The name Pendleton has become synonymous with "wool blankets", with its tradition of American craftsmanship, all started by one family over 100 years ago. In 1863, Thomas Kay, an English weaver, arrives in Oregon to help organize the state’s second woolen mill, overseeing its weaving operation. A couple decades later, with the creation of Pendleton’s first woolen mill in 1893, to establishing trade connections with America’s Indigenous communities, Fannie Bishop (né Kay) helped build upon her father’s legacy. As her father did for her, Fannie passed on the family tradition to her three sons in 1898. Less than a year later, a new wool finishing department was operational and the first finished wool products were traded, thus setting the foundation for Pendleton Woolen Mills. Today, the tradition of wool and textile innovation established by Thomas Kay and his family underlies all Pendleton products.
Pendleton is founded on an intimate knowledge of the wool business – from fiber to fabric. Whether it’s a wool garment, wool fabric, or a wool blanket, Pendleton offers over 100 years of expertise, imagination and dedication to quality. Their raw wool is processed before it is made into fabric, which is then constructed and woven into blankets or apparel. Their relationships with sheep farmers, from farms and families they’ve worked with for generations, give them the advantage of monitoring every step of the production process to maintain quality.
Uniquely woven into Indigenous communities, Pendleton continues to partner with, and share traditional Indigenous design and artistry with the world. Since 1909, Pendleton has produced Indigenous blankets, robes and shawls for Indigenous tribes. While most early trading blankets were plaids and block designs, jacquard loomed blankets with brilliant colors and sharp details became very popular within the Indigenous community and integrated into everyday and ceremonial uses.
Navajo writer and artist Rain Parrish has documented the cultural significance of these branded prized possessions in various works. “We welcome our children with a small handmade quilt or a Pendleton blanket,” writes Parrish in The Language of the Robe: American Indian Trade Blankets. “To honour [a couple’s marriage], the woman’s body is draped with a Pendleton shawl and the man’s with a Pendleton robe.” Today, Pendleton blankets continue to play a significant role in Indigenous communities across North America.