Bright Spots in Home Schooling

March 6, 2006  

Sewing up a storm

by Andrea Longbottom

Almost every year since turning 9, Meredith Olds has entered the American Sheep Industry Association's Make It Yourself With Wool Contest (MIYWW). Her persistence recently paid off. In the fall of 2005, the 14-year-old from Manhattan, Kansas, breezed through the MIYWW district and state competitions, taking first place in the junior division for her handmade wool garments. At the national competition in January 2006, she was declared first runner-up.

Meredith Olds models her award-winning wool garments. For this year's American Sheep Industry Association's Make It Yourself With Wool Contest national competition she created a wool crepe skirt, a black boiled wool coat, and a crocheted sweater.

Photos courtesy of Meysenburg Photography

The nimble-fingered teen, who has been sewing since age 5, grew up watching her mother teach her two older sisters how to sew and enter 4-H competitions. (All four of the Olds siblings have been homeschooled since kindergarten.) "I just couldn't wait until I turned 7 [the minimum age for 4-H membership] to start sewing!" she says. "I liked learning the different steps involved and the excitement of seeing the finished product."

For this year's MIYWW competition, Meredith created a wool crepe skirt, a black boiled wool coat, and a crocheted sweater. Each garment took roughly three weeks to construct, by machine and by hand. Meredith also prepared by "thinking about questions the judges might ask, and coming up with answers to let them know how much work went into my outfit." At each of the three competitions, Meredith modeled her outfit and was interviewed by a panel of up to eight judges. "It's not just the outside of the garment the judges look at," she explains. "They also judge the inside of the garment and how you sewed it—how it looks and fits."

Meredith says that when she arrived at the national contest in Mesa, Arizona, "I didn't think I even had a chance. I was just taking everything in and seeing what other people made. I was mainly going for the friends and the experience."

She found friends, ideas, and something more—out of over 30 contestants in the junior division, Meredith was chosen as the first of six runners-up to the national winner, receiving a computerized sewing machine and a $250 savings bond along with several other prizes. "It was a blast!" she says. "I'd tell [anyone else interested in this type of contest] to have fun with it. Make an outfit that you really want to wear."

Meredith also enjoys sports, dance, debate, and music, and teaches crocheting. As she enters high school, Meredith plans to continue sewing for competitions. "One of my sisters won the State 4-H Constructed Fashion Revue competition," she says. "I think it would be neat to win the same one!"

For more information about the Make It Yourself With Wool Contest.

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