Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Color Collaborative: January: Warm

You may find this strange, but I truly enjoy making the beds. I like all the parts of bed-making: the straightening, the pulling-up, the smoothing and tightening. It's an important ritual in my day. This week, I was performing the usual mid-winter bedding blitz, where I wash every piece of bedding from all three beds in our house. The washer and dryer run all day long, a long procession of blankets and quilts emerging clean and fluffy. January is a good time for freshening most things, including bedding. Winter is far from over, and we'll need the heavy-duty blankets for quite a while longer. I feel very accomplished when all the beds are put back together; the bedrooms look neater and everything smells like fabric softener for a few days.

My bedding chores made me think about blankets and their origins. It occurred to me that I didn't know when people started using what we know as blankets on their beds. I was surprised to learn that woven blankets as we know them didn't come into use until about the 14th century, when Thomas Blanquette, a Flemish weaver living in England, developed a special heavy woolen weave which became useful in blanket-making. Blanquette became "blanket," and the rest is history. I felt motivated to learn more about different types of blankets. Here are some blankets I find interesting...

Photo from fansdelespanol

A serape is a traditional blanket from Mexico, probably brought by colonists from Spain. It can be used on a bed, or it can be worn poncho-style, via a hole cut through the center and pulled over the head, or hung on walls as decoration. They're almost always very brightly colored. Serapes used to be accessible to only the very rich before modern factory weaving. I'd think this is probably true for the blankets used by most cultures of the world; they would have been slower to produce, and therefore much more expensive, in the days when blankets were always hand-woven. I think serapes are really beautiful, with their colorful omber shading and bold stripes or diamond shapes, and I feel a bit sorry that they mostly bring to mind Mexican restaurant decor. Pretty, though, and likely just right for the hot days and cold nights in Mexico.

Photo from The Catalogues

Native American blankets have sort of a convoluted history, in that they were probably made in imitation of European blankets that the Indians received in trading with the Europeans; the Europeans were imitating traditional Native American artistic designs themselves. There is a little of both cultures in these blankets. In the 20th century, textile companies like Pendleton began producing blankets of this type for for sale to the Native market, and later for general sale. Indian blankets are still made by hand sometimes today, by Navajo and Pueblo Indian craftspeople trained in the art of creating their bold, colorful stripes and geometric patterns, but most are made on automated looms. Some Indian blankets also feature pictorial designs, such as the yellow birds on this blanket. They have been used in various ceremonies and rituals such as weddings and burials and have been traditionally given as gifts.

Photo from Brohammas

One of my personal favorite blankets is the Hudson Bay blanket (not that I personally own one; they're very pricey). This is a wool blanket, sometimes known as a "chief's blanket," made by the Hudson Bay Company for trade with Native Americans starting in the 18th century. These blankets feature brightly colored stripes on a white background, along with a woven design on the edge of the blanket which once symbolized the value of the blanket in terms of its trade equivalent in beaver pelts or other animal skins. These blankets were very popular; their off-white color made for good camouflage in the snow, and the woolen material was good at repelling water. I don't think most modern users of these blankets worry much about camouflage or water-shedding, but they're still popular today because they're so sturdy and warm.

Photo from Eldridge Textile

Finally, I was reminded of the nubby, snow-white spread on my parents' bed when I was little. Theirs was similar to the one above, called a Martha Washington bedspread. Do you remember these? You don't see them much anymore but I can remember most of my relatives having them. These bedspreads have been made on machine looms for a long time, but they were originally handwoven. George Washington gave a blanket like this to his bride when they were married, hence the popular name. It's a very heavy cotton weave, usually in pure white, and it would be used as a top layer on the bed, but not necessarily slept under. I think these blankets have a formality, a hotel-like stiffness, that I don't desire for my own bedroom, but I find their elaborate woven designs very impressive.

Blankets, where would we be without them? Shivering in our beds, I think. How do you like your bed to be made? Do you have a favorite type of blanket? Around here, we all have the usual sheets on our beds, along with woven cotton blankets and lightweight duvets. In the coldest weather, we add afghans crocheted by yours truly.

Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa
Sarah at mitenska
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.


  1. It's a bright, sunny and breezy day here so the bed linen is already in the wash and should dry on the line to be ready for ironing. Your selection of blankets are all beautiful and I didn't know the origin of the word blanket until now. We have handwoven blankets from Wales and Finland at the foot of the bed and a homemade quilt covering the bed. When my children were two years old and sleeping in a proper bed I used to tuck them in with a sheet and a cream merino wool blanket with satin edging. Their colourful duvets would be thrown over the top and they both always slept really well all through the night. My son has taken my Ancient Greek (quite like the use of capitals here!) blankets back to his university lodging. Their use in an unheated house is practical rather than decorative I think .

