Monday, July 4, 2011

Crafting with Kids: Miniature Burlap Point Blankets

The Hudson Bay Company (HBC) Point Blanket is a Canadian icon, originating from the 16th century  North American fur trade.

I was happy to see in the most recent edition of Hello (Canadian edition), there is a photo taken in 1951 of then Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Calgary Stampede keeping warm under a point blanket.
(Image via Hello)
Last week, I was so excited when Ohdeedoh posted an image from Canadian House & Home with a point blanket peaking out from a tent.  {The post was actually about reading nooks}

Historian Harold Tichenor has a very interesting site about the blanket's extraordinary history (there is also a 2004 CBC interview with Mr. Tichenor here).  You may recall the Martha Stewart (who is a collector of these blankets) episode when Wendy Mullin refashioned a point blanket into a poncho {this was a little controversial to some commenters, however, historically as Mr. Tichenor points out the blanket was used more as an article of clothing than bedding).

I have wanted to work a point blanket-inspired project into our kids' crafting activities for a long time.  Over the Canada Day Long Weekend, I visited my BFF and I got our kids together (there were 7 kids, aged 1-8)! and had a little crafting session while the one year old napped.  We also reminisced about how my BFF's mother wore a wool point blanket coat in the early 80s. 

The standard four colour blanket was introduced in the 1800s. This is the most recognizable blanket and the one which inspired our craft.  Below is some information from HBC concerning the meaning of the stripes.

"What do the colours of the stripes mean?Nothing intentional. The four traditional colours (green, red, yellow and indigo) were simply colours that were popular and easily produced using good colourfast dyes at the time that the multistripe blanket was introduced about 1800. These four colours are sometimes known as Queen Anne's colours since they first became popular during her reign (1702 - 1714).
However, these colours have always had special significance for aboriginal people, who were, after all, HBC's original customers. Green is taken to mean "new life", red often stands for "battle or hunt", yellow relates to "harvest" and "sunshine" and blue represents "water". Aboriginal people were very discerning, and colour patterns frequently changed to meet their requirements.
The earliest reference to the multistripe pattern is from a 1798 order from the London HQ to Thomas Empson of Witney (Oxfordshire) for "30 pairs of 3 points to be striped with four colours (red, blue, green, yellow) according to your judgment." The modern "order" of the stripes - green, red, yellow and indigo - was not standardized until the mid to late 19th c."

Burlap (we cut ours to 8 X 10 inches)
Paint (Deco art red, navy, green and yellow)
Paint Brushes
Masking tape to mask off the edges
Best to work on a covered surface, such as newspaper (the paint can seep through)

1. Cut the burlap to the desired size and mask off the stripes.

2. Your child can then paint the stripes as they see fit.

3. Let the burlap dry outside.
4. Peel off masking tape
5. Optional: If desired, zig zag stitch 3/4 inch around the rectangle to allow for a fray edged
I found this to be such an easy and memorable crafting experience and a great introduction (albeit small) to the North American fur trade.

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  1. Another great heritage-based project!

  2. What an interesting project, KJ. Great teaching tool. I had no idea that these were called point blankets. Thanks for the history lesson :)

  3. So interesting! I will never look at these stripey blankets in the same way any more. They didn't have the choices we have now.

  4. What a neat project - and a great series of photos to share the history of the the photo of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip at the Calgary Stampede.

  5. How fun that you were able to find a photo of Elizabeth and Philip to help educate us. Your heritage projects are always such an inspiration. Your kiddos will have so many special memories crafting with you.

  6. I love these blankets, but never knew the history. Thanks for the lesson. The colors are great!


  7. I'm a very bad Canadian. Before reading your post I knew little to none of the facts you've "pointed" out. Thanks for making me a better Canadian KJ, good stuff!

  8. What a fun project...and I learned something new! Even better.

  9. This was quite educational post KJ! I didn't know about the blanket's history either!
    And a phenomenal craft project for the kids, too!

  10. What a wonderful project and cultural lesson! I'm always looking for things like this - fun and educational.

  11. What a neat and educational project to do with your children.

  12. what a great project! Thanks for sharing! I found your blog through a link party and LOVE it! I am your newest follower and would love it if you would check out my blog and follow me too! Thanks!

  13. I have my grandparents' Hudson Bay blanket--thank you for this post and the links you shared. Now I will pull my blanket out and share this history with my boys, and we'll be trying your project!


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