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Five Generations in Pendleton blankets

Today’s post is brought to you in honor of Native American Heritage Month. We received these photos from Sharon, and the words you read below are hers. We are honored to be part of this family’s traditions for five generations.

Dear Pendleton;

“We are who we are because they were who they were”.

Since November is National American Indian Heritage Month, how fitting was it to take a picture of my daughter, Allie, in a beautiful Pendleton blanket. My parents have a picture of my Grandmother, Agnes, in a Pendleton blanket. I’ve always loved that picture and wanted to recreate it. Little did I know, my Mother, Christine, has a picture of her Grandmother, Ruth, in a Pendleton blanket. My mother and I decided to recreate the picture also.

 

Great-Grandmother Ruth

Great-Grandma

 

Grandmother Agnes

Grandma

 

Mother Christine

Mom

 

Myself Sharon

Me

 

Daughter Allie

Daughter

As you can see, we have worn Pendleton for generations. We are from the Otoe-Missouria tribe. Thank you for such quality and beautiful products.

A forever customer,

Sharon

Thank you so much for sharing, Sharon!

For those of you who are interested, Sharon and her daughter Allie are both wearing  Chief Joseph robes. This is our most popular pattern year-to-year, and has been in the line for over a century. Sharon has chosen to wear hers reverse-side out, which shows more bands of color, one of the beauties of weaving on a jacquard loom.

Mother Christine, Grandmother Agnes and Great-Grandmother Ruth are all wearing serapes. Serapes are unnapped, which allows the colors to shine. We have mostly woven serapes in ombred stripes over the years, as worn in the two paintings.  We are intrigued by the extra patterning in Christine’s blanket, and we would love to see that one laid flat!

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Pendleton and Disneyland: We Go Way Back!

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The history of Pendleton Woolen Mills and Disneyland began when Walt Disney extended a personal invitation to be retail partners in the Park. Walt was a fan of Pendleton’s “fleece to fashion” vertical manufacturing, which at the time included ownership of our own flocks and scouring facilities. He saw a fit for us in Frontierland as part of his vision of America’s Wild West.

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frontierland2We were more than excited to be part of Disneyland. Pendleton established a ‘Dry Goods Emporium’ that opened for business right along with the rest of the park on July 17, 1955.

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photo courtesy of daveland.web.com

The store was a rustic wonderland of Pendleton’s woolen products, along with belts, wallets, hats, and other Western-themed merchandise.

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Much of the clothing sold in Disneyland had its own special labeling that featured the spires of Cinderella’s castle.

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It seems that a new plaid Pendleton shirt was part of the vacation for many young men in America, and the store set a record for sales of Turnabout reversible skirts in the late fifties. Our Disneyland store was phenomenally successful. We had a unique way to share the bounty of the Disneyland store’s sales. Visitors were asked for their zipcodes, and credit for the purchase was awarded to their nearest Pendleton store back home.

It’s said that the family that plays together stays together. Well, what does a family who plaids together do? Whatever it is, this family from 1963 is doing it in Pendleton style.

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Holiday_Magazine_Oct_65_Pendleton_11963 was the year that Clarence M. Bishop took his own Gold Ticket tour of Disneyland. The Bishop family is a hardworking bunch, and when they vacation, they tend to gravitate towards places where they can ride or fish. But Mr. Bishop had a great time in Anaheim, according to all reports.

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pendispc1(Please note, these are models, not members of the Bishop family, no matter what the ad campaign says)

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Photo courtesy of Regions Beyond

We’re glad that a trip to the old store remains a favorite memory of so many of Disneyland’s long-time guests. We have been asked, “What happened?” by Disney guests who remember our store with nostalgia. The partnership dissolved amicably when the Disneyland Resort shifted their merchandising focus to more Disney-oriented goods. The store closed in April of 1990. Today, the Bonanza Emporium does carry some Pendleton merchandise, as does Ramone’s House of Body Art.

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In our Heritage Hallway, you can find a framed letter from Walt Disney about the partnership, and a small bronze of Jiminy Cricket. The letter came to invite us to the official press and television premiere on July 17th, 1955.

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The bronze was a gift to us from Disney.

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Jiminy stands on a matchbox wearing a medallion that says, simply, “30.”

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The statue’s inscription reads: “PENDLETON WOOLEN MILLS in commemoration and appreciation of 30 years of association with DISNEYLAND 1955-1985”

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We’re proud of our history with Disneyland, and want to say thanks to all the guests who have made us part of their visit.

