County, talking about his family’s generations as wool providers to Pendleton Woolen Mills.

Properties of Wool

So here are some amazing wool facts for you, courtesy of us, from our trusty “Wool, A Natural” booklet, a little classroom staple for many years now.

Wool is a Miracle Fiber that Stands the Test of Time

Wool is a natural fiber, growing from the follicles of sheep. In a time of sustainability and environmental consciousness, this renewable resource remains longer-lasting and better looking than anything man-made. Even though advanced processing methods have made wool more versatile and easy care, man has not improved the miracle fiber itself. 

Wool is Naturally Resilient and Wrinkle Resistant

This is due to the ability of the fiber to spring back into shape after bending, creasing, or compression. Resilience gives wool its ability to hold a shape, resist wrinkles and withstand wear. This makes wool great for travel. It resists tearing because it’s flexible. Wool can bend back on itself 20,000 times without breaking (cotton only 3200 times before breaking/silk 1800 times/rayon only 75 times). Wool can be stretched or twisted and its cells return to their original position.

Wool is Naturally Comfortable

Wool fibers cannot be packed down. They spring back to shape keeping their open, porous nature. Wool provides the most warmth with the least weight. The air that is trapped inside (about 80% of wool fabric volume) makes wool an excellent insulator to keep the body at its normal temperature year round: warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool is the original outdoor “performance” fiber. 

Wool is Naturally Water and Stain Repellent

Wool repels light water, like a rain shower, because of the membrane on the outer scales. In very wet conditions, wool absorbs up to 30% of its own weight without feeling damp. And because of insulation ability, wool “breathes,” allowing the body’s natural moisture to pass through. The hairy surface of wool and its freedom from static make it the easiest of all fabrics to keep clean or to clean after soiling. 

Wool Maintains its Luster and Resists Fading

Wool has a permanent natural luster it never loses even after years of hard wear. It absorbs dyes until it is completely saturated so colors stay brilliant in spite of sunshine, perspiration and impurities in the atmosphere. No other fiber can be spun or woven into such a variety of weights, textures, finishes and colors. 

Wool is Naturally Flame Retardant

Unless it is in direct contact with flame, wool will extinguish itself. The denser the weave and the greater the fabric weight, the less likely it is even to char because of its smaller oxygen content. Fire departments and insurance companies recommend the use of wool blankets, rugs or coats to put out flames.

We will be bringing you more fun facts about wool this month, because January is an excellent month for keeping warm. And thanks to the Krebs family for their participation in this video!

Cameron Krebs, a Pendleton wool grower, holds his duahgter in his arms and stands with his mother and father, looking at a flock of sheep grazing in a cottonwood grove.

Stitch magazine – creating with fabric + thread, and Pendleton, too!

Stitch Magazine

Cover of Stitch Magazine

The latest issue of Stitch has a “Spotlight on Wool,” and Pendleton and our Woolen Mill Store are featured all through it! If you’ve ever had any questions about how to sew with wool, this issue of Stitch has the answers. From the rich history of American wool fabrics, to wool quilting and making your first wool coat, the Spotlight on Wool issue is full of project ideas, information and inspiration.

We’re lucky to have four Portland wool experts featured in this issue.

Susan Beal – “History of Wool in America” & “How Wool Fabric is Made”

Susan is a well-known quilter and crafter, whose recent book, Modern Log Cabin Quilting, features a Pendleton quilt. She is the president of Portland Modern Quilt Guild, and a frequent instructor on Wool Quilting at the Woolen Mill Store.  Her custom baby quilt design using Pendleton Wool is sold at the store. Her articles for this issue draw on her textile expertise, and we are delighted to be featured in both.

Spread in Stitch Magazine featuring the history of Pendleton's mills

Michelle Freedman – “Go-Retro Wool Quilt” project & instructions

Photo of the Go-Retro quilt project

Michelle, a quilt and pattern designer, is a graduate of Parsons The New School for Design. She loves vintage hand sewing, which inspires her modern quilt designs. She works in the Embroidery Dept at Pendleton Woolen Mill Store, teaches craft classes at the store & sews projects for us. Michelle’s Go-Retro Quilt was inspired by a 1950s Temporama coffee cup.

Pendleton Eco-Wise Wool fabrics and a vintage coffee cup

She recognized that the Eco-Wise wool color palette matched the cup’s colors. Michelle says the Eco-Wise sews like butter and swears by the ease of using wool for sewing projects, especially this darling quilt which is on its way back to the store soon for display.

Linda Turner Griepentrog – “Sewing Wool Coating”

Linda is a Contributing Editor of Stitch, and owner of G Wiz Creative Services. This article provides great information on which coating wool is best suited for your coat project, like how to match weight with weave. All the pictured wools are Pendleton.

Pendleton apparel fabrics

Linda’s Sew-and-Go Poncho on pg. 50 uses our Royal Blue Melton and Squash Eco-Wise fabrics.

Photo of the Sew n Go poncho project

Daniela Caine – “Northwest Modern Laptop Cover” project & instructions

Daniela is a fantastic pattern designer who designed this laptop cover in Pendleton jacquard and leather.

Photo of the laptop cover project

She also designed this adorable kid’s coat using our Walking Rock fabric.

Front and back views of a child's coat, modeled by an adorable little girl

Daniela’s expertise extends to quilting as well as pattern making, and she is published in Susan Beal’s Modern Log Cabin Quilting.

We are so proud of our designers and their terrific projects that showcase our Pendleton textiles. Stitch is available in our store, so stop by and get yours. As you read through the magazine, keep an eye out for the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store ad, with fabrics that will be featured on the store’s blog next week. And don’t forget the Fall Fabric Sale starting 9/4/2012 – that will be our largest fabric sale event of the year!

Made in USA label with eagle for Pendleton