Mill Tribute Blankets by Pendleton: Oregon City Woolen Mills

In 2010, Pendleton Woolen Mills introduced our Tribute Series, paying homage to the American mills that thrived during the Golden Age of Trade blankets. 

tributelabels_2In the early part of the 20th century, Pendleton Woolen Mills was one of five major mills weaving Trade blankets. Oregon City Woolen Mills was perhaps our greatest competitor. Known for explosive neon colors and unique images, their banded robes are among some of the most dramatic designs produced during the heyday of the Trade blanket.

The mill sat at the base of the Oregon City Falls (the “Niagra of the West”) on the Willamette River, just down the water from Portland. This busy location held the woolen mill, a grist mill, printing presses, and other industries drawn to the site by easy river access and the power of the Falls.

The mill was the largest in the West, employing hundreds of millworkers over 30 years of operation. It had a riotous history of workforce unrest, racial strife and community turmoil. It even burned to the ground once.

Perhaps the mill’s colorful history influenced its products, as this mill’s blankets are known for their dazzling color combinations and dizzying geometric patterns. We have recreated six blankets in our Mill Tribute series for Oregon City Woolen Mills. Currently available is Oregon City Woolen Mills Tribute #6, a swirling banded robe with arrowheads in Americana colors. This pattern debuted in 1914.

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Oregon City Woolen Mills Tribute #5 is also available. This framed robe illustrates the prevailing vision of the American West in the early part of the last century: roping, wrangling, bronc busting and pony racing, along with a peaceful Indian village. The original was a children’s blanket.

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Retired blankets in the series include Oregon City #4, a coral-red and turquoise six element robe. This popular design was woven in color combinations that ranged from the garish to the sublime throughout the 1920s and 30s. We think our choice is sublime.

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Oregon City #3 is a banded pictorial robe with eye-dazzling borders and a totem pole flanked by a pair of ravens. This pattern was woven for the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909, and rewoven in many different color combinations until the 1930s.

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Oregon City #2 is a uniquely colored six element robe in teal and purple. Known as the Dragonfly pattern, our recreation of this robe was a best-seller.

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Oregon City #1 is another pictorial robe known as the Happy Hunting Ground. A hunter overlooks a bounty of fish, fowl and animals, with some amphibians, dragonflies, bees, stars and reptiles thrown in for good measure. The tools of the hunt also decorate the blanket.

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Oregon City Woolen Mills went out of business in 1932 during the Great Depression. Today, plans are afoot to restore its original site, with the Willamette Falls Legacy Project working to restore industry and public access to this beautiful area.

And if you’re wondering, Pendleton plans another Oregon City Woolen Mills tribute blanket in 2016.

Sometimes, It’s okay to be set dressing: Casualife of Canada and Pendleton Woolen Mills

Casualife is Canada’s premiere outdoor furniture company. They recently ran a stunning series of ads using Pendleton Home products to set off their beautiful designs.

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You can see the Diamond Desert bed blanket, as well as the Rio Concho pillows. Here is a little bit better view of our blanket, with its story below.

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We found this treasure in a box of old photographs stored in our mill. Traditional Native American geometric weaving inspired its early 1900s blanket design. Beauty and balance, order and harmony are central to the Navajo world view. In this exclusive Pendleton pattern, arrows, triangles and serrated diamonds are arranged in perfect harmony, a reflection of hózhó, a Navajo word that embodies the quest for balance in life. The four strong stripes illustrate the balance and contrast between darkness and light. Diamonds represent the four sacred mountains that define the four directions and enclose the Navajo universe in the shape of a diamond. 

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This beautiful shot uses the Rio Concho pillows in another colorway, and the Quill Basket blanket.

