About Bison Down - An Interview with Ron Miskin & Theresa Miskin - Buffalo Wool Company
American Made Since 2011
Seriously Warm- Surprisingly Soft. Fine yarns, garments & accessories from the downy undercoat of the American Plains Bison. We look at these garments as "Survival Essentials".
Quick facts about Bison fiber The hairs are made up of five hairs, the outer guard hairs are hollow, course and a micron count that starts at 21 and go upward. But it is the super-soft undercoat of the downy hair that we use for our premium bison down products. The "down" micron count is between 14-18. The hair contains no lanolin, which is the source of many wool allergies, making it an excellent allergy-free fiber. Buffalo down is a very warm, insulating fiber that is warm and comfortable to wear..
Care of Bison: Bison fiber is bison tough, our gear can be machine washed in warm water and dried in the dryer on gentle cycle. Machine washing will create a soft halo to your garment. Should you choose not to create the halo effect, hand wash and lay flat to dry.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS:The Buffalo Wool Co. family has been raising bison for almost 30 years, and for most of it, they watched them run around the pastures, get quite fluffy in the winter and then shaggy and scruffy when shedding the undercoat in the spring. This soft downy fiber got everywhere, and we would collect it from the fences, briars and even in the blackberry bushes. We would collect the "down" and toss it into a box in the barn. The National Bison Association issued an informal challenge to ranchers, hoping to find a way to increase the value of producing bison commercially. My father put this box of fluff on Ebay wondering if it had any value. The bidding got fierce, and this 3 lb box of smelly old bison down sold for over $300... Of course, we started asking questions, and learned that bison down is prized for its softness, warmth, durability, and moisture wicking properties. We have been experimenting and learning ever since, working with bison ranchers & fiber producers across the U.S.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK SPACE, SHOP, OR STUDIO:We have converted and added on to our house and garage, implementing a shop, dye studio, and office. We also have a mobile Buffalo Wagon, "Ms. Betsy" a converted Hostess Twinkie truck, that we use to tour around the country to let people see and touch our wares in person. We do work with small mills around the U.S. who help create our gloves, hats, socks, and scarves.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?Watching the animals roam our land is almost therapy, they are truly native to our country, and so adapted to all our different environments, from Alaska down to Mexico City. We also get inspiration from the people who use and need our products as well. There is nothing more exciting than having a customer come back and tell us, "I have tried everything to keep me warm and comfortable, and in your bison down products, I have finally found it." This keeps us innovating and making new products.
WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS STAND OUT?We are not that different from many small producers trying to make things here in this country, and face many of the same challenges. We just try do it with something that has never been commercially successful. There have been several attempts at making bison down viable, but with shortages of raw materials, technological difficulties, and just sheer expense, all have failed, (up to now). We are determined, resilient, and just crazy enough to take the risks we have. We will make this succeed!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AN ASPIRING CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR?Buffaloism: Stand your ground, have a tough hide, and let the chips fall where they may.
WHAT DOES AMERICAN MADE MEAN TO YOU?American Made means keeping textile traditions here. The original Buffalo Wool Co. was founded in 1821 in Red River Manitoba, (not technically U.S. but still America) We try celebrate our heritage and try to keep spinning mills here, glove makers making gloves, blanket knitters knitting blankets.
American Bison - Keeps you warm and Dry:
Bison down pulls moisture vapor to the surface of the fabric. It can absorb up to 100% of its own weight in moisture before you feel wet. Bison down also doesn't lose its insulating ability when it is soaked. It stays warm and comfortable.
Bison fiber has an exceptionally high warmth-to-weight ratio. The fine lightweight fibers give you all the warmth of a heavy sweater without the builk.
It's self-extinguishing and, unlike synthetics, it won't melt and stick to your skin. So, it will keep you safe around the campfire.