For many years, I’ve promised myself a stop at the Pendleton Woolen Mill in eastern Oregon. Pendleton wool has always been held in high regard by my family, probably because of my mom being from Salem where their first retail store was located. It’s not a familiar name to people in the mid-west.
I was trying to get from Boise to Salem as quickly as possible to meet my aunts for dinner at their retirement center. I promised myself 15 minutes to just look quickly, but I didn’t get out for about 40 minutes, and I never even bought anything!
I was pleased to see other products, like book covers and bath towels, and national park mugs with designs specific to each national park. But on closer examination, all these products were made in China. So getting even a small item was out of the question.
I was glad I stopped. I know now that I don’t need to make that stop again, as most everything in the store is available online. My mom used to buy fabric there and make skirts and jackets, but I think those days are over… fabric from the source doesn’t save you money like in the old days. When I get to a place in life where I don’t have cats, I might treat myself to another blanket, though. The colors and designs are quite addictive!
Are you wondering why these designs are linked to the American Indians? It’s because they used to make Indian blankets.
From their website:
A study of the color and design preferences of local and Southwest Native Americans resulted in vivid colors and intricate patterns. Trade expanded from the Nez Perce nation near Pendleton to the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni nations. These Pendleton blankets were used as basic wearing apparel and as a standard of value for trading and credit among Native Americans. The blankets also became prized for ceremonial use.
You can find a complete history of the mill here.