A group that promotes one of the oldest of mankind’s crafts — making clothes from sheep’s wool — is looking for people to compete in a contest that is just around the corner.
The Make It With Wool competition for this region of the state is Nov. 6 in Great Falls, and people interested in competing must submit their entry forms and a $4 fee per swatch of fabric used at least two weeks earlier.
Amanda Powell of Havre, co-director of the contest’s District 3 that includes Blaine, Chouteau, Hill and Liberty counties, said the intent of the promotion is to increase interest in using — and raising — wool.
She added that entering the contest can give another benefit. Garments produced for the Make It With Wool contest also can be entered in other events such as 4-H projects.
Wool is a wonderful product, producing garments that are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, Powell said, adding that the U.S. armed services are starting to use the fabric on a regular basis.
The fabrics also have improved immeasurably, she added.
“Wool has changed over the years … ,” Powell said. “It’s not the scratchy, scritchy stuff that it used to be.”
The use of wool is older than mankind’s recorded history, the International Wool Textile Organization website says.
The site says prehistoric people first used wool by wearing the skins of wild sheep they killed, and before 10,000 B.C. people were spinning the wool into rough yarn by hand.
Later, spindles were used, with a stone or clay wheel on a stick winding the wool as it was spun.
Much later, 500 A.D. to 1,000 A.D ., the site says, spinning wheels were invented.
Looms were invented thousands of years ago to weave wool into cloth, it says.
Powell said the Make It With Wool contest is held to raise awareness about the fabric, which, she adds, people may find is easier to work with than other fabrics, including cotton.
“(The contest is) promoting the products, promoting our wool,” she said, adding that, although the numbers have dropped dramatically, some good-sized sheep herds still are raised in this region of Montana.
The contest is broken into age categories, with the age as of Dec. 31 this year determining which category a person enters. The categories are a preteen category for ages 12 and younger; juniors for ages 13-17; seniors for ages 18-24; adult for ages 25 and older, and a “made-for-others” category.
Powell said people entering the preteen category may enter a dress, jumper, skirt, pants, shorts, vest, sweater, shirt or blouse, jacket or a combination of garments.
Junior, senior, adult and made-for-other entries may be a one-piece garment such as a dress, jumper, outerwear jacket, coat or cape; or a two-piece garment such as a coat, jacket, cape, blouse or shirt, vest or sweater with a dress, jumper, skirt, pants or shorts; or an ensemble with three or more garments worn together at one time such as a coat, jacket, cape, blouse or shirt, vest and or a sweater with a dress, jumper, skirt, pants or shorts.
The first-place winners from each of the six districts in the junior, senior, adult and made-for-others categories advance to the state competition, Dec. 6-7 in Billings.
State winners in the junior and senior categories receive a trip to the national competition, Jan. 22-24 in Charleston, S.C.
Montana Wool Growers Association and Montana Sheep Producers Association both sponsor the state competition, along with many others.
“We have some strong supporters who follow it through and think it’s a good thing for the kids,” Powell said.
Entry forms are available from district, state or national directors, and must be returned two weeks before the district contest. The entry must include $4 per swatch of fabric used, which Powell said pays for testing to ensure that the fabric is at least 60 percent wool, as required in the contest.
The state entry should be mailed to Montana Make It With Wool Director Jean Harrison, 615 Highland Ave ., Dillon, MT 595725.
The national entry, with a $10 required fee, should be mailed to National Make It With Wool Director Marie Lehfeldt, PO Box 175, Lavina, MT 59046.
National Make It With Wool website: http://www.makeitwithwool.com/
Montana Make It With Wool section of the Montana Wool Growers Association website: http://www.mtsheep.org/makeitwithwool.html
International Wool Textile Organization: http://www.iwto.org/