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Pendleton gives up reservations about home fashions

Stepping out of the shadows and taking center stage as a full-fledged bedding and home collection at next month's major market is Pendleton Woolen Mills, a venerable century-old nameplate that ties together such disparate Americana looks as Native American blankets, classic woolen plaid shirts for men, women's career apparel and now a top-tier home fashions program.

Expanding well beyond its century-old base as a supplier of jacquard woolen trade blankets and robes marketed to Native Americans, Pendleton is launching a broad-based home fashions collection at next month's market that includes wool blankets for the home, jacquard woven bedspreads, rugs, flannel sheets, baby blankets and throws.

And now that Pendleton is seriously targeting the home for growth, said Bob Christnaught, head of Pendleton Home, it won't stop there. On deck are cotton blankets, printed flannels, sateen sheets as well as a push into bath, including towels and shower curtains. Down the road are dinnerware and an expanded range of home fashions accents.

"This is not the Pendleton you grew up with," said Christnaught. "This company has been evolving and growing, but I don't think many people know that yet. But they will soon."

Christnaught, a former retailer with Mercantile Stores, was hired last year to put the venerable woolen mill on the home fashions map by expanding into new home categories and new channels of distribution, including department stores, big-box specialty retailers and catalogs. Beefing up the sales and marketing team, Christnaught recently hired Pete Johnson, a long-time veteran of the wool blanket business and former president of Faribault Woolen Mills.

"We are very serious about this," emphasized Christnaught. "We are deeply committed to making this work, and we are putting considerable resources and capital behind this program." And given the current level of turmoil in the blanket business, he thinks "the timing could not be better."

As might be expected of one of the nation's oldest blanket suppliers, tracing its history back to 1863, Pendleton's debut line will revolve around its bedding business, but moving beyond the traditional jacquard woven blankets in Native American motifs on which the company built its earliest reputation. Spreading its wings at next month's market, Pendleton is showing off a broader line of woolen bed blankets, as well as handwoven rugs and runners, infant's bedding, bedspreads, flannel sheets, decorative pillows, shams, duvets and throws.

Playing to its strength in wools, Pendleton will introduce a core group of five woolen bed blankets, including Heirloom, a lambswool merino with an unusually soft and supple finish. Easy Care is a washable virgin wool blanket, and Chevron tells a delicate textured story with a distinctive herringbone weave.

Combining texture and color in an all-natural story is Pure and Natural, a virgin wool blanket in stripes created of various shades of undyed, naturally colored wool. "We finally found a use for the black sheep of the family," grinned Christnaught. Rounding out the line is Frontier Stripe, a multi-striped wool.

All bed blankets come in three sizes, twin, a 90" x 90" full/queen and king. Heirloom, Easy Care and Chevron are available in a variety of colors.

Moving beyond bed blankets, Pendleton will show off a group of all-wool lodge blankets pegged to a National Park theme, with coordinating shams and pillows. Woodlands celebrates traditional lodge looks in a wool/cotton blend.

Outdoor blankets are available in a new Yakima Camp Stripe blend of wool and cotton, and a lineup of sports blankets includes motor robes, a roll-up wool with a nylon backing and a built-in handle. Fringed decorative throws are available in plied yarns with textured weave designs. Juvenile looks in all-wool and wool/cotton blends include a stripe from the National Park series, a merino crib blanket and a classic Native American design.

Saluting Pendleton's century-old relationship with Native Americans, the company is showing off a wide range of robes, shawls, pillows and throws including traditional Native American symbols and looks from its archives.

"What we're putting out there is more than just a collection of product, it's the Pendleton lifestyle," said Christnaught, incorporating elements from its men's wear and women's wear looks. "We're starting with the traditional Pendleton look, and then we'll push the design envelope."

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