About the Las Cruces Blanket
Manufacturer: Pendleton Woolen Mills
Pattern: Based on Pendleton Archival patterns from the early 1900s
How much? Queen: $288, King: $338, Sham $98
Las Cruces Robe/Shawl: (Available in 2010): $198
Info: www.pendleton-usa.com, (800) 760-4844
Source: Pendleton Woolen Mills history, www.pendleton-usa.com
The company’s origins date to English weaver Thomas Kay, who came to America in 1863 and opened his own Oregon mill which began making Indian trade blankets in the late 1800s. His daughter Fannie learned the mill business and married retail merchant C.P. Bishop. Their three sons founded the business that was to become Pendleton Woolen Mills. For six generations, the Bishop family has owned and operated the company.
From the 1909 purchase of a scouring mill at the railhead along the Oregon Trail in Pendleton, Ore., through lean years during the Great Depression and the war years when the company produced blankets for the military, to the present time, the Bishop family has produced Indian blankets, robes and shawls which are highly prized by much of the Native American population. The company operates eight facilities and 75 retail stores. Pendleton products are sold in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and China.
Pendleton warms up to Las Cruces style
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — We’ve been developing our own distinctive style. And now, we have our own blanket. The legendary Pendleton Woolen Mills has produced the Las Cruces blanket, a tribute to the city of crosses.
“The name Las Cruces (‘the crosses’) references the historic city in New Mexico where Hispanic and Native American cultures meet culturally and artistically. Earthtones reflect the ancient landscape along the Rio Grande,” according to a description in the 2009 Pendleton Catalog.
“It’s a woven, banded type of pattern. It’s a really cool blanket,” said Bob Christnacht, Pendleton’s Home Division Manager, in a telephone interview this week from the company’s headquarters in Portland, Ore.
“It was designed in-house by Jessica Camblin and Wintour Dewey,” who were inspired by a visit here, he said.
“We sell more blankets in the Southwest than anyplace else and we make a trip out there every year. We saw this old pattern in the shop of one of our blanket collectors,” Christnacht said, and it influenced the final Las Cruces blanket design, described in the catalog as a “reinterpretation of a timeless banded pattern from the Pendleton archives.”
The inspirational blanket dates back nearly a century, he said.
“It was a very early design from the 1900s, probably in the teens,” Christnacht said. "We didn’t name blanket designs back then. But when you consider the colors and the crosses in the pattern, we decided it felt like you guys down there. It’s a really interesting place.”
Designer Connie Hines of Connie Hines Interior Design in Las Cruces thinks the nod from Pendleton is another indication that Las Cruces is developing its own distinctive style image in the world.
“I keep telling people that the style is not so locked in, but if you’re here for a while, you’ll pick up the essences,” Hines said. "The cross patterns are a very fitting look for many reasons. This is a very spiritual place and everyone picks up on that. There’s an artsy approach. We have our own spin on just about everything: we turn it a little and massage it until it feels like Las Cruces."
The first Las Cruces blankets were produced in April and could have a shot at becoming a classic.
The colors are desert sand, a rich adobe red and turquoise, with lighter colors dominant on one side and darker hues on the reverse.
The blanket is a blend of “82 percent pure virgin wool and 18 percent cotton with Ultrasuede trim,” and it’s in Pendleton’s top-of-the-line blanket category, selling for $338 for king and $288 for queen bed sizes. A matching Las Cruces sham is available for $98.
And for those who think New Mexican and even Southwestern style begins and ends with Santa Fe, it’s worth noting that the 2009 online Pendleton catalog offers no Santa Fe items in the “blanket” category, though the City Different is acknowledged with a vase, embroidered towels, sheets and pillowcases.
But no blanket.
And in 2010, the Las Cruces pattern will be introduced in the company’s most popular “robe” or “shawl” form, the size of a standard twin-size blanket, for about $198, Christnacht said.
The robes can have a very long life in continuous production, and lasting appeal for blanket aficionados.
“We’ve been producing the Chief Joseph robe since 1927 and the Harding since 1924,” Christnacht said.
The blankets are also enduring favorites with collectors and have proven to be sound investments fetching big prices.
“There’s a huge market now for the old ones. If you could find one of the original blankets (that inspired the Las Cruces blanket design) it would fetch at least $3,000,” Christnacht said.
Las Cruces — the blanket and the city — will get international exposure through the company’s marketing, which includes an online catalog, eight facilities and 75 retail stores as well as specialty shops and boutiques. Pendleton products are sold in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and China.
“We’ve already had inquiries about the Las Cruces blanket,” said Robert Ramirez of Galeria on the Plaza, 2410 Calle de Principal, in Mesilla, the only shop in the Las Cruces area that carries Pendleton blankets. He said the shop will special order the blankets on request.
They are also available online at www.pendleton-usa.com or call (800) 760-4844 to request a catalog.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at email@example.com, (575) 541-5450.