The Alaskan Adventure - 96 Days - 9,541 Miles

Pendleton, Oregon

Wildhorse RV Park on the Umatilla Indian Reservation

August 29 - 30

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The main reason for coming to this part of Washington/Oregon was to see
Boise Cascade's plywood and lumber mills, and Pendleton's wool mill.

The bad news is that Boise Cascade no longer gives factory tours.

The good news is that Pendleton does still give factory tours. They even allow picture taking, only asked that the pictures be taken after the tour so it would not interfere with the tour. That was very unusual, because most factories will not allow any pictures.

We arrived almost a half hour early (we forgot about Mekker time) and a special tour for two other couples was just starting and we were asked to join. Since I was the only one who wanted to take pictures, the guide took Mom and me back into the mill to take pictures where ever we wanted. And she answered more questions and gave us more information as we went. We actually had two tours. After we finished, the regular tour started and they had about 25 people in it. It would have been impossible to ask all of the questions with that large of a group. We were very lucky.

Since the demand for indian blankets became so large, this mill stopped making other products except for indian blankets. It runs 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. They add a sixth day every now and to support fluctuations in demand. It is Pendleton's only mill which produces Indian Blankets. They have many mills all over the US which make other products. I'm sure you have seen their label in wool shirts, jackets and suits.

Our site at the Wildhorse RV Park. Only 17 of 110 sites were occupied. This part of Oregon is very arid. They get very little rain and only water comes from an irrigation system supplied from the Columbia River.
They broke a record while we were here, the temperature got up to 102 degrees. We spent acouple of hours soaking in the warm swimming pool. It was the first time that we had our bathing suits on since the day we went in the hot springs in the Yukon. The time before that was in May in Florida. Mom really missed her summer!

The sign on the front of their mill.
It is the same as the label on their product.

This is the second step in the blanket making process at the mill.
The incoming wool is first washed, bleached, and dyed. Then it is put into the far end of this long machine. They have 5 of these machines side by side. Each one is producing a loosely twisted wool yarn of a different color. This machine is being cleaned and changed over to another color.
You can see all of the aqua colored wool fuzz being removed.

This is an identical machine as the first. It is making orange yarn.
We were able to walk down the side and watch the dyed wool being dropped into a hamper and fed into the far end. This machine keeps combing and combing the wool until it is a very thin blanket of fuzz. This blanket moves into a spinning section which separates the blanket into strips and a loosely spins the yarn on sets of bobbins which are shown here.

There are 8 of these machines. They take the bobbin sets from the first machine and transfer the yarn to individual bobbins each holding 1 pound of yarn. In the process of transferring the yarn it is spun much tighter.

After this step the 1 pound bobbins are placed in an oven and baked at (?) degrees for (?) hours. That is part of the details they will not give out.

5 pound bobbins which are ready for the weaving machines.
After being removed from the oven, the 1 pound bobbins are placed on another machine which transfer the yarn to larger 5 pound bobbins. During the transfer the machine automatically checks the yarn for thickness, removes out of tolerance sections, and combines enough yarn from 1 pound bobbins to make a 5 pound bobbin.

Our guide explaining the operation of the automatic weaving machine.
They have 6 of these older models which make a blanket every 20 minutes. And 4 newer models which make a blanket ever 10 minutes. They have yarn being fed from all different directions. It takes a long time to set up, but once they start, they run for days with only minor stops to add more 5 pound bobbins.
Everything is computer controlled. A memory chip is sent from their design group which contains the pattern being woven.

This is the front of a weaving machine.
You can see the roll of uncut blankets.
The blur on top is yarn being fed into the machine.
The panel on the right is the computer control and display.
There is no operator needed. The machine senses every strand of yarn and stops the machine when a strand breaks or empties.
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