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Sheep-to Shelf; An Intricate Process

October 31, 2019 3 min read

Sheep-to Shelf; An Intricate Process

Making quality apparel is tough. Making it in the United States is even more difficult. Making quality apparel in the USA out of your own raw materials is so difficult that very few companies even attempt it. This is why we created Duckworth. We firmly believe that the wool we grow is too good to blend with other wool. Like a fine wine, we cultivate and produce a limited amount of wool every year, to be used exclusively for Duckworth apparel. This is Sheep-to-Shelf™

Raw wool

Duckworth Montana merino wool garments all begin with the sheep. The Rambouillet sheep spend their winters at the Helle Ranch in Dillon, MT, about a mile above sea level. For three months every summer, the bands of sheep make their journey along the Sheep Trail to the high mountain pastures above 9,500 feet in the Gravelly Range of Southwest Montana. The extreme temperature and altitude changes in Montana produce merino wool with a longer staple length, more crimp, and greater curvature.   These characteristics are ideal for premiere wool garments. 


As winter turns to spring, the sheep are shorn. This is an all hands-on- deck effort at the ranch. Even the Duckworth office staff heads down to the ranch to chip in where we can. Technicians from the Montana State University Wool Lab are on hand to measure and grade each fleece. The MSU Wool Lab is one of two university wool labs in the US, the other at Texas A & M University. Using theOFDA 2000, the technicians determine the quality, micron, and comfort factor of each fleece. Once rated, the individual fleece is grouped with others like it to be shipped for processing.  


The 500-pound bales of raw wool are then sent to South Carolina to be cleaned and turned intotop. Top is basically clean wool ready to be made into yarn.  We process all of our top at one time to ensure we control the process from start to finish. The process starts with washing and drying the raw wool. The wool then goes through a series of combing steps to remove any non-water-soluble particles and align the fibers. At the end of the carding process, the wool is divided into strips and put on large spools called roving.


The roving is sent to several yarn spinning factories depending on what product it will be made into. Roving comes off the cards with no twist. The spinning frames add twist, giving the yarn strength as it is wound on spools. We have created several unique yarns with our wool that are then knit into fabrics.  


Once spun, the yarn heads to facilities in the Carolina's, New York, and New Jersey to be knit into fabrics.  A mix of knitting techniques and yarn sizing create knitted fabrics calledgriege. Once compete, the griege fabric is packaged in large rolls and sent to dyeing.


Part science and part art, the dyeing and finishing process completes the fabric package. Merino wool takes dye differently than synthetics. Our team works hard to be consistent in the coloration, but one of the many subtleties of merino is that every fiber will take dye differently. This gives the final fabric a one-of-a kind uniqueness.  

Cut & Sew

The finished fabric then heads to North Carolina, Nevada, or Illinois, depending on the final garment. We partner with factories that are centered in communities, pay living wages, and treat their teams well.  Each garment is hand-built with pride. After final inspection, the finished goods are shipped back to Montana and ready to be sent out to Duckworth customers globally.

The Duckworth Sheep-to-Shelf™ process ensures we control every step of our supply chain. Although it creates many challenges, our team feels this is the best way to deliver the highest quality products to our customers. The 5th generation ranchers have become experts in creating some of the finest Merino wool in the world. Duckworth is built on a small and passionate team that cares about sustainability and quality. By using Montana wool and keeping our production in the United States, we take thousands of miles out of the conventional global supply chain.It’s not easy, but we take pride in our process.