A trio of Lebanon countians sheared the competition at this year’s Make It With Wool contest held at the Pennsylvania Farm Show complex earlier this month.

The first-place junior entrant, Madison Copenhaver of Lebanon, and senior category winner Hope Wagner of Annville will represent Pennsylvania at the national competition in Denver, Colorado, in January. 

The judging categories are divided by age group: preteens (12 and younger), juniors (13-16), seniors (17-24), and adults (25 and older). 

“I feel really excited, it’s a big opportunity that I get to represent my own county at the national level,” said Wagner. “I’m really excited to meet new people that also have the same sewing interests as me to see what they’ve been working on the past year.”

“It’s definitely an honor, I’m so excited and I’ve competed in this competition in the past and have had the opportunity to go to other states to compete,” said Copenhaver. “To go to Denver, Colorado, is so rewarding because I put so much time and effort into my outfit, and so it is very rewarding to win this trip.”

Madison Copenhaver fashions the wool dress she wore to Homecoming festivities. (Provided photo)

The first-place adult winner, Rachel Seigel of Lebanon, will send her garment along with photos and a video for national judging to be conducted before Christmas. Rachel told LebTown that she is entering the national competition with no expectations of winning top national honors.

The top adult winner at national judging is invited to Colorado to participate in the fashion show and be an ambassador for and provide mentorship to the younger participants, according to Linda Siegel, contest coodinator and Rachel’s mother.

Linda said the contest does not require an individual to raise their own animals to enter a design into the judging event. 

“It’s an interesting contest, especially when you get to the national level and you get people who live on ranches and raise their own animals. But it is not a requirement to enter our contest,” said Linda.

While none of the local young ladies raise their own animals for the wool used in their entries, Linda says they are talented sewers and designers whose creativity contributed to their wins in their respective divisions. 

Wagner created a charcoal gray lined pencil dress and carmel wool blazer featuring leopard print lining. She made her first jacket with lapels, which Linda said was challenging. Wagner also learned how to sew princess seams and make a facing attached to the coat collar. She added cuffed and ruffled sleeves to her dress for added flair. She made her first bound buttonholes this year, too, added Linda.

“I think for Hope’s, she took traditional choices of fabrics but in unusual color schemes,” said Linda. “Although it is not wool, she has this really fun animal lining, animal print lining that’s a silk fabric that she purchased on line. It gave it a creative spark for her.”

Hope Wagner will travel to Denver, Colorado, this winter to participate in the national Make It With Wool competition. (Provided photo)

Copenhaver crafted a teal Merino wool knit dress by combining Marfy and Simplicity patterns and finished it with a baby hem. She included pleats and circular ruffle on the dress and covered buttons on her coat. These choices, Linda said, make Copenhaver’s design unique and versatile.

“The unusual use of wool in Madison’s is that she used hers to make her homecoming dress as a one-shoulder (strap) homecoming dress from Merino knit wool,” said Linda. “And there aren’t a whole lot out there, and at the national contest there probably won’t be any. There’s been gowns and whatever made from wool at the national contest, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything like what she did.” 

Adding to Copenhaver’s design was her color coordination.

“She was really kind of set on a white coat, much to my and her mother’s chagrin. And then she found a lining that pulls together the teal from her dress with the creamy background of the silk that goes with the wool,” added Linda. 

Linda said Rachel designed a wool spring coat that is fun and whimsical. 

“She knew she could make it with a lightweight wool,” said Linda. “She has a pretty good stash of fabric that she likes but doesn’t have any definite plans for. All of sudden she’ll become inspired to use one of them. She has this black and white polka-dot (pattern) that she thought would make for a fun coat.”

Hers is a three-piece ensemble with an anorak jacket that has a hood, cargo pockets, placket zipper, and metal hardware including snaps, grommets, drawstring aglets, and cordlocks. The jacket’s inside is tidy, with entirely flat fell, faux bound, and French seams.

Rachel Siegel with her award-winning outfit. (Provided photo)

She chose a fun cotton lining which echoes the wool’s tiny polka-dot design and inspired the fabric choice for her kelly green Merino wool knit top. The top is constructed using knit techniques and features a band of nail-head studs on one shoulder. The ensemble is finished with a pair of slim-fit washable wool ponte pants Rachel copied from a pair in her closet.

Linda told LebTown each entrant’s ensemble was flat-judged and then judged while being modeled by the entrant. Judging is based on poise, construction of the garment(s), fit and wearability, and promotion of the wool’s versatilty. 

One of wool’s major benefits is its versatility, added Linda.

Rachel said she will utilize her outfit for work and the coat that goes with the pants and top as a spring and fall jacket. 

“My mantra has become not to make anything I won’t actually wear, I’m too busy to make things that I won’t wear,” said Rachel. “The coat, it is a workhorse coat. It will be my spring/fall coat because it is lightweight. It is not a winter coat. It is for those coldish, rainish days in spring and fall, and it has all of the bells and whistles of a good outdoor coat: It has a hood and pockets.” 

Copenhaver said she wore her dress to this year’s homecoming festivities at Cedar Crest High School and plans to at other events as Lebanon Area Fair Queen next year after the competition is over.

Read More: 2023 Lebanon Area Fair Queen crowned; new organizers give program a makeover

“My dress is made out of a knit wool and so it was really cool to see their reaction when I told them I had made my outfit and it was made out of wool,” said Copenhaver. “Sometimes, wool has a stereotype of being uncomfortable or not really like fitting the profile that it could be made into a cute dress for homecoming, so they were definitely surprised.”

Wagner said most people would never guess her dress is made from wool.

“For my blazer, I would say the main type of wool that people would normally think of is a little scratchy, but not too, and it’s thicker. And the dress is a thin crape-like material and you would never guess that it is wool,” said Wagner. “I plan to wear it to future job interviews or future professional internships while I am in college and to church and other professional functions.”

Sponsored by various statewide associations and other industry-based organizations, the Make It program looks to achieve several objectives.  

It’s designed to market the beauty and versatility of wool fabrics and yarns, encourage personal creativity in sewing, knitting, and crocheting with wool fabrics and yarns, recognize creative skills and promote the development of life skills, including personal responsibility, sportsmanship, and learning about and appreciating diversity.  

Another goal is not part of the judging competition, but does serve a practical purpose.

“I encourage the kids to make something they love, that they’ll love wearing and while they’re at it, they may as well make it out of wool so they can enter it into the wool contest,” said Linda. “When you’re spending that much time to create and learn new skills — really high-level skills — I really believe using that same garment as many places as you can to get the most mileage out of your work.” 

Those other possible “uses” include the fashion review program at 4-H and the Fashion with a Flair contest at the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg. 

“But the first goal is to create something they will really love,” emphasized Linda.

Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Do you want to see more from LebTown?

Support local news. Cancel anytime.

Already a member? Login here

Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.

James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...