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
Gillian at Tales from a happy house.
CJ at Above the River
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.