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Oregon Maker Stories: Pendleton Short Films

This fall, we commissioned a series of short films to commemorate some of the talented Oregon makers who were part of our Pendleton Park Avenue West store design. And here they are! We hope you enjoy learning the stories behind the creators. Their skills and artistry are something else.

 

 

 

 

 

Pendleton Harry Potter blankets are here, and oh so magical.

To celebrate the much beloved stories of Harry Potter and his friends, Pendleton has woven a series of Harry Potter blankets that feature iconic and memorable moments that will forever live in everyone’s imagination. These luxurious wool blankets, made in the USA, will warm readers young and old as they explore the story of the world’s favorite wizard, Harry Potter.

Gryffindor

Gryffindor house is known for bravery and valor, and members of House Gryffindor demonstrate chivalry, nerve, and daring. On the scarlet and gold blanket, Gryffindor’s lion rampant is surrounded by cauldrons, owls, Godric Gryffindor’s sword and Harry Potter’s wand. See it here: Gryffindor Blanket

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Slytherin

Slytherins are known for their ambition, shrewdness, and cunning. On the emerald and grey blanket, Slytherin’s coiled serpent is surrounded by bats, snakes, Draco Malfoy’s wand and Regulus Black’s locket. See it here: Slytherin Blanket

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Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw is the home of great scholars, thinkers and questioners, and members of House Ravenclaw are known for their intelligence, wit, and creativity.  On the midnight blue and fire red blanket, Ravenclaw’s majestic eagle spreads his wings, surrounded by eagles, eagle feathers, Rowena’s diadem and Luna Lovegood’s wand. See it here: Ravenclaw Blanket

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Hufflepuff

Members of House Hufflepuff are known for their loyalty, patience, and dedication. On the warm gold, slate and and grey blanket, Hufflepuff’s hardworking badger is surrounded by lightning bolts, flying keys, Helga Hufflepuff’s Cup and Cedric Diggory’s wand. See it here: Hufflepuff Blanket

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All four blankets are available in a matched-number collector’s set as well: Harry Potter Collector’s Set

We also have some adorable child-sized blankets!

Harry’s Journey

Iconic signs and symbols from Harry potter’s journey are featured on a warmly colored blanket. how many can you spy? See it here: Harry’s Journey

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Hogwarts is My Home

Owl messengers sail through the night sky with important messages for the students of Hogwarts in this beautiful black and white design. See it here: Hogwarts is My Home

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And of course, it wouldn’t be Harry Potter without a warm wool muffler. Night Messenger in blue, and Hogwarts Houses in black and white will keep you warm all winter.

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The Harry Potter Collection by Pendleton is a labor of love, and we’re excited to share it with you. But don’t dawdle! The Hogwarts House blankets are all in a limited edition. See them here today: Pendleton Harry Potter Collection

It’s a Wrap–Pendleton Mill Tribute Series ends with last Racine blanket

In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to four of the American Mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Native American Trade blankets. Today, we will talk about Racine Woolen Mills, known for their intricate patterns. 

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In 1865, a Racine company began producing textiles under the name Blake & Company under the leadership of Lucien Blake and John Hart. In 1877, the company incorporated under the name of “Racine Woolen Mills—Blake & Company.” Racine Woolen Mills went on to become the premier producer and marketer of Native American Trade blankets.

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The Racine Woolen Mill

Racine was well-established by 1893. Records show employees of 150 skilled weavers and gross sales of $300K, which was an robust amount for the day. Racine’s fringed shawls were produced under the “Badger State” label. These earliest shawls are relatively subdued by today’s standards, mostly plain with an in intricately designed border. Photos of these vintage shawls show the superior drape of the fabric. They were extremely popular with Native American women.

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Native American women in Racine’s Ribbon-pattern shawls

Each of the companies in our tribute series has its own trademark specialty. Buell is known for faithful reproduction of Native American weaving patterns. Oregon City is famed for fanciful figural patterns and unexpected, riotous color. Racine Woolen Mills blankets are valued for unexpected, intense colors and intricate patterns. Diamonds, crescent moons, five-pointed stars, ribbon bows, compass roses, combs, waterbugs, pipes and feathers are woven with definition and clarity. The sheared finish of a vintage Racine blanket keeps the designs crisp and the hand smooth.

