Saving a Pendleton

You might think this shirt is just a run-of-the-mill {that pun is oh-so-intended} plaid wool shirt. But it isn’t. It’s a vintage shirt that my husband, Brian, bought from a thrift store when he was in college in the 80s. It’s a Pendleton, a real Pendleton Woolen Mills shirt, which has always been considered a fabulous find in the thrifting world. This vintage Pendleton is his favorite shirt EVER. Here is the label on the inside:

vintage pendleton label

What’s cool to me is that this shirt had a life before Brian owned it. The cleaning label has a date of 1960. This shirt was around for at least 25 years before Brian bought it! And he has owned it for at least 25 years. That’s a pretty high quality product, if you ask me. A shirt that can withstand 50 years of use. Wow. I wish everything in the world was crafted this way!

vintage pendleton cleaning label

You can imagine Brian’s dismay when, after over 50 years of use, his prized Pendleton developed a hole in the elbow. It was just worn thin.

vintage pendleton hole in elbow

He knew he didn’t want to give up on the shirt that had seen him through his entire adult life, so he found some suede elbow patches online. I sewed them on for him. It took a lot longer than I thought it would. Even with the stitching holes pre-drilled, I had to pay attention. There was no watching Downton Abbey while sewing. {So of course I waited until after Downton Abbey to sew!} I used an embroidery hoop and pinned the patch in two spots to hold it in place. I had already removed the pins when I took the embroidery hoop photo.

suede elbow patches

vintage pendleton elbow patch

Here is the Pendleton now:

vintage Pendleton with suede elbow patches

It has a more professorial look with the elbow patches, doesn’t it? Brian loves it and will be able to continue wearing this shirt for many more years.

vintage pendleton with elbow patches

This upcycle was incredibly rewarding. It was an honor to save an item that was made so well that it had withstood decades of use before needing a relatively minor repair. If everything in our lives could be created with this level of mindfulness toward high quality, we would need a lot less stuff.

Pendleton Woolen Mills shirt with elbow patches

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26 Responses to Saving a Vintage Pendleton

  1. Susan says:

    Oh my gosh! I love it! That turned out great!

  2. Carol jemison says:

    Great job! The shirt and Brian are troopers…both holding up well.

    • Betsy says:

      Thanks, Carol. Yes, Brian and the Pendleton go way back. He’s owned several others over the years, too, but this one is by far his favorite. He’d probably buy 10 more just like it if he could, just to be sure that he’ll always have one. The combination of timeless styling and great craftsmanship can’t be beat.

  3. Very good save Betsy! That was a great find and a great repair. Did you also reinforce the tear on the inside? If not I suggest that you add a sturdy comfortable patch to the inside as well to stop anymore fraying of the hole. This could be hand sewn from the inside (but not catching your pretty patches) or even just ironed on inside as well. Good luck and happy Brian!

  4. teenah says:

    love the elbow patches on this shirt!

  5. BETSY – Congratulations on getting your idea posted to the Pendleton site thru Facebook!! Proud of you!!

  6. Tommy says:

    I’m doing the exact same thing right now on my ’60s Pendleton! Darn elbow holes!

  7. Good for you! My son-in-law has made a business of restoring vintage American made clothing. You might enjoy seeing Greenwich Vintage…he is doing upscaling of great looking men’s shoes right now…fun! I have always been “mad for plaid”!

  8. Donna Wilkes says:

    I have always saved wool blankets, but never thought of looking for the shirts! Great save.

  9. Great idea and I love the shirt! My husband has a sweater he loves to wear and the elbow patches are a great idea to save it. I had thought of them but haven’t sewn for so long, didn’t feel confident to make them from scratch. Thanks for the post and idea!

  10. Emily Benson says:

    I love this idea. My husband loves elbow pads. I could definitely do this do some of his shirts.

  11. Wow, what a clever idea. I love it!

    Already your follower hopping by, blogging @

  12. Hey! Thanks for linking up your awesome and inspiring project. Come visit us and link up another project next week in our Saturday Showcase!

    Have a good week,

  13. I absolutely agree, there is no sewing during Downton Abbey time!! I love that show :)

    This is great, I love that that shirt has lasted 50 years, and will last several more now! Thanks so much for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday.

    Also, if you haven’t already seen it, I’m giving away a copy of a new gluten free Paleo cookbook giveaway so please swing by and enter to win a copy or Primal Cuisine :)

    • Betsy says:

      Thanks, Danielle! We have to keep our priorities straight when it comes to Downton Abbey! It’s currently the only new show we watch on tv – everything else is reruns or movies.

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