A collaboration between the University of Idaho Sheep Center and students in the U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has resulted in a uniquely Idaho product.
An idea to honor retiring U of I shepherd Dave Casebolt turned into an opportunity for apparel, textiles and design students to create a blanket utilizing wool from the sheep that Casebolt spent so many years caring for.
Jeremy Falk, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Education, Leadership and Communications, and Dino Vinci, manager of the U of I Sheep Center, contacted Lori Wahl, senior instructor in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences, in summer 2020 to discuss products that could be produced with wool from the center.
Wahl had an interest in developing textile products from wool produced by the U of I flock and brought the project to students enrolled in her design and development for a client class.
“I was looking for clients, so the timing was really serendipitous,” Wahl said. “This is a great project to roll in because it’s so different from our other client projects we’re working on. Once a mill had been identified and we had our design parameters, it was really easy to setup a design project.”
Falk and Vinci identified a mill in Buffalo, Wyoming, Mountain Meadow Wool, that could turn raw wool from the Sheep Center into a blanket. The design parameters given to the students were to use Vandal colors and represent the Vandal fight song.
The selected design is a gold, gray, black and natural undyed-wool striped pattern that represents the chorus of the Vandal fight song, a tribute to the old wooden panels of the Kibbie Dome that featured a computer-generated version of the tune. The design was created by U of I students Nick Strader, Margaret Zee, Madison Machen, Adrianna Kauffman and Debra Siemens in fall 2020.
Making the blanket even more Idaho-centric is the breed of sheep used. The wool came from Polypay/Targhee crosses — two breeds developed at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois and raised by Casebolt at U of I.
The final product arrived on campus in fall 2021 and was presented to Casebolt during an Idaho Wool Growers Association meeting held at the Sheep Center. Future ideas involve creating designs for scarves, beanies and mittens that could be sold at the VandalStore.
“This year we are testing the relationship with the mill, feasibility of the product, and assessing final cost of the product” Wahl said. “In Fall 2022 when I teach the class again, we are hoping to expand to scarf and mitten designs.”
Wool fibers are combed and aligned for spinning in a process called pindrafting that produces roving.
The final product is presented to retired U of I shepherd Dave Casebolt by current shepherd Dino Vinci.