Lucky us! This July, Juno and Jove was the first store to tour the extensive Pendleton Mills in Washuga, Washington, and we’re excited to bring you the deets.
As the oldest continuously operating textile mill in the United States, Pendleton has set the standard for quality, woolen fabrications for almost 150 years. Their company history is intriguing, playing instrumental roles in early U.S. Western expansion, Native American cultural influence, and the Arts and Crafts movement. Still family owned and operated, this stalwart of American manufacturing has recently connected with their newest generation of fans through the sensational Portland Collection.
Upon beginning the tour, our attention is diverted to a massive warehouse that contains floor-to-ceiling bundles of wool. Some raw, some recycled, each stack has been carefully graded and sorted depending on the type of textile it will become.
The wool has already gone through a duster and series of baths that removed water, dirt and grease. Lanolin, which is actually the recovered grease, is a natural by-product of wool and is used in a plethora of products from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals.
Massive, stainless steel dye vats line along walls in the adjacent warehouse. Each stock dye kettle has a 2000 pound capacity, and temperature and pressure settings are carefully controlled by a sensitive computer to ensure exact duplication of the rich colors which are Pendleton’s signature.
As we enter into the next room, the carding process is in full swing. Dyed wools are being combed into a fine sheet that is then divided into roving, untwisted and soft, thin strands of wool not yet strong enough to weave. To create the subtle shading of heathered wools, many different colored fibers have been previously mixed and then combined during the carding process.
A short distance from this combing procedure line are the endless aisles of spinning machines. This technique involves the twisting of strands, which gives the yarn strength and length. After a bobbin has finished winding the thread, it is removed by hand and steamed to eliminate kinking.
Large, wheeled containers of brightly colored wound spools herald what wonders come next. Walking through rows and rows of mechanical weavers and looms is an awesome experience. The din of machinery is deafening, but the waves of fabric that fall in soft order is mesmerizing. Iconic Pendleton patterns emerge from the looms in a race of stitches. Checked for imperfections by some lovely ladies, they swiftly mend mechanical ooops by hand so that the fabric is able to continue its journey.
The multi-step finishing process includes the measured exposure of heat, moisture, friction and pressure to soften and tighten the fabric before it is ready for tailoring. We were so lucky to come across some of the limited edition patterns from the Portland Collection during this leg of our journey! Yards of the Painted Hills pattern awaited transport to the factory that assembled the Ochoco Pack. The most anticipated fringed Ram’s Horn scarves sat elegantly on the cutting machine. It was fun being one of the first to finger the soft, wooly weave!
Eyeing the beautiful jacquard weaves brought to mind this season’s Wallowa Cardigan, Canyonville Tote handbags, the Dolman Overcoat, Semicircle Skirts and Double Pocket Shirts that are part of our fabulous current offerings at JunoAndJove.com. How special this trip has been to see how many steps these incredible fabrics go through before making their way to us and then onward to our customers.
Finally, we came to the hand edging and tailoring that was being done on some of the Pendleton robes; the classic blanket that was so integral to the late nineteenth century Native American. An assembly line sews the edges, then the emblematic navy and gold label before it is uniformly folded, tagged, bagged and boxed for future shipping. Watching it all just built up anticipation for future shipments we would receive of these wonderful, USA Made products! #MadeInUSA