The famed Racine quality was maintained after production was taken over by another fine weaving mill, Shuler & Benninghofen, a mill that produced blankets for Racine until (approximately) 1915. Racine continued to merchandise and market trade blankets procured from different manufacturers until 1940 or so. They seem to have stopped offering wool trade blankets after that, though they kept on as a wholesaler of other styles of woolen blankets and goods until 1951, when Racine Woolen Mills closed doors for good.

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Hidatsa Man by Edward Curtis

According to our friend Barry Friedman in his book Chasing Rainbows, “The last ‘genuine’ Racine blankets were made in the 1930s, when John Hart asked Paul Benninghofen to make one of the old patterns. It was a special favor, because by then Shuler & Benninghofen no longer produced trade blankets and Racine hadn’t contracted to have them made there or anywhere else in years.” The Racine blankets beloved by collectors come from the golden years of 1893-1912, and the Pendleton Mill Tribute blankets are re-creations of blankets from that period.

Racine #8 (available here): A banded Racine with deep colors and an excellent pattern–complex and beautiful.

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Racine #7 (limited amount available here): Muted colors were rare for Racine. The original blanket was woven for Racine Woolen Mills by Shuler & Benninghofen.

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Racine #6 (retired, but available in discounted limited quantity here): Tomahawks, Bows and Arrows

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Racine #5 (retired): Banded Diamonds

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Racine #4 (retired): A dizzying array of color, sawteeth and stars

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Racine#3 (retired): Crescent Moon and Shining Star

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Racine #2 (retired): Pipe and Feather – the other elements are two Navajo weaving combs, and an arrow under the pipe

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Racine #1 (retired): Class Y in the Racine catalog, “Yuma” in the Shuler & Benninghofen catalog

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Racine Woolen Mills has an interesting intersection with Pendleton’s history. In 1905, Racine Woolen Mills was furiously negotiating to buy a struggling mill in Pendleton, Oregon, with plans to increase trade blanket production by 300 percent. Those negotiations proved fruitless, and the Pendleton mill went silent in 1908. In 1909, Fanny Kay Bishop organized her three sons to take it over and transform it into the company we know today.

If Racine Woolen Mills had purchased the mill, who knows what the Pendleton story would have been?

 

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Mea Alford, 1945 Pendleton Round-Up Princess

When Mary Esther Brock (or Mea, as she’s been called most of her life) was appointed to the Court, there hadn’t been a Pendleton Round-Up for two years. World War II was still going on, but the community missed their annual tradition so much that they decided to hold it anyway. And an important part of the Round-Up is the Round-Up Court.

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Pioneer Heritage

Round-Up royalty was chosen based on family history, age and ability to ride a horse. Mea, reminiscing, stressed that a family’s pioneer background was one of the most important criteria. Her father’s grandparents had come from Missouri on the Oregon Trail in 1848 or 1849, settling first in Heppner, where her father, Wilson E. Brock, was born. Her grandfather was treasurer of the first Pendleton Round-Up. So her pioneer pedigree was impeccable on her father’s side.

Mea’s mother came from New England. She’d graduated from Colby with a degree in library science, and gone west to open a library in North Bend. From there, she went to work at the University of Washington. She loved working in Seattle, but answered the call when the founding fathers of the town of Pendleton wanted to open a public library. She came to Pendleton and organized the town’s first library. She also met Wilson Brock, owner of Pendleton’s Taylor Hardware. They married, and Mea was born after a long wait for children.

“My father had to put up with an only girl child who wasn’t particularly athletic,” Mea remembered. She was active in drama and choir in high school, but she was the only child of a man who loved riding, hunting, skiing and boating. “I learned how to do all those things, but I was bad at all of them,” said Mea. She was much more interested in school than sports. “I loved my childhood—school was a wonderful and exciting place.”

The 1945 Court

Mea remembers a much smaller Round-Up than we see today, but it was an event. Her father, who owned the local hardware store, would close his business. Her parents had a box—she and her dad would go sit in the bleachers to be closer to the action–and her parents would host friends from all over the country. Said Mea, “The Round-Up was much loved by all.”

She was chosen as a Princess in April or May. Mea wasn’t exactly thrilled—she didn’t love horses—but the announcement of the court was a lengthy process full of suspense and fanfare. Princesses were announced one-by-one in the East Oregonian, with a photo and a big write-up. Two of the princesses were just out of the local high school—Mea and her friend Gloria, whose life dream was to be a princess. Another was from Helix, OR, and another was from a ranch in the foothills of the Wallowas. The Queen was part of a prominent local ranching family.

