Whenever I think of camp blankets, this fabulous photo of Ralph Lauren's Colorado house comes to mind. I love the collection of silver concha belts casually hung on nails along-side the bed. I love the flag behind the headboard. But most of all, I love the collection of camp blankets perched on the trunk at the foot of the bed.
Photo from Architectural Digest, Gilles de Chabaniex, November 2002
The popular misconception about these blankets is that they were made by Native Americans. Actually, they were made for the Indian market by white manufacturing companies.
Long before white settlers came to America, Native Americans made and traded patterned blankets amongst themselves. As the whites began to settle the plains, however, buffalo hides, which had been used to keep the cold at bay, became scarce as buffalo populations began to decline, and native Indian people needed blankets for warmth. Indian populations began to trade for European loomed blankets.
Pioneer at Fort Geary by Adam Sherriff Scott 1925
The earliest of these was the thick striped Hudson Bay blanket which was made in England. From 1789 to 1990, European-produced trading blankets were a staple of every fur trader's inventory.
As time went by, American manufacturers began to work with the Native American populations to develop Indian patterns and styles for these blankets. In the latter part of the 19th century, companies such as Pendleton, Racine Woolen Mills, Buell and Capps were all actively producing Indian patterned blankets. In 1901 the introduction of the jaquard loom made it possible for the mills to create more intricate zigzag designs.
Because Indian Camp Blankets were light, warm and inexpensive, they received heavy use. As a result, not many have survived in good condition. As collector interest grows, those that are not tattered and torn demand much higher prices. If you would like to start collecting these blankets, there are a number of reputable internet dealers. You can also try your luck at finding deals on ebay and at flea markets.
If you are interested, you can find more information about the history of these blankets from Pendleton, The Pointe Blanket Site or from Barry Friedman's Indian Blanket Page .
Photo from Molly Hyde English's Camps and Cottages, Linda Svendsen
Anyway, enough history...back to decorating. I love seeing these blankets mixed with other fabrics on beds. It can be charming, western or sophisticated. Below, I love the mix of florals, ticking, leather and an old camp blanket.
Photo also from Camps and Cottages
And don't you admire this elegant Western styling?
Photo from Cowboy HIgh Style by Elizabeth Clair Flood. Design by Tyler and Teresa Beard. Jennifer Jordan Photographer.
This sophisticated and eclectic mix of materials includes a Native American blanket used as a bedspread.
Photo from Cabin Fever by Rachel Carley. House of sculptor A.J. Obara.
Camp blankets look great, tossed on sofas and chair backs, too. In the photo below, you can see the ubiquitous stripes of the Hudson Bay Blanket on the right and a bright camp blanket on the chair on the left. Can't you just see wrapping yourself up in that blanket early on a mountain morning to do some quick paper work at that charming desk.
Photo from Ralph Kylloe's Rustic Style.
Budget Decorating Tip: If you like to shop flea markets or ebay, look for Indian blankets that have tears or are in pieces. You can often get these at affordable prices. The most serviceable remnants from these can be used to make toss pillows. I've also used them to make fabulous mats for framed artwork.
Indian Blankets and Pillows in the Ralph Lauren home
An engraving of a Native American framed in a Navajo carpet remnant and a tramp art frame from Dragonfly Designs (Yes, it's a Navajo rug and not a camp blanket, but you get the idea, don't you?).
As a final treat, take a look at this teepee from Ralph Lauren's ranch. He uses it as an extra "guest house". Wouldn't you just love to be a guest on his ranch!