Those close-knit Augustine gals of Palmerton have done it again.
Mom, Kathy Augustine, won second place in the Adult Division of the Pennsylvania State Make It With Wool contest. But her two daughters out-sewed her, each winning first place in their respective categories. Gabrielle Augustine, 17, won first place in the Senior Division for ages 17-24, younger sister, Stephanie Augustine, 13, won first place in the Junior Division for ages 13-16.
The event was held October 17 in Somerset, PA. Only first place winners can go on to compete in the national contest.
The Make It With Wool contest is sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), a national organization that represents the interests of more than 82,000 sheep producers in the US. First there is a Make It With Wool contest on the state level. State first place winners can enter the national competition held each January. The next national competition will be in January 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kathy has been entering the Make It With Wool contest since 1991 while living in Maryland.
She designed this year's outfit around a piece of Pendleton wool she won as part of her first place winnings from the Make It With Wool contest in 1993. That year she went on to place Honorable Mention at Nationals.
"Just for showing up, each contestant gets 1 1/2 yards of Pendleton wool," says Kathy. "So even though you pay a $10 entry fee, you walk away with wool that costs at least $30 a yard."
Out of the camel plaid wool, Kathy made a fully lined cape. When removed, it reveals an outfit of dark brown gauchos with a red blouse with bond seams. Over the blouse is worn a mocha colored hand-knit lace wool wrap out of baby alpaca wool. Kathy had her father make a closure for it out of a piece of coconut shell with a beautiful hair pic she purchased at this year's Palmerton Community Festival.
Kathy also won first place in 1999 but didn't place at nationals that year.
"I only won Pennsylvania's state competition once, in Oct. 2008 and placed fifth at nationals in January 2009," says Kathy.
Gabrielle, a sophomore at Cedar Crest College, has been entering the Make It With Wool contest since 1998.
Gabrielle won 1st in Juniors in Pennsylvania in October 2006 and then fourth at nationals in Jan. 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. In October 2007 Gabrielle again placed first in Juniors and then competed at nationals in Jan. 2008 in Las Vegas, NV and won 1st place. She couldn't compete in the state competition in that fall because she was still in the Junior age category. So this year was exciting because Gabrielle moved into a new age category of Seniors, ages 17-24, in which she won first place and is now entitled to enter nationals.
For Gabrielle's state first place win, she designed her outfit in the 1940s style. Using the Wild Ginger software that she had won two years ago, she designed her navy, taupe and red plaid skirt with bottom pleats. She designed the American Merino wool taupe colored turtle neck shell and made it using a knitting machine. The neck has three buttons that when opened can lie down to make a collar.
She hand-knit a navy blue cardigan from an idea she saw in the Interweave Knits magazine using a combination of Australian wool and Italian mohair.
Obtaining approval from her professors first, Gabrielle often knits while attending lectures.
Part of her winnings from 2008 was five yards of rust red mohair. From that she made a long coat to top her outfit. She used magnetic snaps to close it because she didn't want the material to stretch by using buttons and buttonholes. Her grandfather did make her a button out of coconut shell as a decorative touch. It is lined in navy blue silk and she used Hong Kong seams to finish it.
To give the outfit a finished look, she took apart two sweaters she had previously made and used the wool to crochet a scarf she designed, with wool covered washers on the ends for weights.
To increase her odds that she would make it into the finals, Gabrielle made a second outfit. She found a pattern named "Gabrielle" in the Wild Fibers magazine. For the sweater she used variegated mohair in teal, purple and magenta. It took one hour to knit one inch around for the sleeves.
Stephanie, a freshman at Cedar Crest College, has received 1st in the Preteen division every year (except one) since she started entering in 2001. But since preteens did not go on to nationals, this year will be an adventure.
She sewed her very first pair of pants as part of her outfit. An avid bird watcher, she made an outfit that would be suitable for a day outdoors. The pants are fully lined cargo pants with patch pockets. Using Mauch Chunky yarn in kiwi color, she knitted her first big project, a long sleeve sweater with cabled owls around the neckline. She sewed on brown wood beads for the eyes. She topped the outfit with a vest made of dark green wool with an owl patterned lining. She found the lining first and designed the rest of the outfit around it.
She hand knit fingerless gloves, dying the wool herself, using lime colored Kool Aid, coffee and green food coloring paste. She got the wool from Kraemer's Yarn Shop in Nazareth. Kraemer's, and Tucker Yarns in Allentown, helped the state contest by providing some donations for prizes.
Kathy says that if anyone is interested in learning how to sew, wool is a great fabric to learn on.
Both Gabrielle and Stephanie are looking forward to competing on the national level at the competition to be held in January, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee. Their parents, Raymond and Kathy, will accompany them but they will also be taking along a guest, Chelsea Norquay.
Gabrielle met Chelsea, from Wisconsin, at the 2008 competition held in Las Vegas. They were roommates and discovered they shared a lot of the same interests. Both girls were home-schooled and both love to sew, knit, crochet and compete. They have corresponded ever since and Chelsea was a guest of the Augustines' this summer. She did not qualify for nationals this year but wanted to attend the event.
While all three Augustines admit they love competing, they also admit that they love the challenges the contest presents.
"It is a challenge to create a unique and stylish outfit that will intrigue the judges. But besides looking good on a hanger (inside and out), the outfit also needs to look good on the model (us). As a contestant, you need to be able to talk to the judges and in a brief amount of time, about two-three minutes, highlight any interesting aspects, construction techniques, or pattern adaptations made.
"It is also great to meet other sewing enthusiasts like ourselves. Like Chelsea. She has shared her crochet enthusiasm with Gabrielle while Gabrielle has shared sewing and knitting ideas with Chelsea," says Kathy.
Kathy believes sewing has become a lost art.
"How many people do you know who get excited in receiving several yards of mohair?"
Sewing, knitting, crocheting stretches all the Augustine gals' imaginations and provides an outlet for their amazing creativity that they so beautifully construct out of the various and versatile fabrics of wool.
To learn more about the contest, go to website www.sheepusa.org and go to the bottom of the page and click on "MAKE IT WITH WOOL."