Said Mea, “Some of these girls had basically trained their entire lives to be on the Round Up Court. Not me, though. My dream was to be a Rose Festival Princess!” Mea might have felt underwhelmed, but her father was delighted. He had Hamley’s make a saddle for Mea with a silver horn, and had a leather fringe jacket like those worn for trick riding made for her as well. “My mother hated that jacket!”

Getting Ready

Mea had ridden since she was young alongside her father. They had matching grey Arabian horses—Tony was her father’s, and Smoky was Mea’s. She liked her dad’s horse better, as he was more active and less likely to pull back to the barn, so they traded. But she knew she wasn’t prepared for the level of horsemanship required. So she graduated from high school in late May and spent the first weeks of the summer of ’45 practicing her riding skills.

She was terrified.

Round-up Princesses had to jump two fences. Smoky was not a jumper, so a dear family friend loaned her a jumper—he was hard to control—much more difficult. Each day after she practiced the jumps, her father met her with a glass of ice water because her mouth was so dry from fear that she couldn’t even open her mouth. Said Mea, “This was the first experience in my life where I’d felt insecure and afraid. Thinking about it now still makes me shake.”

Summer Events

Over the summer, the Queen and her Court rode in very few parades. When they went to Portland for the big Rose Festival parade, they left the horses in Pendleton. Tires were extremely hard to get, and gas was impossible, so they went by train. She wore her special Round-Up attire, which included “Justin boots and a Stetson hat, which I didn’t like because it had a flat brim.”

Over the course of that summer, there were four Court events requiring escorts, and men were off in service.  Said Mea, “If you didn’t have a beau, the committee would find you one.” Mea did have a beau, in fact she’d had the same beau since first grade, but Bob Alford was in the service. Her dates for the four events were four strangers, all from different branches of the military. Mea said, “A mystery date for each date. They were all very nice. One of them showed up in my husband’s class in dental school. He came out one evening and told me, ‘I was your date during the Round-Up.’ He was the Navy date.”

The Main Event

September came, and with it, the main event. This would be a subdued and somber affair, not the usual swirl of socializing that Mew associated with the Round-Ups of her childhood. Soldiers on leave were there, reminding everyone of the sacrifices going on overseas. Since the war had drained off the men, women had taken over the ranches.

Said Mea, “Even producing the out-of-town horses was very difficult, because of the expense of getting them there. So there were a lot of local people raising calves and bulls and horses for the shows.” The result was much smaller, but people were so glad to have it back. Her mother didn’t mind the scaled-back nature of the Round-Up that year, as she could be overwhelmed by all the out-of-town hosting and general socializing.

On Opening Day, both horse and rider were nervous for the ride out. Pendleton firemen had hosed off the track on opening morning, and someone had left the firehose in front of the fence. Mea’s horse shied at the hose. Her mother says that she went so far over one side that the seat of her skirt brushed the ground, but she pulled herself up and back into the saddle. Mea was so terrified that she doesn’t remember, but her mother insisted that this was exactly how it happened.

Mea carried out all aspects of her courtly duties for the length of the Round-Up. On the last day, said Mea, “I got off my horse, got into my mother’s car and she drove me to California, where I was starting college.”

She has never been on a horse since.

Life after Round-Up

Mea arrived to Pomona wearing a fashionable shirtdress, a Hamley belt with silver buckle, her leather fringe jacket, white anklets and wooden sole Oscars (clogs). She got there late, due to her Round-Up duties. Her roommates were told to expect a rodeo princess. Mea thinks her roommates expected her to arrive on a horse.

Her mother sent her to school with 27 pleated skirts sewn with fabric from the Pendleton Woolen Mill. Said Mea, “I had absolutely NO ROOM FOR THEM. I finally mailed them home. This is how spoiled I was.”

Mea eventually transferred to the University of Oregon, where she was a standout in the school’s Theater department. She went to the Round-Up every year until she graduated, married, and moved to Hawaii with her husband, Bob Alford, “the same little boy who kissed me by the pencil sharpener in first grade.”

On a newlywed’s budget, they didn’t travel back to Pendleton very often. Once Mea had children of her own, they heard the story of Mea jumping the fence and brushing the ground many times. Later, when she finally took her children back to see it, she was surprised to see that somehow, the fence had shrunk!

The Princess Today

Mea and her husband raised their family in Portland, where she lives today. No one has taken up riding, although her daughter wanted (but never received) a horse. Mea’s custom saddle with the silver horn sits on a saddle block in her eldest granddaughter’s room.

