Faribault Woolen Mill Rings in 150 Years with a Modern New Collection

Since its founding in Faribault, Minnesota, in 1865, Faribault Woolen Mill has been celebrated for its handcrafted wool blankets, throws, and scarves. Its goods are sold by major retailers including furniture store West Elm, Beams Department Stores in Japan, retailer Steve Allen, and clothing and home goods store Garnet Hill, plus about 400 smaller shops around the country. In the past year, the brand saw its profile rise even higher with collaborations with Target and its first fashion line—a capsule collection of capes and vests modeled after its most popular blanket designs.

To celebrate its 150th year, the brand is showing no signs of slowing with the launch of a new collection that puts a modern spin on the Faribault brand. It includes blankets and throws available in new patterns—Faribault’s take on Fair Isle, a distressed buffalo plaid, and a bold, modern stripe—an extensive collection of pillows, new cape and vest styles, and larger scarves, all named for Minnesota towns, landmarks, lakes, and rivers. The anniversary collection also includes the new “Gray Label” line, which is woven entirely from even finer premium merino wool.

This weekend, the brand celebrates with a day-long celebration at the mill alongside Cannon River that includes family-friendly activities, live music from local Americana act the Pines, a 150th Anniversary marketplace featuring limited-edition products and special pricing, raffles, and a silent auction benefitting Habitat for Humanity. I got the details from Faribault Woolen Mill CMO Bruce Bildsten and CEO Terry Mackenthun on the anniversary collection and this weekend’s festivities.

Faribault Woolen Mill

Courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill

The new anniversary collection is said to be a more modern take on the brand. Can you give me some examples of how these new pieces have a more contemporary feel?

Bruce Bildsten: The contemporary feel comes from the neutral color palettes and the simplicity of the lines of the prints. We are introducing a subdued plaid instead of the traditional tartan. There’s also a very simple pinstripe and a few geometrics, but nothing that strays too far from what the mill is known for traditionally. We’ve also introduced a new line of neutrals in throws, which works very well in contemporary settings. When people think of Faribault, it’s the brand for the cabin or for a very traditional home, and I think this new line makes us work in an urban setting without stepping away from who we are.

What else is new in the 150th anniversary collection?

Terry Mackenthun: We’ve added a line of pillows, which is something customers have been asking for to match with their throws. Later this fall, we’ll also have a new line of bags made in collaboration with Duluth Pack—a market tote and a scout bag that incorporate our fabrics.

What inspired the creation of the Grey Label line?

Mackenthun: Traditionally, it’s all about the different qualities and types of wool we’re using—the hand or softness of the wool itself. As we continue to elevate our product line, Gray Label is a sub-brand we created within the line that offers a more premium product—it’s a grade or two softer than our usual line. For now, it’s only available in a few scarf styles. It is a higher price point, so we’ll see how it sells and that will help us dictate whether we expand it further into other categories.

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Hooded Buffalo Ridge Blanket Cape

Courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill

This weekend, the mill is hosting a day-long celebration, which features a marketplace. Can you tell me what shoppers can expect to find?

Mackenthun: The full line will be available including the new introductions, probably with the exception of Gray Label. As far as things that are uniquely tied to the 150th event, it will be the first opportunity to purchase a limited-edition of the reissue of Faribault’s iconic Pak-A-Robe stadium blanket, which comes in a carrying case. There will also be the gray and black Soho throw and a couple of scarves that are made into 150th anniversary collectors’ items, plus commemorative mugs and t-shirts. There’s some promotional pricing as well—if you purchase $200, you get 10% off your entire order. We also have our new pillow line.

Bildsten: We also will have some actual bobbins that are made on our looms, which is kind of a fun artifact. We wanted to have 150th anniversary goods in a range of prices, so the bobbins, coffee mugs, and t-shirts will make it easy for people to pick up a souvenir when they come down this weekend. And we will be offering the Soho throws at a good price to reward people for coming down. We expect there to be quite a line for the Pak-a-Robe.

Can you tell me more about the silent auction?

Bildsten: Target took 12 of their top designers through a contest. We provided our fabric to them, and they’re deliberately designing a wide variety of products for the auction. They are creating one-of-a-kind items that will be auctioned off for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, including everything from toys and chairs to apparel. It will be really exciting to see what they come up with.

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Ashby Twill Scarf

Courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill

This weekend also mentions the launch of something called the “The Memory Mill.” What exactly is that?

Bildsten: It’s a 150th anniversary digital experience—a way to go online very simply to create a memory to go with your throw or blanket. Our products last for decades and everyone has a story behind it—they had it passed down from their grandma, or it was a wedding gift. It’s a little metal card to keep with the throw or sew on, almost like a registration card. It’s a bit like writing a letter to the future.

Does this collection represent a thrust toward a more modern feel a major shift for Faribault Mill? Or is it more of an evolution?

Mackenthun: I think we have already been progressing with that in our line with or without it being our 150th year. When the line came back (under new ownership in 2011, two years after closing), we focused on the classics. In the past couple of years, we’ve been expanding our scope, which was was just a natural progression. It makes sense for us to evolve and appeal to our wider audience.

Bilsten: It’s truly an evolution—we’re not taking a U-turn in anyway. The new collection still fits with our original line. It’s a natural progression of who we are.

Faribault’s 150th Anniversary party takes place from noon to 6 p.m. this Sat., Aug. 15, at the historic Faribault Woolen Mill and adjoining Slevin Park on the banks of the Cannon River, 1500 N.W. 2nd Ave., Faribault, 507-412-5530. It is free and open to the public, rain or shine. For more information on the collection and party, visit faribaultmill.com.

More images from the Faribault Woolen Mill Heritage Collection: Volume II and Gray Label lookbook:

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Ashby Twill Scarves

all images Courtesy Faribault Woolen Mill

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Ashby Twill Throw


Faribault Woolen Mill’s Ashby Twill Throws and Macalester Plaid Throw


Faribault Woolen Mill’s Buffalo Ridge Ombre Blanket

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Crosby Zig Zag Throws

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Huntley Plaid Cape

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Tofte Fair Isle Blanket

Faribault Woolen Mill’s Vermillion Mirror Throw

Various Faribault Woolen Mill throws in new colorways

Various Faribault Woolen Mill throw pillows

Various Faribault Woolen Mill throw pillows