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