During the Centennial of the Pendleton Round-Up, the directors asked the past royalty to return, to ride in the parade. Mea was one of six princesses who rode in a wagon pulled by donkeys. “Donkeys!” she laughed. “And no one knew who we were. ‘Who are you?’ people called out.” She remembered this with a smile while displaying the hat she wore.

She liked the brim of this hat much better–the hatband is the belt she was wearing in her photo above, and over her shirtdress when she arrived at Pomona.

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Father’s Day and Pendleton: Generations of Love

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Photo (with his dad) courtesy Danijo Lopez

For generations, a Pendleton wool shirt has been a gift of gratitude for dads young and old, near and far. When Dad opens a package and finds a Pendleton, he knows you’re paying attention to what he wants.

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Photo (with his dad) courtesy Matt Raven

Your Dad

He’s always had your back. Maybe that’s why you want a Pendleton shirt for his. What’s your father’s favorite style?

It might be The Original Board Shirt™, the original surf shirt since the early 1960s. The loop square collar and square hem make it suitable as a lightweight jacket, and the flaps on those bias-cut patch pockets are recognizable a mile away.

Or maybe your father is a Sir Pendleton™ man. This lightweight worsted wool shirt has been around for over fifty years without gaining an ounce. We have a Black Watch tartan version right now—a traditional pattern for a traditional dad.

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Bri Heiligenthal Photography

Your Husband

He’s your true love, your best friend and your partner in parenting. Celebrate your shared path with with the Trail Shirt, recognized by its soft sueded elbow patches. It also has a pencil slot on its chest pocket, since Dad is so often the official pen-carrier in the family.

Our most traditional shirt (according to our customers) is our Fireside Shirt. This is trad all the way, with one matched-pattern chest pocket and a button-down collar. The Lodge Shirt is cut just like the Fireside, but with a spread collar. Both are available in Black Watch—or as we like to call it, the stealth tartan.

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Grace Adams Photography

Your Son, who is Now a Dad

It’s beautiful and touching to watch young dads navigate the new role of father. You’ll be there for him as he takes on this new role. Mark this rite of passage with a Pendleton shirt. You can’t go wrong with the Original Board Shirt™, of course, maybe in one of our Surf Pendleton plaids or stripes.

But for the younger man, that Western fit is a hit, so also consider the Canyon Shirt. This is a snap-front and cuff model with peaked snap flaps on its two bias-cut chest pockets. The front and back yokes are on the bias, as well.

Options and more options

We have fitted versions of many of our shirts, cut closer to the body and a little higher in the armholes for a contemporary look.

We also have a range of new shirt models like the Buckley, the Boro and the Maverick that you should check out. With Pendleton wool shirts, Father’s Day is better than ever.

Click on the model below to see the details of your favorite style.

 

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

types-of-wool-list-blog-postDo 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 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!

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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 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 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.

sheep-photo-wool-blog-postCashmere 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 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.

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Mohair 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!

Happy Halloween from Pendleton Woolen Mills

We encourage our people to celebrate, but the associates at our Lake Arrowhead Pendleton Outlet charmed the entire company with their recreations of our vintage ad posters.

Brandi brought to life “A MAN NEVER HAS ENOUGH PENDLETONS.”

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Rose incarnated the “Every Pendleton owner wants another Pendleton” poster.

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And Emili took on the ambitious “Vintage Canoe” poster.

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That’s the spirit, ladies. We love it!

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If you’re inspired to visit, please find us at:

Lake Arrowhead Outlet #52
Pendleton Woolen Mills
28200 HIGHWAY 189
LAKE ARROWHEAD, CA 92352
909.336.4860

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A Special Blanket Supports Native Women’s Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and we thought that would be a terrific time to tell you about a special version of our Chief Joseph blanket.

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A purchase of this beautiful cherry-pink blanket benefits the women’s health program of NARA, the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest, INC.  NARA is a Native American-owned, Native American-operated, nonprofit agency.

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NARA is an Urban Indian Health Program that provides integrated healthcare in the Portland Metropolitan area.  They offer a broad array of services including medical, dental, mental health, addiction treatment, and culturally based services.  Culture is a critical and integral part of everything they do.

We had a conversation with Yolanda Moisa, most current director of the newest clinic run by NARA and the BCCP Director (Breast and Cervical Cancer Program), to learn about NARA’s women’s health program.

