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Marcela Lopez takes first place in National Make It With Wool competition

Gayle Smith
Gering, Neb.

The 63rd Annual National Make It With Wool competition will be an experience Marcela Lopez will always remember. Modeling a royal blue wool coat, the young woman from Lexington, Neb., took home top honors in the senior division during the Grand Rapids, Mich., event.

Not only was being named First Place Senior 2011 Wool Ambassador quite an honor for Marcela, she was able to share the experience with her younger sister, Ana, 15, who qualified in the junior division. What made the event truly special was that both girls, who are the daughters of Luis and Yanira Lopez, had qualified for nationals for the first time.

“I was really proud to be able to represent Nebraska and the Hispanic community at the contest,” Marcela proudly admitted. “I was very happy that I was able to do that for my community. My sister and I were the only Hispanics in the entire competition. It was such an honor that both of us won our divisions at state and were able to go to nationals for the first time together.”

For this year’s competition, Marcela constructed a royal-blue dress coat that drew attention to her sewing skills. The unique part of the coat, according to Marcela, were the rows of slim tucking in the front and back that shape the waist of the coat, ending with inverted pleats that create a flared hem. “The coat was knee length with a stand-up collar. I also made a belt that accentuated the waist. It has buttons on the front. I made the coat with tucks because I thought it would look unique. I had never seen one in stores like it,” she explained.

The hardest part of constructing the coat were making the tucks, Marcela continued. “They were very hard because they all had to be the same. I sewed in the tucks and top stitched them. Then, after that, I had to open them up with a seam ripper. That is what made the tucks.”

Although Marcela uses patterns for sizing, she enjoys modifying the patterns to create her own designs. “I have wanted to be a fashion designer since I was very small,” she recalled. “Since then, I have decided to add business and fashions together, because I think it would be a more secure career. Plus, with the career path I have chosen, I can still design, but this career will open more doors for me. Fashion has been my passion since I was young. I have always known that it is what I wanted to do.”

Marcela is a freshman at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, pursuing a major in fashion merchandising and a minor in entrepreneurship. She plans to pursue an internship her junior year working for a clothing company as a designer. She hopes to continue with that occupation after she graduates, and plans to eventually open her own company selling business wear for women, and marketing some of her own designs.

The young woman learned to sew over 10 years ago after noticing a county extension agent working with children during Discovery Days. “At school, they handed out worksheets to sign up for Discovery Days,” Marcela recalled. “My first language was Spanish, so I was very shy. I attended Discovery Days, but I didn’t like it because it was an icebreaker where you had to talk with people. Once, there was a lady there teaching children how to make shorts or pants. That lady was Andrea Nisley, who is the extension coordinator/educator for Dawson County. She taught me everything I know about sewing. She has been such a great role model for me over the years. She has given me confidence, and helped me strive to make so many accomplishments.”

It was Nisley who got Marcela interested in 4-H and the Make It With Wool contest. Marcela started out making clothing and modeling them at county and state fair. The first year she entered the Make It With Wool contest at age eight, she made a red wool jumper. She won the district and state competition, but there was no national competition for her age bracket.

Since then, she has made numerous pieces of clothing from wool, including four coats. “I placed second at state every year,” she said. “Only first place could go to nationals, but I had a goal to make it there. It is very competitive at the state level. There is a lot of competition.”

Over the years, Marcela has found competing in the Make It With Wool contest to be one of the most rewarding opportunities she has experienced. “There are some very talented people who enter this contest,” she explained. “I like competition. I think it brings out the best in me. I enjoy talking with the judges and explaining to them why I chose a particular outfit and how I made it. For years, my summers have been dedicated to sewing and making creations for the contest,” she said.

Although making the coat was very difficult, Marcela said she felt all her hard work paid off in the end. “I loved being on stage and showing off what I created,” she admitted. “It was the reward for all the long hours I spent making it.”

During the national competition, Marcela modeled the coat for the judges. “They ask you to model it for them, then you have to open it so they can see the inside of the coat. They ask a few questions, and when you leave the room, you take off the garment and they look it over inside and out.”

Marcela was quite comfortable competing at national competition because she had been through the routine at state so many times. “It wasn’t hard competing at nationals, but the atmosphere was very competitive,” she explained. “I felt very comfortable and at ease during the contest.”

As the First Place Senior 2011 Wool Ambassador, Marcela was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from ASI Women, in addition to other prizes. She will also be an ambassador for the 2012 contest.

Marcela said she would encourage anyone to get involved in the Make It With Wool competition. “You may not think you will do very well, but sewing is something everyone should learn because it teaches you patience and how to be a perfectionist. You have to model what you make in front of an audience, so it really puts you out there. You learn poise and self confidence. You also learn how to talk to judges, because it is like an interview. I think you can do anything after experiencing that. It carries over to other parts of your life and prepares you for the future,” she said.


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