(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?