(Photo via rowellphoto.com)
Very few blankets hold the iconic status that Hudson’s Bay Point blankets do.
These stripped blankets were created by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the Northern part of North America in 1780. Typically, the wool blankets were traded with Native Americans for pelts; arctic fox, lynx and most importantly beaver. The beaver pelts were shipped to Europe to meet the demand for beaver fur top hats. (I know, I had to read that twice too) Not just pelts, the blankets were also traded for buffalo robes, pemmican, moccasins, and other trade goods. Native Americans prized the blankets because of their ability to hold heat even when wet.
Because they were easier to sew than bison or deer skins, Point blankets were made into hooded coats (called capotes) by both Native Americans and French Canadian voyagers and were perfectly suited to the cold Canadian winters.
To this day, clothing manufactures are still making coats and jackets from, and inspired by, these awesome blankets. Even Jamie has a toggle sweater from Rugby that he wore to meet the Young House Lovers a few months ago.
Although woven in a handful of background/stripe colors, the “favored” look of Hudson’s Bay Point blankets are the ones produced with stripes of green, red, yellow, and indigo on a creamy white background. The stripe colors were chosen simply because they were easily produced at the time with colorfast dyes. They have always reminded me of a cheerful roll of Life Savers candy. The large stripes woven at the top and bottom of the blanket are called “Headings”. But more importantly, there is a series of small 5-6 inch lines woven in the side of the blanket called “points”. It’s these points that identify the size, weight, and of course the value, of the blanket. (Not it’s value in terms of beaver pelts, as is sometimes believed) These could be “read” without unfolding and measuring the entire blanket. Pretty clever, Right?
From the Hudson’s Bay Company website:
Each blanket was graded as to weight and size using a point system. Points were identified by the indigo lines woven into the side of each blanket. A full point measured 4 – 5.5 in.; a half point measured half that length. The standard measurements for a pair of 1 point blankets was: 2 ft. 8 in. wide by 8 ft. in length; with a weight of 3 lb. 1 oz. each. Points ranged from 1 to 6, increasing by halves depending upon the size and weight of the blanket. The number of points represented the overall finished size of the blanket.
Remember when we covered that chair the previous owner left in the garage with military blankets?
I am an absolute fanatic for mid-century teak furniture with cushions upholstered in these old striped blankets. These pieces were all available from Sit and Read in Brooklyn.
They have that perfect mix of relaxed/formal; comfortable/modern; ….. little bit “country” and a little bit “Rock-N-Roll”.
But who would have though to use them as window coverings?
Now that I have y’all in a feverish frenzy to buy one…….here’s where you can,
Genuine Hudson’s Bay Blankets continue to be sold by Canada’s Hudson’s Bay Company, and are available to buy from Woolrich. There is also a version made by the Pendleton company, refered to as “National Parks Blankets”, but these blankets are not true Hudson’s Bay and most importantly are lacking the points on the sides.
Without the points, how could anyone possibly know how many beaver pelts they are worth?
I love your emails!!! I discovered your blog at Christmas this year thru the Houzz site. I signed up as soon as I could. I enjoyed catching up with everything going on with your house. You both have done a beautiful job. Seems like everything you blog about are things I love. The last email about the Hudson Bay Blankets was very interesting. I’ve always liked these blankets. Keep these emails coming! B.
Betsy, It’s always a pleasure to read comments like yours. It thrills to the core to know that someone is reading, and enjoying, the things we write about. Obvioulsy, you have good taste.
We promise to do our best to keep you reading.
We have one of these blankets given as a wedding gift. I was thinking I’d theme out our guest room with that as my inspiration as a tribute to my Canadian husband 🙂
Put that blanket on the bed, and a cooler of Labatt next to it…..I guarantee that’s all the “Canadian theme” he will need!
I love the blankets, and I wish I could afford one. On day when I move from my condo and I have the space I’m promising myself I’ll get one.
HBC has in recent years become quite cognizant of the history behind the point blanket and you can now buy all sorts of stuff with the colourful stripes. Before Christmas I went to the flagship store on Queen St (In Toronto) and dreamed. Did you know they have a blanket that’s $2,400 CAD? Bet it’s really warm 🙂 http://www.thebay.com/eng/hbccollections-blankets-Coyote_Fur_Throw_Blanket-thebay/224146
That Coyote throw is the MOST Canadian looking thing I have ever seen!!
I LOVE it!!
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I really enjoyed reading the history of the blanket, and am appreciative of now knowing more about it. I do however come to your blog to request one of two things. 1. Please credit the image at the top of the couple in the boat as coming from (with link) Rowell Photography at http://www.rowellphoto.com
or 2. removing the image. I do hope to have the credit where its due, but if you do not wish to link, you may remove the image.
thank you in advance
Ryan, it was your beautiful photo that inspired this story. I am more than glad to credit you fully for it. It’s your dreamy image that brings my words to life. Thank you…….
Thank you very much James for your kind words and providing the link back. I wish you all the best.
Ryan, Now I’ve had a chance to check out your work and I really love your pictures. The 2 guys in the laundromat made me cry…so clever and sweet.
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I just scored an old blanket at a yard sale, has a gold and white tag with 3.5 stripes. I paid 2.00!
Lucky girl!! Great Score!!! I was just reading yesterday that people find great blankets at thrift stores all the time…seems no one ever looks at the blankets there. Well, I sure a heck will be from now on…
It has a registration number on the tag. How do I find out how old this blanket is?
