Score(?)

Before I get distracted with anything else, thank you all SO much for your very kind words about our poor fish. They helped a lot, each and every one. Thank you.

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..

Hudson's Bay point blanket

Erm. So, I had thought my weekly thrifting-as-time-killer was a relatively harmless pastime. I mean, aside from the occasional sewing-machine acquisition. Most weeks I might spend $10, often nothing at all.

Well, this last one blew my streak.  I was being so good, too! No sewing books tempted me. The fabric section had been thoroughly re-stocked for the first time in months, but there was nothing I needed. I walked away from two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles curtain-flounce thingies as they were $4 apiece for really not very much fabric. (I gotta say, a TMNT bedsheet dress would be da bomb)

And then, on a whim, I wandered through the blanket section. I don’t usually spend much time in there, if only because it’s always full of fluffy fuzzies and hand-made quilts I’m going to want to take home if I look at, despite not actually liking patchwork very much.

And then I saw red.

Wool.

Felted.

Could it be?

I pulled it open, heart beating quickly. That weight, of heavy wool, scratchy, boiled, and felted. There it was—the wide, black stripe. And where—yes, there were the points, four narrow black lines, and right below them, the label.

I had found a genuine Husdon’s Bay Company point blanket.

Points and label

For those of you for whom what I just wrote is complete gibberish, here’s the Cliff Notes. (I’ve also touched on this topic before.) The Hudson’s Bay Company was originally a fur-trading company, founded in the late 1600s, that traded across much of the territory that is now Canada. Trading posts were the front-line of European colonization, long before anyone was farming out west; and, perhaps unusually in colonial history, the native people actually had something the Europeans wanted other than land—skilled hunters and trappers, they could produce fur, especially beaver, which was in huge demand in the European hat trade. My own husband is Métis, a group descended primarily from white fur traders who married native women during their long deployments for the fur-trade companies. Since the late 1700s, one of their signature products has been the point blanket, so-named for the black bars woven into one edge, which denote the size of the blanket (my four-point blanket is a standard double size; more points=bigger). These points were important in the weaving process, since the blankets are boiled and felted after weaving, which considerably changes the size. The blankets are top quality and very thick—almost 1cm thick. Aside from their use as blankets, one of the most popular things to do with a point blanket was to make it into a coat. At some point during their transition from fur-trade company to modern deparment store, HBC hit on the idea of manufacturing their own blanket coats.

Label closeup

Which brings in my own personal connection. Early in their marriage, my father bought my mother a professionally-manufactured Hudson’s Bay blanket coat. Which I presume left my mom tickled pink, as one of her favourite jobs at that time had been excavating Fort Carlton, an HBC fur-trading post in Saskatchwan which burnt to the ground in the late 1800s. However, it was a dress-coat, and she never wore it very much, saving it for best.

I wish I had a better picture of this coat...

Unfortunately for her (and the coat), I had no such qualms when I got my hands on it as a teenager. I wore the crap out of that coat. I wore it until it cried uncle. I wore out (and patched!) the lining. I ripped the armpits. All of which might have been fixable, but my backpacks have worn the fabric so thin in the back that it’s probably beyond saving. I’m sorry, Mom. I loved that coat. Even though it was shapeless with a waist belt (not a good look for me) and the sleeves were too short (like every other storebought coat I’ve ever owned). It was the direct inspiration for my Czarina Coat.

So, it was only natural that, when I began sewing, I should price out some Hudson’s Bay blankets, just, y’know, for someday.

Ulp.

Um.

Let’s just say the price for a new HBC blanket is, um, a LOTTA beaver pelts.

Which brings me back to my thrift store moment. My heart sank as I fumbled for the price-tag. Value Village may be a thrift store, but they know what they can charge for the good stuff, and there’s no way they’d missed how good this was. Sure enough, $69.99.

WAY more than I was planning to spend that night.

But still about a quarter of the price new.

So now I have an HBC blanket, in my favourite red and black colours.

All I need now is the perfect pattern…

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53 Comments

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53 responses to “Score(?)

  1. What about Wearing History’s blanket coat pattern?

  2. Oh score, indeed! What a great find.

  3. wow. i can’t believe that price tag!!! i wish the thrift shift in wising up had never happened, i blame google. but if i had your skill set i totally would’ve bought it, because you DEFINITELY will make it into a masterpiece!

    • In this case I suspect it’s because the company in charge is much less a charity than it is a for-profit business with a thin charity veneer. I just couldn’t pass it up, though…

  4. Oh I’m so excited for you! How often do you get the chance to modernize and remake one of your all time favorite garments that you wore to shreds? The price might be high for a thrift purchase, but it certainly seems like you’ll get more than your $69.99 worth from it!

