Two of Three

Three weeks of vacation has meant three weeks away from sewing. However, I was ready for a break (“absence makes the heart grow fonder” is not only appropriate for spouses, pets, and other loved ones!) and I was delighted that my vacation included, among other activities, opportunities for fabric-buying, fabric/blanket-gazing, and fashion/fashion history.

Three weeks of vacation took us to three of the western States: California, Oregon and Washington. I have already written about my fond return to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco, CA. Britex is wonderfully predictable in its offerings and ability to inspire. I was less ready – and surprised – to be equally inspired by what I found on display at the Pendleton Woolen Mills store.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this sign in the store and sewing machines lined up for class.

Imagine my surprise when I saw this sign in the store and sewing machines lined up for class.

In a nondescript area of Portland, Oregon, this store looks like a warehouse on the outside; the cavernous inside is set with displays of many of their home furnishing products – and with huge bolts and bolts of their American-made woolens. There are blanket weight wools, thick and lush, and in some of the most iconic and recognizable designs.

Pendleton - blanket on bolt copy

More blanket fabric!

More blanket fabric!

And more ...

And more … Also available for sale is Pendleton’s signature woven trim, with which to bind your custom blanket.

One of Pendleton's newest designs - for a throw-sized blanket - is this one adorned with the American Bison.

One of Pendleton’s newest designs – for a throw-sized blanket – is this one adorned with the American Bison.

There are also lighter weight dress fabrics, encompassing plaids, solids, stripes, tweeds, and checks.

Pendleton dress fabrics copy

Pendleton dress fabrics 2 copy

There is something almost magical about the palette and design influences which shape the repertoire of Pendleton blankets. Largely based on Native American culture and on the early exploration of the American West, the designs of classic Pendleton blankets evoke strength, beauty, story-telling, and timelessness. I believe they speak to the pioneer spirit in so many Americans, the mountain girl and the cowgirl (and cowboy!), the adventurer – or the would-be adventurer. One gets the feeling that sleeping under one of these blankets is akin to being transported to another time and place, empowered by their history, quality, and aesthetic pleasure. If that could happen, what would wearing one of them do?

Kits to make this "blanket coat" surround the display in the store.

Kits to make this “blanket coat” surround the display in the store.

Or you could buy a hooded shawl from the catalogue.

Or you could buy a hooded shawl from the catalogue.

. . . or a simple fringed shawl really makes a statement.

. . . or a simple fringed shawl really makes a statement.

And don't forget to pamper your pet with the same Western style!

And don’t forget to pamper your pet with the same Western style!

I have often thought about the coat I saw last Summer in a Pendleton retail store in Jackson, Wyoming. Some day, some year, if I am ever fortunate to be spending more time in the American West, including some of the colder months, I will make myself a coat out of a Pendleton blanket. And I know exactly which one I would choose; now I know I could even just buy the fabric by the yard:

I see this blanket fabric in a hip-length, hooded jacket.

I see this blanket fabric in a hip-length, hooded jacket.

Pendleton is truly a great American company. I am so glad I had the opportunity to see their fabrics “on the bolt” – and be inspired.  And yes, we did buy a blanket (to sleep under!)

Fortunately, there was fashion inspiration still to come on our trip. Next up … Three of Three.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “Two of Three

  1. Seeing Pendleton yard goods in person is a wonderful thing! I love the rolls of all those beautiful plaids Did they have the scraps bin there where you can buy by the pound? When the girls were little I made them Pendleton skirts, vests and pants from the scrap bin at the store in Nebraska City.

  2. Mary

    In the early seventies, my mother made me a gorgeous suit out of a beautiful Pendleton wool which was a red/navy/dark green small-patterned, muted plaid. The jacket was a slim long tunic style with stand up collars, a hidden button placket, and a half belt across the back. The skirt was midi-length a-line which buttoned up the front (legs could be exposed by however many buttons you wished to leave unbuttoned). Think the suit was from two different Vogue patterns. The pieces were lined in a lovely weighted navy satin. Every single pattern matched at every seam. How I wish I still had it (and could still fit into it).

  3. Mery

    My eyes are drooling.

  4. Marguerite

    The cow girl in me always wanted a Pendleton blanket coat! Probably from my days of watching Annie Oakley! You are so right about what these blankets evoke in us.
    Years ago I visited the Pendleton factory and watched the shirt making assembly. So interesting. I still have some of my labels that used to come with the yardage that all fabric stores used to carry. This was around the same time you were making your suits from their wool. In fact, I may even still have a couple of yards of Pendleton wool in my stash. A suit made from Pendleton wool was a mark of class, wasn’t it? I know I sound like a broken record, but the average person dressed so much better back then- not just executives and people that “had” to dress up for work. Just a day shopping or out to lunch would be the occasion to put on a nice suit. Sorry to be so long winded here!

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