Misty, I have looked everywhere online, and still can’t find anything definite…I’m at a loss here, sorry
Do you know how wide the stripes are on a Hudson bay blanket?
What’s the sun symbol represent on the blankets?
I’ve never seen a sun symbol on a Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket…..Although the sun does appear on several different Pendleton blankets. And it represents…..the sun.
The sun symbol was used by the Baron Woolen Mills, Brigham City Utah. Baron Woolen Mills was in business from 1869 to 1988. They put the symbol on all of their better blankets even the pastel colored ones. We used to sell/trade raw wool for blankets. The business was housed in an historic building that was in the process of being restored as an art gallery sadly it was destroyed completely in a fire on June 29, 2014.
We found your blog when searching background on HBC blanket and other merchandise. As Canadians with Scots relatives, we are sending them some of hot merchandise (that I will pick up tomorrow in our town, Victoria, BC.). The question we would like to ask is who is the artist of the trappers/voyageurs wearing the blanket coats? We printed it out from your site to send to Scotland, so thanks for that already!
Hi David. Wish I knew the origin of that print, I scanned it from a book on Hudson’s bay point blankets. Glad that you like it.
Well, thanks for responding, James – even if you can’t say who painted the scene. No matter – it’s an attractive print of a pretty nice painting. The two gift scarves will be on their way tomorrow to Scotland with the glossy printout and a bonus HBC-coloured voyageur/nutcracker ornament (made in China, of course). The real joke is that our Scottish relatives will receive the beautiful 100% wool scarves with the iconic stripes that were, in fact, woven in woollen mills just a few kilometres from where they live in Scotland! I’m a proud Canadian but why the heck do we not make stuff here any more? Don’t worry, I already know the unfortunate answer to that question. Have a safe and happy holiday season!
I’m currently wearing a hat with an American flag on it that was made in China…….so I get what you’re saying. (Btw, if you wanna send gifts to anyone in Texas….hint,hint……we love HB too, ya know) Have a great holiday yourself.
Happy to learn history. Have wanted 1 for many years, recently found in local thrift store.
Purchased along with pair coppercraft guild candle holders for total $7.00! Very dirty, washed in cold water, hung to dry. Turned out beautiful creamy color. Love it’s warmth on my canopy bed. Can’t wait to check for points now that I know what they mean.
Many thank you Blessings for info.
Hi Judith. Sorry I’m just now responding, not sure what happened there. Anyway…I’m seething with jealousy. I thrift all the time. ALL the time. I’m not a big fan of department stores. I have had some great finds….buy never a score like yours. Lucky you. Glad that you and your blanket found each other. 🙂
I grew up with a Hudson’s Bay blanket & am now 72 years old. My father retired to Florida (after 40+ years commuting to NYC from NJ) & gave me the blanket as I was graduating from college in Baltimore,MD . He said he wouldn’t need it in the Florida heat & I could have it if I wanted! I took it for its memory value. So now I have it here in Seattle, WA in a trunk with mothballs as a piece of my family history. I have no idea how old it is but it predates any photo on your website. I also am curious what” points” means? The sewn in label is very much falling apart but the ID is intact. I wish someone could tell me more about this blanket before it’s my turn to hand it down. It is a deep, kind of a rusty red, a wide black stripe, I recall a gold & white label. I’d have to get it out of the trunk to be more specific. I recall it being very heavy as I cuddled under it when the power went out in New Jersey snowstorms. But the memories are invaluable! As is this blankie. Thank you for your help.
Hi Marilyn, Sounds like you have a completely irreplaceable blanket there. At least to you. I love the idea of you cuddling under it in snowstorms, I did the same thing with my Star Wars sleeping bag in the ’70s. The “Points” are the small black stripes at the bottom of the blanket. They were used to determine the size of each blanket while it is still folded. Although the cream with the green, red, yellow and blue stripe are the most recognizable, the dark red and black stripe was pretty common too. If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Notebook”, and you should, I promise that you will fall in love with your blanket all over again. I hope this helps.
Thank you, James! I’ve learned something already; I had no idea the stripe connoted the size. Makes good sense. So mine is a twin/one stripe. On a queen sized bed! Oh well, it is in the guest room, at least until I can get another blanket.
Reading the comments earlier, I also decided to cruise the thrift shops searching for “the bargain of a lifetime” a 2 or 3 striper.
Thank you again,
And please release it from the moth balls!
I purchased a 4 point at a estate and this one has a black stripe on the edge not cream like the other ones I have seen. any answers
Any idea about age or value of a dark rose colored HB blanket? The label is really in bad shape, but it is definitely HBC. I purchased it for $1 at public auction in the 80’s.
Wish I knew Nancy……but I guarantee it’s more than a dollar now. I usually see old ones anywhere from 100-500, depending on the condition.
I have several blankets bought in Canada in the late 40’s. The labels are in bad shape. How can I get new labels?
Not sure you can. Have you tried emailing the Hudson Bay Company?
Hello! I have no website,… I have a RED Hudson Bay Blanket with One large Black Stripe.. my Mother and Father left me… curious to know the value of it !!??!! It’s in Great condition !
How do I buy the clothes that they make with those colors do you have a catalog
I believe Hudson Bay has brands stores in Canada. So they should also have a website. Give it a google.