BY EMMA HOPKINS-O’BRIEN
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two Indiana teens won top honors in the national Make It With Wool (MIWW) competition held during the American Sheep Industry (ASI) Convention in January.
Indiana was well-represented in this year’s national MIWW competition by Madeline Douglas, 16, of Flat Rock, who took first in the junior 13-16 age division, and Olivia Lexie of Marshall who placed in the top 10 of the 17-24 age division. Robyn Heine, who has been Indiana’s MIWW director for five years, says that ultimately, the competition celebrates the beauty of wool.
“People usually come into MIWW out of an interest in wool and they’ve been crocheting or knitting or sewing with wool,” Heine said. “There is an ease in sewing when working with wool—It lays flat when you sew it, it’s easy to iron, it feeds nicely through the machine, it’s just nice to work with, even if you are making something complex like gathers or a button hole. It also drapes very nicely on a person. I think that’s why it’s great to work with for young kids or inexperienced sewers.”
An Indiana Sheep Association- (ISA) supported competition at the state level, MIWW is a program in which competitors create sewn items and clothing using only wool or high wool-blended fabrics. Much like the sewing project young people may take in 4-H, several ages and categories exist in MIWW in which participants are judged on their construction of the projects as well as “wearability,” judged during a fashion review in which participants model the items. Winners of the state competition then compete at the national level.
Though it may be more obscure than the 4-H sewing project, MIWW participants feel just as satisfied completing their wool projects and showing them off in competition. Some contestants even enter their 4-H projects made with wool into the MIWW competition. Additionally, MIWW affords contestants the opportunity to knit, crochet or felt their projects, allowing for more diversity in their projects.
“I like working with wool and the challenges it brings because of its authenticity,” Douglas said. “I love my dark gray coat that I can wear to formal events and take with me to college.”
Douglas became involved with the competition at the encouragement of her cousin, who won the state competition a few years ago. In addition to winning her division, Douglas also received a special honor for her use of mohair—fiber produced by angora goats—in her coat.
“My outfit is a three-piece ensemble,” Douglas explained. “I made a mohair duffle coat with toggles, button closures, and a separating zipper. My top is made from wool jersey knit and has a side-gathered detail. The skirt is made from fabric I won last year at the Indiana MIWW competition.”
Heine, who has been sewing with wool since she was about 12, said traditional coats and scarves are a project option to participate n MIWW, but more and more she sees a very diverse set of clothing in the competition.
“We’ve had summer outfits—shorts made from light-weight wool fabric,” she said. “If you look into the different types of wools, you will find light jersey wools that can be made into short-sleeve shirts, I’ve even seen formal wear such as long gowns. I’ve seen wool mixed with denim to make it look like jeans, which can be fun, giving a little more stretch to it.”
Knitting, weaving, felting and crocheting with wool yarn adds a whole new set of diversity to what is possible within the confines of the competition, especially in categories such as wearable accessories and—new this year—home décor.
“I would say that’s the beauty of wool, because it can be used in so many versatile ways—in ways that people haven’t thought of,” Heine said.
Entries for this year’s MIWW competition in Indiana are due July 1. The contest itself is set for August 9 in the Indiana Arts Building at the Indiana State Fair. For more information, check out the MIWW website, www.makeitwithwool.com, or visit the Indiana Make it With Wool Facebook page, the Indiana Sheep Association website www.indianasheep.com, or the Make It with Wool Contest website: www.makeitwithwool.com.
Douglas - Madeline Douglas and Olivia Lexie South were named in the top 10 in the junior and senior divisions at the National MIWW competition.
Poe Douglas - ISA board member Stan Poe (left), Junior winner Madeline Douglas (middle) and ISA Executive Director Bob Benson (right) pose at the 2020 ASI Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.