On the Loom for House Beautiful
A wonderful look at how Pendleton blankets are made, including an interview with Amanda Coppa, who heads up our Home team.
Ready for more?
Read the article here: How Pendleton blankets are made, House Beautiful
Read the article here: How Pendleton blankets are made, House Beautiful
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!
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.
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.
We love the colors. Check it out here: Thistle Bomber Jacket
Another beautiful blanket for Spring 2018 has arrived at the website!
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!
The blanket’s reverse lets the accent colors shine.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Their Element is a blanket in the Pendleton Legendary series, created from an original watercolor painting by artist Joe Toledo.
Eagle feathers and bison are sacred symbols in Native American culture. Navajo artist Joe Toledo uses these symbols in his painting, “In Their Element,” representing three elements; Earth, Air and Water. A herd of bison graze on the Earth, offering prosperity and protection. A range of mountains towers above the herd, their snowy peaks covered with life-giving Water. Standing Eagle feathers rise into the sky, joining together Earth, Water and Air, and carrying Eagle’s spirit to a place of strength above the clouds.
One of the most arresting details of this design is found in the line created by mountain peaks passing behind the white portion of the eagle feathers. Looking closely, you can see that they work continuously to create the snowy peaks of the mountain range.
Mr. Toledo is a native of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico. He currently lives in Tiffany, Colorado, with his wife, Ann. He enjoys working in watercolor because it is “spontaneous and unpredictable.” Mr. Toledo mixes soft rainwater with his paints, for colors that reflect the colors and images of his home landscape. His works are exhibited in collections in the United States, Canada and Europe.
According to Mr. Toledo, “…as an American Indian, the bison are symbols of cultural enrichment. There was a traditional ceremony at the killing of the buffalo, so the animal was respected. Bison represent strength, power and protection, assurance, and strength.”
Several years back, Mr. Toledo designed another blanket with us, Buffalo Roam, based on one of his works of art. His exceptional studies of buffalo are based on watching, sketching and painting a Great Northern bison that lives on his property.
The buffalo was revered by many Native American tribes. The meat gave them food. The hides provided robes for warmth, tepee covers for shelter and shields for protection. Horns were crafted into bowls and arrowheads, and fat was rendered for candles and soap. The Buffalo Roam blanket captures the power of that mighty beast of the plains. The design by Native American watercolor artist Joe Toledo puts the sacred buffalo in perspective. Looming large in close-up and appearing smaller in the distance, it was ever present in the lives of the Plains Indians. (This blanket is retired)
We very much enjoy working with Mr. Toledo, whose warmth and wit are only matched by his talent. Here is hoping there’s another blanket down the line.
Preston Singletary is an internationally reknowned glass artist who incorporates traditional Pacific Coast elements in his work. He draws upon his Tlingit heritage with a special concentration on motifs found in Chilkat weaving.
Traditional Northwest Coast tribal art uses formlines and ovoids fluid to create work that is vigorous and stylized; paintings, weavings, baskets, masks and totem poles and more. Singletary’s uncommon choice of media–glass and light—invests traditional motifs with breathtaking dimensionality and luminosity.
At Pendleton, we have enormous respect for traditional arts done with traditional materials. Glass was traditionally only used in Native American beading. Anyone viewing Preston Singletary’s work in glass would probably agree with the artist when he says that glass “transforms the notion that Native artists are only best when traditional materials are used.”
Singletary’s show at the Museum of Glass left viewers in a state of awe. See more in this show catalog: ECHOES, FIRE AND SHADOWS
Glass may seem static, but it is extremely visually interactive with its environment. In this excerpt from a documentary by filmmaker Todd Pottinger, Singletary talks about his inspiration, his studio, and the crucial role of light in his work.
And here is his TED talk.
When Preston designed a blanket for the American Indian College Fund, he chose to tell the tale of Raven and the Box of Knowledge. You can see that this design carries the same glowing dimensionality of his art pieces, with ombred stripes of color that meet in the heart of the design to light it from within.
