Make It With Wool competition
Make It With Wool Contest Coordinator Marie Lehfeldt is always amazed by the number of people who don’t realize that the contest they competed in as youth is still going strong. The Make It With Wool Contest is 64-years-old this year, Lehfeldt said. “Many women who competed in this contest when they were children have their own children and grandchildren competing in the contest now. The contest is the longest, continuous promotional entity of the American Lamb and Wool Industry,” the coordinator explained. “It is also one of the last means of promotion for the lamb and wool industry.”
The contest was developed in 1947 to promote wool and generate interest in sewing with wool. “There has been some real progress with the use of wool,” Lehfeldt said. “Wool comes in some very vibrant colors now, and you see more classic suits and coats made from wool.
There has also been some progress with the use of wool in the military because it is flame retardant, water resistant, and water repellent. Wool will wick water away from the body, where polyester will make you sweat. Wool is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is being used in the military for flight suits, underwear, and uniforms because the longevity of the fabric is very good. It is pretty hard to wear out something made from wool,” she explained.
The Make It With Wool contest, which is sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association and the American Sheep Industry for Women, includes the pre-teen, junior, senior, adult, made for others, and fashion/apparel design categories. The fashion/apparel design category was added to the contest in 2001, and makes it possible for college-enrolled fashion/apparel design students from every state to compete.
Lehfeldt said the winner of the fashion/apparel design contest is given a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the American Wool Council. “We have had a hard time getting this portion of the contest going because of advertising, but we had 13 entries in the last competition, so the contest is growing. It is a real opportunity for college students,” Lehfeldt continued. “One of the contestants a few years ago won the contest and the scholarship and went on to become a designer for Coldwater Creek.”
To enter the Make It With Wool contest, contestants must begin at the district or state level depending upon what state they live. Lehfeldt encourages individuals to contact their county extension office, state Make It With Wool director, or herself for more information about where to begin. “You can also get on the website, MakeItWithWool.com, and get all the brochure information, rules, and entry forms,” Lehfeldt said.
Currently, 32 states have a state contest, and some also have a district contest where they compete and advance to state. Junior and senior winners can advance from the state contest to nationals. Adult winners in each state submit a photo and their garment. One is chosen and that adult goes to nationals. The junior division is ages 13-16, and the senior division is ages 17-24.
“Within the states and districts, there may be a preteen division, but we don’t have a national contest for them,” Lehfeldt said. “Some states also have a quilt contest.”
Nearly 1,000 contestants compete each year in the National Make It With Wool contest. The 2012 event will be held January 26-28, 2012 in Scottsdale, Ariz. The national contest is always held in conjunction with the American Sheep Industry convention.
Most contestants entering the Make It With Wool contest have some sewing experience, and the majority have a 4-H background with sewing projects. “I would encourage anyone with interest in wool to enter this event. In the past, some girls have won the contest with only one year of competing in the sewing contest,” Lehfeldt said.
“I like to encourage young girls not to be afraid to sew with wool,” she continued. “Wool is actually more forgiving than some fabrics, and it is wider than most fabrics, so it is very cost-efficient,” the coordinator explained. “Wool is easier to work with than other fabrics, and the contestants learn ways of pressing wool to make it look very nice. Today, there are lightweight wool fabrics available that come in many vibrant colors.”
Lehfeldt cautioned those interested in entering the contest to make certain the wool fabric they use is at least 60 percent wool. “It will be tested in a laboratory to make certain it is at least 60 percent wool. If they are uncertain what percentage of wool their fabric is, they should contact a state director to have it tested first.” A list of state directors can be found on the website.
By entering the contest, Lehfeldt said entrants not only get the opportunity to become better seamstresses, they also win scholarships, sewing machines, and fabrics, among other prizes. “Contestants who have competed in the contest for a number of years have also learned how to model, developed poise, confidence and interview skills, and have developed friendships with other contestants from all over the country,” Lehfeldt said. “Many of the contestants go on to make sewing or fashion some part of their career.”
For more information about the Make It With Wool Contest, Lehfeldt can be reached at (406) 636-2731, or by email at Levi@Midrivers.com.