PWM: Can you tell me about your organization’s mission?

YM: Our mission at NARA is to provide education, physical and mental health services and substance abuse treatment that is culturally appropriate to American Indians, Alaska Natives and anyone in need. Our purpose is to achieve the highest level of physical, mental and spiritual well being for American Indians and Alaska Native people.

Our women’s health program is a critical part of our larger physical health outreach.  It’s the women who make this program so rewarding.  Throughout the 20 years of this program, we have helped women from all backgrounds. Each person is unique and has a story to tell. We save lives daily.  Our hope and goal is prevention and no cases of cancer ever, however, the reality is that catching cancer sooner than later makes for a much better prognosis.

PWM: Can you tell us about some of your more rewarding moments?

YM: There are so many stories of success and how we help women, we are helping generations of women.  A story that comes to mind is that we had a woman who had just moved to the Portland area and came in for another visit and our staff noticed she was due for her yearly women’s exams.  When she received her results from her mammogram a small lump in her breast was detected. She did find out that it was cancerous, it was caught at Stage 1.  We walked her through her options and our team was there to answer all her questions.  Just having someone listen to her and help manage the many appointments that come with cancer treatment was a comfort.  More importantly, she brought her daughter in and sisters in to be tested, again changing lives.

PWM: When did NARA form and how many people have you served?

NARA has been in the community since 1970, and offering medical care since 1993. Since 1996 we have helped Women receive 5,160 MAMS and 6,391 PAPS.  We have two clinics, one at North Morris Street and our new Wellness Center on East Burnside. The women’s health program is housed in our clinic at 12360 E Burnside, Portland, OR 97233. The program offers women’s services at both clinics where screenings, and references for mammograms to low income, uninsured Native women. We want to provide early detection for breast and cervical cancer. As an urban facility, we’ve been able to serve members from over 250 tribes, nations, bands, who are all able to access any of the services here.

PWM: That’s fantastic. What drew you to this program, Yolanda?

YM: I came to NARA after many years in the corporate legal field. I’m a member of the Tule River Tribe in Porterville CA, and it was always my intention to return to working with Native Americans–to give back. Throughout my career I have volunteered and advocated for women and children.  Coming to NARA was like finding a family that truly “got it”, understanding what it means to help our community.  I see my family in the many faces in our waiting rooms: my grandmother, aunties, uncles, mother and siblings. I came in as a grants manager and was here for almost two years. I became clinic director  two years ago, and was pleased when we received a HRSA grant that helped set up the pharmacy and pediatric program at the site. I’ve been here close to five years and have continued to appreciate all that NARA does. It’s pretty amazing!

PWM: Are there special challenges within the Native American community?

YM: For Native women, there is a history of trauma around medical services. Along with assault, abuse and harassment, there is a documented history of forced sterilization. This painful history plays into fear and mistrust of medicine.

Our CDC (Center for Disease and Control)  grant  allows us to do something special for Native American and Alaska Native women—weekend clinic sessions that we call the Well Women’s Event. These events are designed as a safe place for women.  It’s not uncommon to have generations of women from families come together. The grandmother, mother and daughter will all come for the daughter’s first mammogram for support.  We open the clinic to women only. Our guests are welcomed to a Native crafts night, and a women-only talking circle. The nurse on staff gives one-on-one advice and education.  We offer cervical cancer screens here, and transport woman safely to and from an off-site mammogram facility.

Any woman who gets a screening receives culturally specific books about women’s health, including  “Journey Woman: A Native Woman’s Guide to Wellness”. Through the generosity of Pendleton we were allowed to use  Pendleton art forms in the books.

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When women see themselves in health materials, it builds trust and adds warmth to what can be a very cold environment. Some women come just for the community events, and that’s fine. Our goal is to make women’s healthcare safe and communal, almost a celebration of womanhood.

PWM: How does the Pendleton blanket help?

YM: Each purchase of the blanket generates a donation to NARA. The money will go into the women’s health program, helping us expand our outreach to various underserved and marginalized communities within Portland.  We hope to start momentum that leads to continuing healthcare. If we can save one life, we’re proud.  Hopefully with these added donations we will continue to help many more women.  Thank you Pendleton!

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If you would like to help NARA through direct donation, feel free to contact Yolanda Moisa at ymoisa@naranorthwest.org or 503-224-1044.

If you would like to help through the purchase of the special edition Chief Joseph blanket, see it HERE: Chief Joseph.