Art imitates life in rural Valley County

Courtesy of University of Idaho University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and faculty and UI Extension educators create scarves and bandanas to help identify noxious weeds. University of Idaho photo

University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students and faculty and UI Extension educators created scarves and bandanas to help identify noxious weeds. This bandana features a design resembling spotted knapweed.

MOSCOW — Education and apparel design have joined forces at the University of Idaho to give the public smart new ways to identify invasive and noxious plant life.

And look really good doing it.

University of Idaho Extension educator Melissa Hamilton worked with Lori Wahl, an apparel, textiles and design instructor in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, to create a set of bandanas and scarves with patterns reflecting invasive weeds in Valley County.

Hamilton is based in Valley County and focuses on community development, agriculture and horticulture programs. She wanted to combine the idea of telling stories through apparel with invasive weed patterns to help slow the spread of the weeds.

About 70 percent of homeowners in Valley County do not live there full time, Hamilton said. While their properties are vacant, invasive weeds can take root.

“If the homeowners had more knowledge about how they needed to care for their property when they weren’t there they might take additional actions to make sure they were being good stewards of the land,” Hamilton said. “This was a fun, visually appealing way to convey that information.”

Wahl turned the idea over to her senior portfolio-development class in 2016.

“A big part of my teaching philosophy is experiential learning, learning-based simulations — stimulating real client designer relationships and real product development scenarios so the students have a chance to practice what they learned in multiple courses simultaneously,” Wahl said.

By the end of the semester, the class had created a prototype of three bandanas and three scarves with designs resembling spotted knapweed, yellow toadflax and oxeye daisies — all invasive weeds found in Valley County as well as other locations in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.

Hamilton and Wahl spent the past year getting the products on the shelf, including obtaining licensing, finding a wholesaler and determining product quality and fabric types. The 100 percent cotton broadcloth bandanas are sized 21 inches by 21 inches, and the 100 percent polyester twill scarves are sized 36 inches by 36 inches.

“It’s been a partnership between the different entities in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,” Hamilton said. “It really is a project that’s solely in the college and it really shows how diverse this college is. I think sometimes we get branded as just agriculture but we’re a lot more than that, especially if you look into Extension and all of the individual programs we offer.”

Each scarf and bandana is accompanied by a hangtag, also created by the students, with information about the weed that each piece represents, as well as the title of the project, “Know the Land, Save the Land.”

Hamilton and Wahl hope the project will grow beyond its original local emphasis, and focus groups showed the potential for nationwide interest.

The bandanas and scarves are available for purchase at Bandanas are $12, and the scarves are $30 each. UI Extension also recently published the ninth edition of the Idaho’s Noxious Weeds publication, which can be found at bit .ly/2nFPhwA.