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The Micmac (Mi’kmaq), a First Nations people of New England and eastern Canada, tell of a long-ago star that fell from the sky into the Atlantic Ocean and crawled to shore. The People called it “gog-wit” which means “eight-legged star fish.” The image appeared on petroglyphs in Nova Scotia 500 years ago. It later became the defining motif on Micmac quilled birch baskets—and the inspiration for this blanket’s central element. Porcupine quills are one of the oldest forms of embellishment found on hides and baskets. The Micmac artisans were so skilled at quillwork, the French called them “Porcupine Indians.” Their quill-decorated baskets set the standard for the craft, which flourished for centuries among Eastern, Great Lakes and Plains tribes. Later embroidery traditions using glass beads, which replaced quills in the mid-1800s, were built upon Micmac techniques and designs. This blanket’s intricate pattern and subtle colors, woven in our American mills, are a tribute to the ancient art of quilled basketry.

Both of these shots are magnificent, and we are proud to be eatured in them. But when we wrote to the photograp[her for permission to share them, they sent a couple of outtakes along with their release.

Wasn’t it W.C. Fields who said, “Never work with children or animals?”

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Work is done for the day, right Mr. Jack Russell? Time to hit the open road…especially since it’s Friday!

German VOGUE–Summer 2014

We had a gorgeous feature in German VOGUE this summer. The weathered walls and dry landscape make an atmospheric backdrop for our Native American-inspired blankets. Please click for larger views!

Cover with the NIKE N7 blanket, which benefits the American Indian College Fund: Innovation meets tradition with this collaboration between Nike N7 and Pendleton Woolen Mills. For inspiration, Nike designer Derek Roberts looked to traditional Native American dress and how the patterns work together to create a garment. He started at the bottom of the blanket with a smaller pattern of arrows that repeats and grows in scale toward the center. The top is a mirror image of the bottom. Putting a unique twist on the traditional Pendleton blanket, he used only black and white instead of the usual multitude of colors. The result is a distinctive, contrast-driven look that subtly blends black and white to create varying grey tones in heathered and color-blocked designs. The center of the blanket prominently features the Nike N7 mark–three arrows pointing back to signify past generations, three arrows pointing forward to signify future generations, and arrows in the center to represent the current generation. The arrows, sometimes appearing as triangles or other shapes, convey both movement and balance. The blanket reverses for a positive/negative visual effect–with a black base on one side and white on the other.

 

The Crossroads  blanket.

The Crossroads design reflects First Nations teachings and the power of the four directions – the number “four” is sacred among many Native American tribes. East represents the physical body, the realm of the Warrior. West represents the heart and the path of the Visionary. North is the region of the mind and the wisdom of the Teacher. South represents the spirit, enlightenment and the realm of the Healer. Balance and harmony are achieved where the directions meet at the center of the Medicine Wheel. Crosses in this jacquard pattern symbolize the crossroads where the paths meet – the place where an individual becomes whole.

 

The San Miguel blanket.

A pattern inspired by mid-to-late 19th-century Native American weaving traditions and the influence of Spanish missionaries in the Southwest. The design's roots are in the traditional banded Chief Stripe pattern which evolved into a "nine-element" layout. The reversible jacquard has two dramatically different looks.

 

The Saxony Hills blanket.

The Saxony Hills Blanket references the changing landscape of Navajo weaving in the 1800s. Spanish explorers had introduced Churro sheep to the Southwest in the late 17th century. The Churro bred by the Navajo produced a somewhat coarse, long-staple wool that was hand-spun and woven into shoulder robes or blankets, shirts and sashes. Hand-spun wool from these animals was the main source of yarn for Navajo blankets until the 1860s. Then Saxony yarns arrived in the Southwest by way of the Santa Fe Trail and later the railroad. These fine 3-ply yarns spun from the wool of merino sheep were produced in Saxony, a former German state, and in England, France, and New England. By the mid-1900s, Saxony yarns were used by the Navajos for general weaving. The Saxony Hills Blanket incorporates traditional, geometric Navajo motifs—diamonds, stepped triangles and Spider Woman cross patterns.

All blankets are available at pendleton-usa.com.