  2. I do remember those bedspreads - my mum loved them! Always pristinely white. As for bedding, my grandmother (until a few years ago) still washed and starched all the bedlinen by hand. There's something very satisfying about a line full of sheets and pillowcases flapping about in the breeze.
    If I coveted any blankets, Id definitely go for Welsh ones. Although Moroccan wedding blankets are very beautiful too - have you seen them? Perfect for adorning a wall behind the bed.
    Lovely post and I like the colours of those Mexican blankets - so vivid and bright.

  3. Lovely blankets, it's fascinating how every people has their own type. Like Sarah I love Welsh blankets too, traditionally made from all that gorgeous Welsh wool. I had a day of making beds yesterday, it's scrumptious getting into clean sheets isn't it. I always make a point of telling the children when their bed is fresh, so maybe they'll grow up loving that moment of slipping into a newly made bed as well. CJ xx

  4. my parents had the exact same sort of bedspread on their bed as well ! :)

  5. I'm a maniac of bedspreads and fresh, clean linen! It's a gorgeous feeling getting into well ironed sheets! What an interesting post Jennifer!
    Happy weekend ahead!

  6. My parents always had a Martha Washington bedspread (in fact I still have it; I'm thinking that I'd like to make something out of it). It's interesting to know how the name came about. Also, the Hudson Bay blankets were a staple in our house, we had several of them. I like the look, but they felt scratchy to me. I like soft, pretty colors in bed linens and puffy comforters!

  7. Interesting post, had no idea about Blanquette. I love to have my bed made up, can't stand seeing a messy bed. My husband and I make ours as we get out of it in the morning. It's a king so it's nice to have help. We have and electric blanket on it in the winter, our old bones appreciate it. We have a heavy comforter in the winter and a white English Rose Matelasse Coverlet in the summer. The cat keeps destroying it (don't ask how), but I love it and keep replacing it.As a child I remember chenille bedspreads.

  8. I love blankets of all sorts but homemade ones definitely have the edge! :o)

  9. I have a love hate relationship with changing beds. I do it every week, some weeks I love it, some I forget that I stripped the beds in the morning and am reminded when we go to bed that I haven't got round to remaking them!

    We don't have any blankets on our beds, just duvets. You can buy a thick and thin one that popper together so you have a thin for the summer, thick for the autumn and spring and both together for the winter. The children have blankets on their beds but they were made for them when they were babies so they are little on the small size now, they love them tho' :)

    Thank you for a little on the history of the blanket, I enjoyed reading it.

  10. I am exactly like you about the beds. I make our bed every day, and Angus's (Bella does her own) and enjoy the process. In fact, I think not making the beds would feel a bit like not brushing my teeth, so much is it a part of my morning routine. And I can't abide getting back into an unmade bed, eugh. I love blankets and use them liberally, changing them and moving them around the house all the time.

    Thank you for a fascinating post. I love those Pendleton blankets, they look really warm and the simplicity of the pattern is very appealing. x

  11. Hey Jennifer,
    I can't leave the house in the morning without making the beds. Even if I'm coming straight back him after the school run, I need to know the pillows have been plumped and the duvets have been given a good shake before popping back on the bed. I iron all my bedding. I live to open the drawer where I store all my pillowcases, and look upon pressed loveliness. We aren't ever particularly cold in the far south west of Cornwall, so there is no need for extras on the bed. And anyway my peri menopausal state couldn't handle it!
    Fab post. As always.
    Leanne xx

  12. I do love nice, fresh bedding; it's one of life's little luxuries. It's my day for changing the bedding tomorrow and I'm sure to think of you now as I do it! Love those Hudson Bay blankets. xx

  13. I'm fascinated by the Martha Washington, which would be called a chenille bedspread here.

    I'm thinking back to mill workers in the north of the UK in the 1800s making things like it and sleeping under sacking themselves!

    Brilliant post Jennifer.

    1. Thanks, Annie. I think these bedspreads are slightly different from the chenille ones in that they usually use a technique called candlewicking, which is a type of embroidery. But it's possible that the terms are used interchangeably, I really don't know for sure.

  14. A fascinating post Jennifer, you have researched it very well. I love making beds too and do it every morning after opening all he curtains in all the rooms. I think it makes me feel like if nothing else (but sewing and knitting) gets done that day, at least the beds are made for later! Jo x

  15. I hang my bedding outside on a clothesline. I love the smell of the fresh crisp outdoors for a few days after I wash all the bedding.