Raven and the Box of Knowledge: This intriguing blanket is based on a work by internationally renowned glass artist Preston Singletary. Mr. Singletary grew up in the Pacific Northwest–both of his great-grandparents were full-blooded Tlingit Indians. His works explore traditional images and legends of his Tlingit heritage translated into glass. The image on this blanket represents Raven, a shape shifter and trickster who often employed crafty schemes to achieve his goals. In the story, the old chief who lived at the head of the Nass River kept his precious treasure –the sun, the moon and the stars– in beautifully carved boxes. Raven steals the light, and making his escape carries the sun in his mouth. The sun is a metaphor for enlightenment or knowledge. The ombred background shades meet in the center in vibrant colors of sun and light. Mr. Singletary’s artworks are included in museum collections from the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC to the Handelsbanken in Stockholm, Sweden. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Seattle Art Museum. A portion of the proceeds from this blanket will be donated to the American Indian College Fund.
See the College Fund blankets here: American Indian College Fund Blankets
Tommy Bahama is based in Seattle, and Pendleton Woolen Mills is based in Portland. Both brands share a PNW sensibility and a love of the beach lifestyle. So we’ve joined forces on the Tommy Bahama & Pendleton collection, with men’s and women’s apparel, accessories, and home products. The collection launches on October 4th at select Tommy Bahama stores, tommybahama.com, select Pendleton retail store locations and Pendleton-usa.com.
The collection is built around two collaborative fabric patterns. The Aloha Harding Print unites Pendleton’s Harding design with tropical florals. The Island Serape Stripe features a tropical leaf pattern jacquard with Pendleton’s classic blanket stripe. There are a variety of fabrics involved, but the wool fabrics and blankets are made exclusively in Pendleton’s own Pacific Northwest mills for this collection.
You’re going to love it.
We were honored to attend Greenspan’s 90th anniversary party. This incredible place is more than a store–it’s a SoCal institution. Members of our sales, merchandising and design teams were there is person to share the day and join the celebration.
Read about the celebration here: Anniversary Party in Southgate
Learn more about Greenspan’s here: Greenspan’s
Read more about the store here: LA Times feature — Greenspan’s
So happy birthday from the Pendleton crew to the Greenspan’s crew. Here’s to 90 more.
Photos by Greenspan’s, Pendleton, Erwin Recinos and Gabriel Juray – thank you.
The Pendleton 49’er is a perfect illustration of the adage that quality never goes out of style.
This American classic is still going strong after more than sixty years. But where did it come from?
The answer starts with the changes for women in World War II, when American women proclaimed, “We can do it.” This iconic WWII image was used in countless posters and bond drives during WWII. A serious woman dressed for hard work with her hair in a kerchief, the image still fixes us today, gazing out at onlookers over a flexed bicep.
She was a symbol of women stepping up to fill the need for factory workers during wartime, but she was also part of the emergence of one of Pendleton’s most enduring items of womenswear: the 49’er jacket.
Pendleton’s success with men’s shirts had happened twenty years earlier, but during WWII, men were not the only people enjoying distinctive plaids and ombres in pure virgin wool. Women began to borrow men’s work shirts for both work and warmth. It’s possible that by wearing their husband’s shirts, women kept the memories of their husbands, fiancés and brothers close, though many undoubtedly needed some serious work wear that was simply not available for women at the time. Whatever the reason, women loved Pendleton shirts.
In 1949, when market research identified an opportunity for sportswear for women, Pendleton entered the market with their first women’s line. This was a test offering of classic skirts, jackets and shirt, to test exactly how the American woman would react to a branded line of virgin wool sportswear. The positive response was resounding, but no one could have predicted the enormous success of a single garment introduced that year.
Says Linda Parker, head of Pendleton Communications, “The first women’s line in 1949 was composed of five items. It is amazing to me that out of such a limited initial offering that the ’49er would develop such an immediate following and reputation.” The jacket referred to both the year of its introduction, and the California Gold Rush, in a nod to Pendleton’s Western roots.
The designer was Berte Wiechmann, a young woman who came to Pendleton from Jantzen, another iconic Portland apparel company. Miss Wiechmann sewed the original samples herself, taking styling particulars from the Pendleton men’s shirt. The ’49er jacket featured discreet tucking at the yoke, and two bias-cut patch pockets near the hem. The boxy cut showcased Pendleton’s famous plaids, and larger iridescent shell buttons softened the look.
Miss Weichmann was very particular about these buttons. She insisted on a special black shell from Australia and Tahiti, supplied by J. Carnucci & Sons, NJ.
In 1956 alone, Pendleton would use $150,000.00 worth of these buttons.
Yes. You read that correctly. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of buttons alone, in 1956.
