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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…