The University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Wool Initiative’s 2022 limited-edition wool throw is now available for sale online.
The blankets are made with wool from UW’s sheep flock in Laramie and manufactured at the Mountain Meadow Wool Mill in Buffalo.
Proceeds from blanket sales are used to support student internships and graduate assistantships; travel for wool judging competitions; and research and development for wool processing and manufacturing.
A new blanket design is released annually. Nicknamed “Wyoming Gold,” this year’s throw was designed by Lindsay Conley-Stewart, manager and project coordinator for the Wyoming Wool Initiative.
The initiative is a nonprofit effort supported by the UW College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources; UW Extension; Mountain Meadow Wool; and other partners. Its mission is to lead innovative research and programming that promote and expand Wyoming’s sheep industry.
“With supply chains being disrupted and the world changing so quickly, the timing is right to take a different look at how we add value to our wool clip,” says Whit Stewart, head of the UW Sheep Program and co-founder of the initiative. “What if we expanded markets and allowed producers to get involved in the value-added phase?”
His quest to help Wyoming get more for its wool began in 2021 with a pile of warm, durable and 100 percent Wyoming-made wool throws. The pilot program proved successful, with 300 blankets purchased by patrons in 29 states across the U.S. and internationally.
Making a product in Wyoming from start to finish is already an accomplishment, but the Wyoming Wool Initiative is taking it a step further, using blockchain technology to document stages of production.
Blockchain is a digitized database that is shared and modified cryptographically, with the goal of improving product traceability, says Courtney Newman, a UW graduate student from Fort Collins, Colo.
“We began this project with the goal of bringing more value back to the farmgate so that producers can see the return on all of their hard work raising American lamb and wool,” she says.
Dates, details and processing information were recorded for each of the five stages of blanket production: shearing, first-stage processing, dyeing, spinning and knitting.
Blankets can be ordered online at bit.ly/wy-blanket-project-2022. Upon purchasing a blanket, a customer can enter the blanket’s number on www.sheepchain.org and trace its production journey. Videos of each processing stage also are available.
University of Wyoming Extension