The Warm Blanket of Friendship–Literally: Button Blankets

You’re about to turn 60…or 70. Your friends gather in secret. They spend hours (and hours and hours) preparing a surprise. There are no balloons involved, no h’ors d’oevres, no dancers jumping out of cakes. Your friends are making you a button blanket.

This idea, borrowed from the Native cultures of the Pacific Northwest, is vibrant on my island. Just how vibrant stunned me, though. I had heard of it, even been invited to participate in the production of one (which I had to miss, due to traveling). But not until I saw a display at our community library did I realize how deeply blanketed in friendship we Lopezians are.

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This badger blanket (for my singin’ buddy Kenny), features wool made from Lopez sheep, because Kenny likes to make things out of wool felt.

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Some of the “totem animals” of the person being gifted are very NON-Northwestern, like my friend Polly’s giraffe:

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Sometimes the totem isn’t an animal at all, but some other important symbol:

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I think the “gifted” person’s spouse/partner is usually involved in choosing the symbol, but it could also be done by group consensus. I don’t know, but you can bet next time I’m invited, I will happily join in. Here’s a picture of the process:

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Unfortunately, I can’t credit the photographer, since it wasn’t attributed at the exhibit. But if it’s Pamela Maretsen, the chief craftsperson/designer, then–kudos, Pamela, and thanks not only for making this tradition happen, but for lighting the fire to spread it.

Of course, as soon as you see these blankets, you start dreaming: what would mine look like? If anyone, like, you know, ever decided to gift me with one?

How about a frog? Frogs are cool...

How about a frog? Frogs are cool…


The whole process is very Zen-like. You can’t ask for one. You can’t buy one–at least not that I’ve ever heard. You probably shouldn’t even THINK about one, or wish for one. You should probably just go about the business of being a good person, and one day your friends just might decide to show their love this way:

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I’ve heard of groups of friends making quilts for each other, in the South and the Midwest especially. But I’ve never heard of it being done in secret, and I’ve never heard of men’s being involved.

So I’m wondering: does this happen in other small communities, or groups of friends? Maybe not blankets, but something similar? I would love to see this tradition spread. Maybe, somewhere, it already is? I would love to hear.

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