From Flock to Fabric: How the Hettinger REC Sheep Flock is Contributing to Student Success

In the fall of 2020, NDSU unveiled a product that is a must for all Bison fans. Made with wool from NDSU’s Hettinger Research Extension Center flock of sheep, the NDSU Tartan blankets are warm, soft and uniquely NDSU through and through.  

Available exclusively at the NDSU Bookstore, the wool blankets are the finished product of the “From Flock to Fabric: Weaving Scholarship into The Fabric of Student Success” project organized by NDSU’s College of Human Sciences and Education and College of Agriculture, Food Systems and Natural Resources.  

“Proceeds support student scholarships in NDSU’s Department of Animal Sciences and Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Interior Design and Hospitality Management,” says David Buchanan, NDSU College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources associate dean. “To date, this project has generated more than $3,400.00 for student scholarships.”  

The story of the blankets began two years ago, when Hettinger REC Director, Chris Schauer, first suggested a project using NDSU wool with the NDSU Tartan pattern.  

Founded in 1909, the Hettinger REC has owned a flock of sheep since 1944.  

The project got rolling in early 2020, when approximately 175 head of Rambouillet sheep at the center were shorn to provide about 1,800 pounds of wool.  

“The wool was tested to be 22.5 microns,” says Schauer. “Wool of this quality provides a blanket that is both strong and warm – a perfect combination for outdoor use at football games or as a blanket for a picnic.”  

“The wool in these blankets is the result of 76 years of breeding and selection for sheep that provide meat and wool while serving the research needs of agriculture producers in North Dakota,” Schauer says.  

In June of 2020, the wool was shipped to the Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo, Wyoming, to be spun into yarn. From there, the next step was the Faribault Woolen Mill in Faribault, Minnesota, where the yarn was woven.  

The blankets are 50 inches wide by 72 inches in length, with a 2-inch fringe.  

The yarn was dyed by hand, which gives an artisan look to the colorations. Each blanket will have its own individual shading, but all will be woven with the same NDSU Tartan pattern, which was created by an NDSU student in 2011. The Tartan pattern is used extensively as a product development project in courses in the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Interior Design and Hospitality Management.  

“I’m extremely proud of this particular product because it is the result of all things NDSU,” says Sara Sunderlin, senior lecturer of apparel, merchandising, interior design and hospitality management. “It was created by a team of NDSU people, and all aspects are 100 percent American made. It is a special product that will be loved for many years by NDSU alumni and fans.”  

“NDSU alumni and friends can display Bison pride in their homes and pass this heirloom quality blanket on to future generations of NDSU alumni,” she said. “The people who purchase these blankets also will know that they are directly supporting NDSU students.”  

In addition to wool blankets, wool pillows featuring the NDSU Tartan pattern also have been released. In the fall of 2021, green and yellow beanies will be available using wool yarn from Hettinger’s flock.  

Though future wool products are anticipated, only an estimated 60 blankets remain available for purchase.  

“By providing a raw product like wool, that can be transformed into something useful, we are helping people connect with the land-grant mission of NDSU,” says Schauer. “This wool helps tell agriculture’s story in a unique way.”  

FOR MORE INFORMATION:  

NDSU Custom Yarn and Dye Project video  

Chris Schauer, 701-567-4323, christopher.schauer@ndsu.edu  

David Buchanan, 701-231-7426, david.s.buchanan@ndsu.edu

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