    • Exactly! Oddly, it’s easier if I think of it as a fabulous high-end blanket than yardage… after all, I paid that much for my duvet cover (on sale!) and it’s not nearly as awesome.

  5. I read $69.99 and thought whoa… v. pricey! Then I read “quarter of the price new” – flippin’ heck hun, that’s some price for a blanket gulp!

    I think many muslin lie in your future before the shears hit your new acquisition eh ;)?

  6. OMG, for that price I would be terrified to cut into it! Still, an amazing opportunity and I’m sure you’re glad you jumped at it. I’d be hoarding it as a blanket myself but a nice, simple raglan sleeve coat would be awesome.

    I do suggest paying up to get a nice lining. That’ll help the longevity of the coat.

  7. SCORE!!

    omg lucky girl!! My DH is always asking me for a blanket coat. I keep telling him to get me the blanket. lol! I would have bought it too. :D

  8. Definite score – partly because of the story behind it and your connections!
    I have no qualms paying the price if it is something I want that is hard to find. And I’m sure you will turn it into something stunning.
    Mmm, I wonder how much cloth allowance you’ll need on the collar…!

    • A quick experiment with folding two layers around each other suggests 12 or 13 mm… :)

      This is the first time I’ve *ever* seen one of these at the thrift store. Ever. So yeah, I had to jump on it.

  9. It’s a total score given that you know what to do with it and the relative value.

  10. If I could I’d turn green with envy…… I have so wanted one of those darned blankets – actually 3 – one for each DD – but I almost died when I saw the price for a new one! Maybe if I save up enough HBC gift cards…. or get super lucky like you did! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! I can’t wait to see your new coat!

  11. holy crap! what a deal. sometimes you just gotta love good ole VV, doncha? What is the size of the blanket?

    And here is a link for those non Canucks out there.
    http://www.thebay.com/eng/hbccollections-blankets-thebay?gclid=CIDg-6mKlK4CFakbQgodiWndJg

  12. Shams

    I’ve never heard of these blankets but, wow, gorgeous. A wonderful score!!

  13. Oh, what a fantastic find! You’re so lucky and how great is the history behind it? One must love a treasure like this! Btw. I’ve written you about chosing the right jeans-pattern (you answered on my blog) and I’ve decided to go with the Jalie-one. I might have a couple of beginners questions and I wondered if it would be ok, if I send you an email with these? :-) Have a great weekend!

    • Please, ask away! And good luck with the jeans. I made a number of style adjustments the original pattern, so if you’re hoping they will look like mine you might want to check out my oldest jeans posts and my PatternReview review. On the other hand if you want them to look like the pattern ones, go wild! :)

  14. What a great story. Of course it was meant for you! Good luck choosing the perfect pattern.

  15. I have to confess, I was a teeny bit judging when I read that you spent that much on a thrift store blanket…but then I thought about 1cm thick wool, and that it’s red & black (two of my favorite colors to wear!), and the great stories and memories you had associated with that company’s blankets, and that it was a quarter of the original price (!!!), and then I concluded that yes, I would’ve probably done the same thing. Can I just say that I can’t wait to see what you do with it?

  16. Bri

    We use these types of coats in the Historical Village that i work at and yes they’re crazy thick but warm!

  17. sewforward

    Your blanket is worth that and MORE! I have my Grandmother’s Hudson Bay blanket that she brought with her when she emmigrated from Saskatchwan, Canada to the US, I have it on the foot of our bed and it is warm and toasty on cold winter nights . . . well, as cold as Southern California winter nights can get! LOL! Enjoy your blanket and don;t feel guilty about the price! That is the thrill of ‘thrifting’ is finding a ‘gem’ amongst all those dull rocks!

  18. Yay! I’m really excited for you. Also slightly jealous. I just have the much cheaper LL Bean rip off which I still have done nothing with. Guess I’ll have to rely on you for inspiration. I love your blog.

  19. What a score! You’re going to have a great time with this project.

  20. BTW: The wool for my Lady Gray coat cost almost that much and it has no historical meaning for me. A new coat would cost way more than that – as would a new Bay blanket. I think you actually got this for a pretty good price. It’s a fine piece of fabric and you can make it exactly what you want. What price for that?

    • Exactly! What turned me on to making a winter coat in the first place was realizing that the kinds of coat I wanted cost hundreds of dollars… (kinda like the HBC coat, actually ;) )

  21. What an amazing find! I look forward to seeing it become a coat.

  22. Barb

    The blanket is beautiful. I love Hudson Bay wool colors. You are so brave to even think about cutting into that beautiful fabric. I can’t wait to see your results.

