Pendleton is excited to announce that tours of our Washougal, Washington and Pendleton, Oregon mills are now open! These tours showcase the vertical operation that brings Pendleton’s iconic wool blankets and fabrics to life. “We are excited to be able to welcome guests into both of Pendleton’s mills again,” said Rolan Snider, vice president of textile manufacturing at Pendleton. “The mills offer an experience into the commitment, experience, quality and investment in technology that has given the brand its ‘Warranted to Be’ legacy.”
A Little PWM History
The Pendleton mill was originally built in 1893, and has been operating as Pendleton Woolen Mills since 1909. That is the year when Fanny Kay Bishop realized what an opportunity the idled facility held, and urged her three sons to buy and revive it. The Bishop Brothers restored and improved operations with the support of the Pendleton community.
The Pendleton mill has always specialized in traditional wool bed blankets. These are woven on jacquard looms to give our blankets curvilinear designs that are often different on front and back, for a reversible option. The company acquired the Washougal mill in 1912 to expand its range of fabrics, with specialized looms for plaids, herringbones, stripes, tweeds…all the weaves found in clothing textiles and plaid blankets.
In the early 1900s, the Pendleton mills were two of over 1,000 woolen mills operating in America’s 46 states. Today, they are two of the remaining four woolen mills in the United States. Both mills are continually updated for sustainability and innovation. Said VP Rolan Snyder, “Within each mill, the looms present a unique view into the craftsmanship behind how Pendleton fabrics are created.” The mill tour in Washougal, Washington walks guests through every step in the making of Pendleton wool blankets and fabric. This includes:
– Raw wool: sourced from local and global wool ranchers
– Dyeing: state-of-the-art dye color lab to ensure color control and matching
– Wool carding and spinning: turning wool into yarn
– Weaving on dobby looms: creates Pendleton’s famous plaids, stripes and solids
– Finishing touches: washing, hand inspection and boxing
The mill tour in Pendleton, Oregon offers guests an inside look into:
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.
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.
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.
Nearly every day, we hear from people who have toured our mills in Washougal, Washington, and Pendleton, Oregon. They are impressed by the complexity of the process and the unrelenting noise of a working woolen mill. We are (of course) proud to show off our state-of-the-art mills. That’s why we’re always throwing open our doors to the public. We are working constantly to meet the demand for our fabrics and our weaving capabilities.
Our mill in Pendleton gets quite a bit of press attention, but you can read a detailed history of the Washougal Mill by clicking here: An Anniversary Celebration. But if the Pacific Northwest is not your neighborhood, we offer this virtual tour, filmed at both our mills. We wanted to offer a detailed look at just what it takes to weave a blanket from fleece to finish.
Japanese lifestyle magazine mono presents a new publication; “World Styling: A Journey for Timeless Masterpieces,” showcasing international high-quality brands.
Welcome to Pendleton country!
We were pleased to host the photographers and take them on a tour of our Washougal mill.
We also welcomed the photographers to our design headquarters in Portland’s Old Town.
We are proud to keep company with world brands like Louboutin and ic! Berlin. The photography is fantastic, as are the products shown, if we do say so ourselves. And please remember that you don’t have to be an international journalist to tour Pendleton Woolen Mills in Washougal WA or Pendleton OR. Stop by and see us!
At the gateway to the Columbia River is Pendleton’s Washougal Mill. Buildings both old and new are shaded by a silver oak, standing when Lewis & Clark made their journey west. Please enjoy our anniversary celebration, with generations of mill workers, Pendleton’s founding family, and city and tribal dignitaries.
The looms continue weaving in Washougal, Washington, as the mill celebrates 100 years as a key part of Pendleton Woolen Mills’ operations. Running three shifts a day, the mill’s 190 employees keep the dye house, looms and sewing rooms humming to produce the virgin wool fabric used in Pendleton products.
Washougal sits on the banks of the Columbia River at the entry to the scenic Columbia River Gorge. Pendleton was already operating a mill in Pendleton, Oregon, when the company acquired the Washougal mill in 1912. The additional mill gave Pendleton the ability to weave a wider variety of fabrics. Sir Pendleton worsted and Umatilla woolen fabric are both woven in Washougal, as well as fabrics for the women’s line. “The Washougal community helped fund the startup of this mill and has supported Pendleton ever since,” said Charlie Bishop, VP of Mill Operations. In turn, the mill has been a major employer in this small Washington town since it opened.
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. At 100 years young, the Washougal mill is thriving as a world-class facility with state-of-the-art technology and machinery. In recent decades Pendleton has added dye house computer technology, wider looms to allow for the production of king-sized blankets, additional finishing equipment, more napping machines and a team sewing system to help the Washougal mill meet the tremendous demand for made in the USA textiles. The mill has worked hard to develop environmentally friendly and compliant processes.
