EAST JORDAN, Mich. (WZZM) -- It's a symbol of pride to have U.S. Olympic athletes from Michigan. But Sunday, all 230 U.S athletes will wear Made in America sweaters with a direct Michigan connection. Michigan yarn wound its way all the way to Sochi.
It's easy to miss the small sign. We did. Tucked in Northern Michigan, a few miles off Hwy. 32, is the small, Stonehedge Fiber Mill.
Deb McDermott's family-run yarn mill, which includes the contribution of 18 sheep. "I'm the only one who can tell you who they are. They're like your children," she said—caught the curious eye of one woman.
"I don't know if she was on vacation," said McDermott. "Purchased a skein of yarn, said she was a designer from New York City.
That was July of 2012. Three months later, Deb got a call from a designer, for Ralph Lauren. "And he was giving me the address to send samples so then I knew who it was. I was surprised," she said.
The iconic face of American clothing wanted eight colors of Michigan-spun yarn, within a month. "4,000 pounds of yarn total," she said.
This, to make the Olympic hats and sweaters for our 230 U.S. athletes.
The men already wore the hats in the opening ceremonies. The sweaters will debut in the closing ceremonies.
"I think it's terrific. We take a lot of pride in it. And everyone's watching the games saying 'that's the hat our yarn made!' she said.
Each color takes about 10 steps to make. "Have to put it through two of these pin drafters," she said, "And then it gets washed, hung to dry, and then twisted and labeled and shipped out."
Deb's sheep only provide enough wool for yarn sold locally. She gets her wholesale yarn from a U.S. pool. "I don't want to raise 10,000 sheep," she said, laughing. She employees 14 people, including grandchildren.
"In September they (Ralph Lauren) were calling because they had run out of white, red, navy. And we had to quickly send 50 pound boxes overnight to California," she said. The hats were made in California; the sweaters in New York City.
A project this big may seem laborious, but Deb considers these threads of love. Her husband already builds yarn mills across the world, they ship yarn across the world. Now their yarn will clothe U.S. Olympic athletes for all the world to see.
McDermott says 40 U.S. companies provided goods for American athletes.
Thirty stores in Michigan sell her yarn.