  23. HOLY COW what a great find! Even if VV realized what they had and charged that much for it. Still, good price considering what you got! I’m looking forward to seeing your process for converting this into a coat.

    Speaking of coats, time to get back to mine. This thing is like pulling teeth.

  24. :D Congrats on your thrifting luck!

  25. sounds like its worth it. (also, I’m sorry I missed the goldfish post. went back – a pet is a pet no matter the type. although I have to admit cats are better :) I’m glad you’re feeling better, that you kept it from being flushed all those years ago, and am overwhelmed by the idea of a 10″ goldfish.

  26. OH! That’s so awesome! I call that serendipity and I’m so pleased for you!

    Will you try to copy the original coat, or do something else entirely? A Lady Gray? (That style looks so chic on you… maybe lengthen the arms and the skirt part???)

    This post put such a smile on my face.

    • The design will have to be at least somewhat dictated by the amount of fabric, which isn’t huge—there won’t be enough to do something widely flared like the Lady Grey (and I already have a red Lady Grey ;) ). My ideal would be a single-breasted princess seam coat with a modest flare to the skirt, coming to about knee length (OK longer would be great but I highly doubt there’s enough fabric. And I’m not holding off until I score a second blanket.). I’d love to do a hood, but again, I’m doubtful there will be enough fabric.

  27. Sigrid

    SCORE ! I can’t imagine anyone who could rock a blanket coat better than you. I’m pretty fascinated by Metis history/archaeology, and you have a double connection!

  28. Wow! Oh yeah. But sewing with fabric that thick?- it makes me wonder what techniques there are out there for seaming it. Would hinging work like it does for fur (on the brain b/c of MPB these days)? or could you butt the pieces against each other and sandwich w bias binding? hmm… either way you might prefer to be working with as few and as simple seams as possible. I’m sure the right style will show up when you’re ready! Congratulations!

    • Yeah, it will be interesting. Very glad I’ve got a stable of heavy-duty vintage machines to draw from now. The original coat had normal enclosed seams, so it can be done, at least in theory. I have done butted seams before (whether hinged, flat-locked, or sandwiched), but they seem to work best when played up as a design feature, and I’m not sure that’s what’s in my head. Whatever it will be, it will have t have fairly simple lines, as there’s not a huge amount of fabric to play with.

  29. Holy shit – I just checked the link from EllenC and am glad that the retail price does, in this instance, guarantee quality new. That can’t be said for so many things bought these days.

    Nice score. We will not put any pressure on to produce a garment until you are way ready to cut….

    • They are still made in England etc.—so some of what you’re paying is workers who’re actually getting first-world wages. And quality, and no shortage of it, absolutely. I really do hate it when I go for the “next grade up” price-wise and end up with quality just as bad as the bottom rung. >_<

  30. Wow! What a fabulous find on many levels! I can’t believe it was at VV – it was your lucky day. Find that at an antique store and it would be easily $500. We have a 1950′s version without the strips and in a lighter weight which has been used well at our house and it is still ticking.
    I’m looking forward to what you create with it. that’s pretty funny that you wore out your Mom’s coat but I’m surprised she didn’t wear it more as she is a very dresser.
    I made a Linda Lundstrom style jacket (do you know the kind I mean) back when my daughter was 4 (she’s 22 now) and the lining is just now starting to wear out (which distresses me as I sew quilts now not clothes and I’m not sure how to redo it without too much hassle) so quality does win in the long run. I only bring out that sucker when the weather is supremely cold as it is so heavy to wear.
    Good luck and I’ll check back in occasionally to see progress.
    Bernie

    • According to ten minutes’ internet research, the label on my blanket marks it as being produced sometime between 1976 and 2001—so not super-duper vintage, but not brand-spanking new, either. I had to nab it, though—I’ve never, ever seen one at a thrift store before.

      I’m honestly not sure why she didn’t wear it more, either, except that she probably figured it was too good to wear chasing after small children, and by the time she recovered from that phase of life I’d already snatched it. Red was always more my colour than hers, though—she’s more of an orange or brick-red person. I think I wore the jacket for three or four years, but it would’ve been pretty much every day from November through March, and since I was wearing it to Uni much of the time I probably wore it all day while there, too (it made hard lecture theatre seats much comfier). Under the backpack, as well, which was the real kicker. I do feel kinda bad—although I’m sure it’s the same kind of hard use the original blanket coats would’ve had!

  31. ZOMG!!!!!! that’s soooooo awesome and i’m totally envious!!!!!

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