Weaving Wool into Scholarships

Weaving Wool into Scholarships

(Nov. 1, 2013) Jackrabbit fans will be able to snuggle up in yellow and blue this winter while providing some green to South Dakota State University (SDSU) students. 

A new scholarship effort was announced Friday, Sept. 27, that will be funded by the sale of scarves, stadium blankets and queen-sized blankets made from wool sheared by South Dakota sheep producers and designed by SDSU students and faculty.

Proceeds will fund scholarships in the Colleges of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Education and Human Sciences.

 Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences, made the announcement at the South Dakota Sheep Growers convention in Brookings.

“SDSU Signature Wool”
Dunn hopes that “SDSU Signature Wool” will become as highly regarded among consumers as SDSU ice cream. “I saw the success of SDSU ice cream in tying the college and agriculture and consumers together in a very positive way and I wanted to copy that with a product that ties consumers to South Dakota State and the sheep producers in the same way.”

IMPACT 2018, the university’s strategic plan, calls for colleges to increase their scholarship funds. “This is an effort to fulfill that mission,” Dunn said. “Although products are priced very modestly, we will generate scholarships for next year.

Produced in Minnesota, the initial order at Faribault (Minn.) Woolen Mills, produced 500-600 scarves, 300 to 400 stadium blankets and 150 to 200 queen-sized blankets, according to Patty DeZeeuw, of Elkton, a member of Dunn’s advisory board and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association. Prices are $60 for scarves, $140 for a stadium blanket and $250 for a queen-sized blanket.

Project coordinators DeZeeuw and Mary Held initially met with Dennis Melchert, vice president of research and product development at Faribault Woolen Mill, last fall to determine if the project was feasible and to discuss the steps that would need to be taken to implement the project.

Sheep Growers got First Look
DeZeeuw and Held have been shepherding the project for more than a year, involving many people, including Larry Prager of Center of the Nation Wool in Belle Fourche.
He was instrumental in making sure that the proper wool was selected for each of the products, DeZeeuw said. The wool then had to be shipped to San Angelo, Texas, for scouring and back to Faribault for the processing. 

It has also involved five visits to the woolen mill. Besides the couple of trips to develop the project, two were also made while the project was being manufactured. She made three visits to the woolen mill. “Once, when they were making wool into yarn, once, when they were weaving the scarves and blankets, and then on Saturday (Sept. 14) to pick up product,” said DeZeeuw, noting almost all of the wool is from South Dakota.

It takes one pound of clean wool to make one scarf, four pounds for a stadium blanket and eight pounds for a queen-sized blanket.

One shearing produces 10-12 pounds of raw wool. Sheep growers were able to see what their sacks of wool became at the Taste of Lamb event at the Innovation Village in Brookings. It was the opening day for the 76th South Dakota Sheep Growers convention.

Sheep producers were asked to help support the project by making a donation to offset the cost of purchasing the wool for the first order, DeZeeuw said.

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