“Few major U.S. manufacturers weave their own fabric in America,” said Bishop, a fifth generation member of the family that founded and operates Pendleton Woolen Mills. “Because we oversee every aspect of the process, including buying the wool, we can trace back every piece we make. It allows us to maintain a standard unmatched in the industry.” 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,” said Bishop. “Pendleton continues to lead the world in weaving techniques, dyeing processes, and fabric finishing.”
Washougal’s Historic Bell
The Washougal mill traditionally marks important occasions by ringing a historic brass bell that sits above the boiler room. The bell was cast in 1865 in Boston, Massachusetts, at the famous Revere Foundry, founded by Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere. The bell saw service at Davis & Furber in North Andover, Massachusetts, until 1865, when it was sent by sailing ship around the horn and up to Brownsville, Oregon, the site of another Pendleton mill.
A young Clarence Morton Bishop worked at the Brownsville mill at the time. According to the Pendleton’s current president, Clarence Morton Bishop III, “There may be some letters in the Pendleton archives where the original CM Bishop laments the bell tolling him out of bed as a young boy.” Brownsville closed in 1918. The bell was given to Clarence Morton Bishop, perhaps as a souvenir of all those early mornings. He moved it to the Washougal mill, officially dedicating it in a ceremony on June 30, 1938. It still hangs there today.
“To me, sitting atop the boiler room and machine shop, that bell is the centerpiece of our mill,” said Charlie Bishop. Although the bell no longer rings out at 6:45 and 12:15 to remind workers to return to work, it still tolls on special occasions. In May 2012, the bell rang to mark the retirement of Thang Nguyen after 35 years of service. The bell will also ring in August 2012 to mark one hundred years of community and American-made quality at the Washougal Mill. To commemorate this historic milestone, Pendleton Woolen Mills, the City of Washougal, Two Rivers Heritage Museum, and Washougal Town Square are hosting a community celebration Aug. 3rd and 4th at the Mill, the Museum and in the surrounding community.
The Blessing – a blessing of thanks and of continued prosperity by Native American Elder Buzz Nelson
The Generation of Family Celebration – Honoring the multi-generations of families who have worked at the Washougal Mill, including community families with 3 generations or more of employees, the Bishop Family (now in its 6th generation of Pendleton Woolen Mills ownership since 1863) and the Washougal family including Mayor Sean Guard.
Ringing of the Historic Bell* and Cutting of the 100 Year Celebration Cake (with free servings all day at the Washougal Mill Outlet Store)
Pendleton Mill Tours, mornings at 9:00 and 11:00 a.m., and afternoons at 1:30 and 3:00 pm. Tour the Pendleton Mill to experience both the 103 years of history and the state-of-the-art looms that weave Pendleton’s famous woolen fabrics
Washougal Days Beer & Wine Garden, 5 – 11 p.m. music from 6 p.m. Continue the celebration with music and food for everyone. Adults 21 and over can enjoy the outdoor beer & wine garden. Hosted by the City of Washougal. Admission charge.
Washougal Mill Outlet Store, open 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. with specials throughout the store in addition to free cake. Mill tours at 9 am, 10 am, 11 am and 1:30 pm. 2 Pendleton Way, Washougal, WA. For tours: call 360-835-1118 or 800-568-2480.
Papa’s Ice Cream, open for the celebration from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
HEARTH Restaurant, open for the celebration from 4 p.m. to close with live entertainment in the square.
Saturday, August 4:
Heritage Days 5K Run/Walk, 9 a.m. Start the day with this fun run/walk event sponsored by the Camas Lions Club and the Washougal Lions Club. Admission is free; donations accepted.
Kids & Kritters Parade, Pendleton Fields, 20th and A Streets, 10 a.m. Kids (and their parents & grandparents) and “Kritters” of all shapes and sizes are welcome to join the parade. Come a few minutes ahead to get a number and position in line.
Two Rivers Heritage Museum, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Camas Washougal Historical Society will host its annual Heritage Day celebration and fund raiser at TwoRiversMuseum which includes free admission to the museum, craft booths, blacksmithing demonstration and mountain men setting up a camp with black powder demonstrations. Museum tours include collection of antique sewing baskets and quilts, old tools, blacksmith forge, a horse drawn sleigh and a doctor’s buggy. Enter to win prizes, including a Pendleton Blanket.
Equestrian Demonstrations, Pendleton Woolen Mills, 1 – 2 p.m. This event will include presentation of the US Flag and National Anthem, equestrian drill teams and pony cart demonstrations.
Washougal Days Beer & Wine Garden, ReflectionPlaza, 5 – 11 p.m., with music from 6 p.m. Continue the celebration with music and food for everyone. Adults 21 and over can enjoy the outdoor beer & wine garden.
Washougal Mill Outlet Store and Mill Tours, open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. with specials throughout the store and tours at the mill next door. The mill is open to the public for tours year-round. Visitors can see (and hear) the entire process that transforms giant bales of scoured wool into Pendleton’s “Warranted to Be” textiles. To learn more about public tours, visit www.pendleton-usa.com. The mill is located at 2 Pendleton Way, Washougal, WA, 98671.