There’s nothing like wrapping up in a cozy blanket and settling in for a nap. For over a century, many people have found their favorite blanket comes with the Pendleton name. This iconic brand is a perfect pairing for chilly nights and cozy cabins.
Pendleton blankets do come with a hefty price tag, however, and many people wonder if they are worth the money.
In this article we delve into the Pendelton brand and if these legendary blankets and throws are worth the investment.
Pendleton Blanket History
In 1863, a British weaver by the name of Thomas Kay arrived in Oregon with dreams of making it a home. He passed on his skills to his son. With a large number of sheep in the area, he and his son opened a wool scouring plant in 1893, but with the rising costs of tariffs, this business soon failed. The company started producing blankets and robes for local Native American tribes in 1895 but the blankets were plain and this business also failed. The company shut down until 1909.
In 1909, Thomas Kay’s grandsons, Clarence, Roy, and Chauncey Bishop decided to take the skills they had learned from their father and grandfather and they opened up Pendleton Woolen Mills. The first products emerged that September.
Success followed, in part due to the skills and ideas of a loom artist named Joe Rawnsley, who gathered ideas of what appealed to Native Americans and helped incorporate these bright colors and intricate patterns into the designs that are now so popular in Pendleton blankets.
Growth With Stability
Today, Pendleton not only makes blankets, but they also produce home decor and a line of clothing for both men and women. Their blankets, however, have remained their main focus and the core of their brand. The company now utilizes high-speed looms and computerized systems for assuring their colors are consistent. They have modern distribution software to make sure the entire process remains smooth and products reach over fifty retail and outlet stores, with exclusive shops throughout the world. They also own and operate five facilities, with the main headquarters still located in Oregon. A fleet of trucks completes this expansion.
While some of the production and distribution has been modernized, Pendleton still inspects every piece they turn out by hand, covering every inch in detail. Much of the finishing sewing is also done by hand.
This company is still overseen by the Bishop family, who adhere to the same standards of quality as their ancestors. They also use variations of the ten original Jacquard patterns they started with.
In addition, all the manufacturing has remained in America and most of the material is also from domestic suppliers, many of whom have been supplying wool for several generations to this company.
Native American Ties
Today, Pendleton is the only major manufacturer of native-themed blankets. These blankets have long held a special place in Native American culture. They are often given as gifts for special ceremonies like graduations, weddings, and births. You can see examples of the robes, as they are often called, at Native American dance ceremonies. The designs and colors have been the same since the beginning of the blanket trade.
Joe Rawnsley, the man who is recognized for coming up with many of the designs and colors that are still in use spent time with the Nez Pierce tribe. He then went on a six-month journey and lived with the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi tribes. It was here that he studied their use of patterns and colors in everything from clothing to pottery.
While the Pendleton designs aren’t actually Native American patterns, they are strongly based on what Rawnsley observed during his travels.
The Pendleton Process
Pendleton has used the same process for creating blankets throughout the years, only upgrading when possible to do so without compromising quality. They have weaving mills in both Oregon and Washington. The process starts with sourcing wool from local farms. Many of these shepherds have gained the reputation of feeding their animals a quality diet and taking the sheep to areas where they grow strong wool.
Once the wool reaches the mill, it is cleaned and then dyed. With a computerized system in place, the company has complete control over the water, heat, and the flow pressure. This allows them to keep colors consistent. The structure of the wool allows the pigment to penetrate to the core of the fibers. This allows the color to not only appear deep and rich but retain this quality for years to come.
The wool is then corded, which entails combing it and making sure all the fibers are the same size. This makes the finished product softer and smoother. The strands are then spun onto individual spools. During this process, the fibers are pulled and then twisted, creating yarn.
Weaving then takes place. The high-speed looms turn out yards of material that undergo a process of controlled shrinkage that is intended to soften the material even further. The next step is the finishing process. This is where the material is washed, cut to size, pressed, and blankets are napped. A napped blanket is when the wool is fluffed up to make the blanket thicker and softer. This blanket is about twice as thick as an unnapped blanket but is overall the same weight.
Pendleton makes both napped and unnapped blankets. Generally those with intricate patterns are not napped to retain the quality of the pattern. But both styles of blankets are equally warm and durable, some are softer to the touch.
The blanket is then inspected before completion and sale.
Are Pendleton Blankets Worth the Cost?
If you are looking for a quality blanket that you can pass down to the next generation and beyond, then you can’t go wrong with investing in a genuine Pendleton blanket. The blankets are soft, warm, and durable. They are manufactured in the United States, utilizing mainly American materials, and are high quality.
The blankets have provided employment for generations of shepherds and the sale has benefited a number of non-profits and charities. Every blanket is inspected by hand, ensuring the same quality that was seen six generations ago still stands. If a history of quality is something that matters, a Pendleton blanket makes a wonderful investment for your home.