The desirability of the ’49er was immediate, despite the introductory retail price range of $14.95 to $17.95. Says Parker, “We have many testimonials of how young women saved their babysitting and strawberry-picking money in order to buy a ’49er. Women everywhere had it on their wish list of gifts.” The first consumer was the collegiate girl, who were in the grips of a menswear inspired trend. The ’49er was perfect over a white cotton dress shirt over “trews,” narrow wool pants.
The first print ad for the ’49er ad was done by Fred Love in 1950. A college girl in a MacLamond tartan ’49er pretends to ignore the cartoonish interest of the college boy behind her, snug and stylish in her ’49er. Love continued to illustrate the ads through 1951, when famed illustrator Ted Rand took over the job of communicating the Pendleton ’49er with ads that are still iconically beautiful. He changed the focus from the teenager to the woman, and incorporated elements of the Western landscape when he could.
The ’49er’s simple, casual styling continued to be a perfect fit for the emerging suburban lifestyle of post-war America. During the post-war years, it served as one of the easiest solutions for outerwear over all the Baby Boom baby bumps. Parker explains, “I personally think that Ted Rand shares some of the kudos for making the ’49er a household name with his inspired illustrations.”
Ted Rand began illustrating Pendleton ads in 1953. His elegant women and echoes of the Western landscape moved the jacket from the campus to the suburbs, where it became the staple of a woman’s wardrobe. The popularity soared and knock-offs abounded, to the point where the company had to seek legal protection of the design. Yes, the ’49er is a patented jacket!
The earliest ’49er in the Pendleton archives is a red, yellow and chartreuse version owned by Mrs. Sarah Brourink, who sent it to our archives in the year 2000 after wearing it for 51 years. Here is a vintage example in the exact plaid.
In the years of its prime (1949-1961), over a million Pendleton ’49ers were sold to American women. And it continues to sell well now, after re-introduction in the early 2000s. Collectors still chase after the originals, and beautiful examples can be seen on elated bloggers. Our re-issues do extremely well whenever they are included in a Fall or Holiday line. Whether in the arresting brights of a bold Buchanan tartan, or the shaded colors of a subtle ombre plaid, the silhouette is still unmistakable. Still made of 100% virgin wool woven in our USA mills, the ’49er works dressed up with a skirt and a belt, or dressed down with jeans. Like a good wool men’s shirt, it serves as a go-to second layer for the backyard or the office.
The Pendleton 49’er is a perfect illustration of that.
Check out the 49’er here: Pendleton 49’er jacket
Thanks to our friends who have brought some claims circulating on social media to our attention. We owe an enormous debt of respect and gratitude to the Native Americans and First Nations people who choose our blankets, and care deeply about this relationship. We understand that it’s important to speak the truth.
Pendleton’s mills are our pride and joy, and both are well over a century old. Keeping them updated is a priority and a challenge, but we think it’s worth it to keep weaving in the USA. Our mills are subject to inspections, and when problems are identified, we take immediate action to resolve them. We have earned third-party certification for sustainability (read more here), and our management is committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for all employees.
We respect the right of current and former employees to make political donations to candidates they personally support. These donations are not endorsements by Pendleton.
Pendleton supports the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990. We make our blankets for Native Americans, but we don’t claim our products are made by them. Our company’s history is always part of our marketing and sales materials, and is available on our website.
Pendleton blanket patterns are developed by in-house designers. Some are based on historic designs created to serve the Native American market. Blanket stories, told on hangtags and on the website, credit the inspirations and traditions behind the patterns. We also commission Native American artists to create designs, and adapt existing artwork (usually paintings) into blankets. These artists are always compensated and credited by name for their work. You can learn more here: Native artists.
Pendleton is proud to support organizations that serve Native Americans, veterans and America’s National Parks. Our relationship with The American Indian College Fund spans more than twenty years, and our endowment to the College Fund provides scholarships for Native American students. Pendleton also makes annual donations to NARA (Native American Rehabilitation Center) to support outreach and health care for Native American women.
In 1909, Pendleton was one of many mills producing wool blankets for Native Americans. Now, over a hundred years later, we are the only mill still weaving wool blankets for Native Americans here in the USA. Native Americans were our first, and are still our most valued customers. Thanks to everyone who has written in support of our shared history and friendship.
We hope we have answered your questions, but if you have more concerns, please write to us at PendletonWM@penmills.com and we will respond. We are listening.