  16. What an interesting post, thanks Jennifer. I love making the beds every morning, and honestly I am not sure there is anything better than "clean sheet night". I love crawling into bed knowing the sheets are fresh and clean. We have quilts on our beds, with extra wool blankets in the winter for warmth. So cozy.

  17. There is nothing better than crawling into a bed with fresh sheets, is there? During these cold months, we have an electric heated mattress pad on our bed. We turn it on to heat up the bed before we climb in. Heaven!
    I recently bought the organic cotton sheets at Target for our bed and I absolutely love them. They're crisp but yet soft. I want another set but they're a bit pricey, so I'll wait until they go on sale.
    For the winter, we have the cotton top sheet, then a thick cotton blanket, then a thin cotton quilt. Believe it or not, that keeps us warm. There's only been a couple of nights where I've had to pull up the super thick cotton comforter. (Can you tell I like cotton? lol) I know wool is very warm for a blanket, but I'm allergic to wool.
    Oh - and yes, I do remember those Martha Washington bedspreads!

  18. So interesting Jennifer!!! Your photo up there of your bed with all of those brilliant colors is gorgeous!! Knocked me over! And like you I find it so important to make the bed…it feels as if the day isn't quite right if the beds aren't made. Glad there is someone else out there that finds this ritual important. Wishing you a lovely weekend! Nicole xo

  19. A really enjoyable post, Jennifer. Much of the year we have only a sheet plus a light woven cotton blanket. But we love our electric blanket for those winter weeks. I do love the Hudson Bay blankets and was very excited to see a store in Vancouver selling the blankets and other goods with the distinctive stripes. I couldn't afford one either! Thinking of how people kept warm prior to the development of blankets, the indigenous Australian aboriginal people joined soft possum skins into little baby blankets, also worn as cloaks, and added to them as the child grew. Adults in the colder areas of Australia had beautiful long cloaks for warmth.

  20. I was thinking of washing all my bedding today, and love to have it all fresh and clean. Blankets have such a colorful variety and as you described, the structure of their warmth is varied and interesting. In the last few years I have become fond of cotton flannel sheets and blankets, and I too, enjoy and am disciplined about making my bed daily, only not always with the hospital corners my mother, the nurse, taught me to fold :) I dream of making a tightly knit blanket of merino wool on small needles, but as yet it is only a dream. Thanks for posting, Jennifer.

  21. The colours on your(?) bed in the first photo are completely gorgeous, Jennifer. I love a freshly made bed, clean sheets, etc. Very interesting to learn about these blankets. The Hudson Bay one is particularly lovely. Sam x

  22. Hi Jennifer, my parents had a bedspread very similar to the Martha Washington in your photo, I think over here it would have been called a candlewick bedspread but I can't be sure. I love your colourful bedding. Have a great weekend xx

  23. Lovely cosy beds....a freshly made bed with soft comfortable bedding is one of my favourite things!
    Have a happy weekend Jennifer.
    Helen xox

  24. I feel like a total slob now, I don't like making beds and often don't... How interesting, I never thought that there might be a founder of the blanket, Mr Blanquette. Thanks for this interesting post Jennifer. x

  25. I loved learning about Mr. Blanquette! We use a down comforter in a colorful duvet cover and I do toss it and tug on it for a rather haphazard bed making. It's kind of made but very casual. I admire how nicely you make your beds. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  26. I'm keeping Christina company in not being an organised bed-maker. :) I was taught by my mother to leave the covers over the foot of the bed for the mattress to air and still do that 60 years later. At some point I smooth the sheet, plump up the pillows and shake the duvet into position and that's it. We just don't use blankets nowadays except in the very coldest weather, which is rather a pity, having loved the gorgeous blankets in your photos.

  27. love your tales of blankets Jennifer, and I too would love a Hudson Bay one, but oh so pricey........

  28. I love warm blankets. We have duvets as well. The Hudson Bay is so beautiful but indeed expensive.

  29. Every day I start my housework by making the beds. It's the 'starter' for me. Even if the rest of my house was pristine (it never is) and the beds weren't made, it wouldn't feel right. I also drive my family crazy by throwing open the bedroom windows when I make the beds, even in winter. In summer I leave them open all day, in winter I usually close them again after about half an hour. We have duvets, and the boys also have blankets for the winter, of which they are very fond. If my plans come to pass, they will each have a quilt, made by me, on their beds by the end of the year. X


Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...