Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Western Blankets

Photo courtesy Flickr

A good blanket is the fundamental item of furnishing, just as a sleeping bag is the heart of a field kit. Recent visits to condos have me looking at this 1890 house with fresh eyes.

The basic fiction here is to furnish the place in the style of the Victorian Old West, where the supply lines were long and time and labor in short supply. In Seattle, these conditions prevailed until 1970. On the Washington coast, these conditions prevailed until 1990.

I am the happy owner of a brand new blanket, a queen-sized edition of an Oregon classic patterned after a tribal rug. Unlike the all-wool British trade blanket, my new prize has, like all its siblings and cousins, a cotton warp supporting a good half inch of divine wooly fuzz. The underlying cotton structure of the weave gives it architectural value. The blanket has a particular combination of soft hand and resistance to stretching that allows it to hold its shape when sat upon or leaned against.

Senior blankets are often retired to do duty as vests or jackets, becoming finally pillow covers or upholstery (simple with hot-melt glue) for favored seating. A cow hide rug is a traditional accompaniment.

We’ve been acquiring new editions of classic Western blankets for a number of years, and they’ve displaced nearly every other textile pattern in the house. For a work at home environment, I find that these blankets comfort and support concentrated efforts at production, just as they must have comforted and supported hunter/gatherers, ranching families, and loggers.

Folded and set on a sturdy foot locker or chest, a blanket makes a perfectly reasonable seat. Folded and laid over the head or footboard of a bed, a blanket transforms it into a daybed. As a daytime cover, a blanket is instant upholstery.

A fresh or carefully maintained old blanket takes the curse off expedient furnishing, allowing it to show to good purpose. The tribal patterns hold the middle ground between formal and casual, private and public, and they are not anchored in one particular style of architecture.

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