Where to acquire Ethnic Wool Blankets...?
November 12, 2012 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Apologies for the title; I'm in love with the style of patterned wool blankets that are typically marketed as "navajo", "indian", "afghani", "nepalese", "mongolian", "oaxacan", "peruvian", "bulgarian" etc etc etc. As far as I'm concerned they're all beautiful. But where can I find them for less than $100 per piece? I'm assuming if these are made by people in the aformentioned places, they don't sell them for US$100. Does one need to be rich and/or travel around the world just to get some pretty blankets?
posted by oneous to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Previously (i.e. search eBay and etsy for "pendleton blanket"). Another search term is "saddleblanket".
posted by caek at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2012

Well, if you figure the "per hour" labor rate, $100 is a pretty good price.

But I've found them for very cheap used on craigslist.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:45 AM on November 12, 2012

Pendleton is a good search term, too.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:46 AM on November 12, 2012

Check Novica's "Blankets and Throws" section. Buying from Novica directly supports the person who makes the item, too.
posted by erst at 9:47 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Old blankets are collected in the same way rugs and are. Many can be very, very expensive!
posted by heigh-hothederryo at 9:49 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can buy cheap machine-made replicas just about anywhere, if cost is the most important factor.
posted by elizardbits at 9:52 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

In my experience they are expensive locally, actually. They're handmade and there's a lot of labor involved, and that's a significant source of income to some populations. Your best for on the cheap is likely craigslist or eBay.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:35 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I traveled through New Mexico and Arizona a few years ago, and stopped at a trading post in Gallup - the prices for Navajo or other Native American blankets of any appreciable size were quite high (although, figuring an hourly rate for the time it took to create them, not totally unrealistic), although the pricing seemed to be more of a starting point for bargaining than an actual "price". However, the starting prices were so high that it seems impossible to bargain them down to $100 or below (IIRC, blankets and large baskets were generally in the $1000 range).
posted by LionIndex at 11:12 AM on November 12, 2012

Ten Thousand Villages prices various bedspreads and throws at $150-300 apiece (Link) and I think they have a reputation for giving a good living wage to their suppliers.
posted by cranberrymonger at 11:18 AM on November 12, 2012

If you like Pendleton blankets in particular, see if they have an outlet mall store near you.

Also check out Welsh blankets/tapestries. Lovely.

They won't have the ethnic patterns, but you can get simple wool blankets (which are beautiful in their own right) in your price range from Hamilton Dry Goods http://www.hamiltondrygoods.com/civil-war/blankets/. I've referenced this list of plaid wool blanket sources over the years too: http://www.katyelliott.com/blog/2009/01/plaid-wool-blankets-from-faribault-mills.html

Search around for Otomi textiles -- they are also awesome. This store on eBay sells bedspreads for more than $100 but I swear I've seen them for less. http://stores.ebay.com/Mexican-Textiles-Museum-Store. Or maybe they've just gone up in value because of lots of attention in the design world.

This is not answering your question, but just my two cents -- it's worth saving up for the real thing in the cases of 100% wool, handwoven blankets. They will retain their value for resale and/or become a thing you can pass down to the next generation.
posted by kmel at 11:32 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, if you actually travel to these places, you can sometimes get these types of items for drastically cheaper than they go for in the West. I have a (small and very simple, possibly machine-made) Turkish kilim rug that cost about $100 in Istanbul, but which would probably sell for double or triple that back home. I went to India a few years ago and came home with piles of interesting local textiles -- many handcrafted -- for pennies. I spent about $20 for a hand-embroidered Kashmiri shawl that is one of the most beautiful objects I own.

People travel to these places, snap up cheap handicrafts, and import them into the US at a huge markup. Seriously unbelievably huge if you're talking about a name brand store like Anthropologie or West Elm.

That said, there are ways to get them cheaper. Flea markets and eBay are good if you live in a place where this stuff is not widely available. Especially if you live in an area where people don't know that it's "trendy". If you live in a big city, especially one with large immigrant communities, you might be able to find what you want at locally owned small businesses that cater to those communities. Look in local ethnic enclaves. If you live in a more white-bread area, shops that cater to hippies and alternative subcultures often have this stuff, too, though it won't be quite as cheap and tends to be distinctly hippie-ish.

The great thing about this stuff, though, is that you don't need much of it. It's better to have a few pieces you really love than treat it like fast fashion and get a pendleton blanket today, a suzani coverlet tomorrow, and a Peruvian manta next week. Part of why I buy textiles as souvenirs when I travel is that they'll be things I treasure, as opposed to whatever dumb tourist trinkets.
posted by Sara C. at 9:04 PM on November 12, 2012

Try searching for "ikat." That may yield some interesting pieces for you.
posted by E3 at 10:05 PM on November 12, 2012

Be careful with "ikat". When it became trendy a few years ago, companies started using the term very loosely. I definitely wouldn't buy anything online that was described as "ikat" unless it was from some kind of specific ethnic handicrafts collective or something.

(Or unless you like it for what it is, of course. But ikat is definitely something you want to do research on if you're looking for the genuine article. Suzani, too, now -- I'm seeing a lot of block printed cotton calling itself "suzani", which is just straight up NOT what suzani is.)
posted by Sara C. at 10:21 PM on November 12, 2012

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