American Buffalo Products

The Creation of a New Business & a New Industry
By Ruth Huffman Smoke Signals, February 1998

I bought a knitting machine knowing almost nothing about knitting, and I joined a knitting club. Thus began an adventure that I never dreamed in my wildest imagination would go in the direction that it has.

I have always had an affinity for natural fibers because they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Also, in my opinion, they have a rich look about them that synthetic's just don't have. As I searched for the fibers I wanted to knit with, I found that I was surrounded by some of the finest natural fibers in the world right here in Texas.

As I worked with these natural fibers, I quickly began producing the most elegant garments from these natural fibers. I have a natural ability to produce garments without patterns and have been sewing my own clothes since the fifth grade. What I have been doing with fabrics all of my life, I was now doing with knits with the help of my knitting club. The elegant and classical look is the trade mark of my garments, but these natural fibers produce a look and feel that exceed anything that I have imagined before I began.

Needing to work , I began to think of having a custom made to order knitting business. In the summer of 1993 I walked into a new organic cotton T-shirt shop wearing my first Fox Fibre cotton suit. The owner was very impressed with the garment and told me about he new organization called Naturally Texas.
That year I decided to start my custom made-to-order knitting business using natural fibers. I entered two garments into the first Naturally Texas Fashion Show held in Dallas. As result of the show, my company was written up in Women's Wear Daily as one of the designers who won applause at the show.

Through my knitting club, there were discussions on how hand spinners have made all kinds of fibers to knit with. Janice Elliot, who did beautiful work for a sweater company and who later designed the white buffalo on the buffalo poncho, mentioned the possibility of spinning buffalo hair. I began to read about the growing buffalo herds, I followed up on the idea of spinning buffalo hair with about a year of research.

The bison adventure has been a very exciting one. The more I learned about this animal and its by-products, which can be some of the softest and most exotic items found anywhere on earth, the more I grew to love the bison and realize what a magnificent American classic we have. I should also add, in a age where people are watching how much fat they eat, the bison provides some of the purest, leanest and most healthy meat anywhere.
During the s research, I discovered the National Bison Association and Canadian Bison Association who introduced me to a number of key people and sent mo on my way. Through them I found a man in Colorado who had been collecting buffalo hair for three years. I called the in Colorado and bought all of hi s 1,000 pounds of buffalo hair. I flew to Colorado, bought and packed up the hair and sent it to a mill to be cleaned. Since then there is a new industry forming to produce shaved bison hair. Before, the buffalo industry was burning the hair off the hides when they wanted only the hides.

The process of producing a yarn out of this hair was another adventure. I had to produce a certain kind of yarn in order to do what I wanted. It took months to find a mill to do what I wanted. When I found a mill and they discovered that they were successful in producing this first time yarn, I was told that cheers from the people who were working in the mill and those touring the mill could be heard for blocks away over the success of the new exotic buffalo yarn.

This exotic Buffalo fiber comes from the soft downy fleece that grows underneath the long coarse hair of the buffalo and is the natural brown color of the bison. It is the first time ever that 100% Buffalo down has been commercially produced into fine and elegant knit wear.
I unveiled these New Buffalo Knits in Dallas to a crowd of 300 people. There was a great enthusiasm over this product. As a result of the fashion show, an article on this new product appeared in the 1996 March issue of Women's Wear Daily. Now, plans are being made introduce bison product on the New York Market for the first time. Also, the high end South American market is presently looking with much interest. The first products produced were soft mufflers for around the neck an throws for the couch. Now capes, ponchos, coats, hats and mittens are being produced with some custom made to order ensembles. The bison down feels similar to cashmere, but it is thicker, fluffier and according to the spinner stronger than cashmere. Also, the bison hair does not have lanolin in it, therefore moths should not bother it. As the bison gave the Indians their livelihood long ago, they are giving to us today a one of a kind product that I feel the whole world will seek after in the future. LONG LIVE OUR AMERICAN CLASSIC, THE AMERICAN BUFFALO.

  The Spirit of America