POTWIN — When it comes to sewing wool, Renata Goossen of Potwin is a master.
The Berean Academy graduate and current Kansas State University student recently won first place in the college division of the national Make It With Wool competition — and this is not the only time she has taken top honors. She also won in 2014 while competing in the junior division.
"I love this contest. I've grown up in it and I believe in it," Goossen said.
The national Make It With Wool competition, which has been held for more than 70 years, is sponsored by the American Sheep Industry Association.
"Wool is no longer what it used to be; it used to be that scratchy material and those ugly sweaters people used to wear," Goossen said. "...You can get tropical weights (of wool) that aren't hot or itchy."
For the contest, competitors must put together an outfit with several pieces made of wool and complete it with matching accessories.
"You have to sew a garment that has 60 percent or greater wool content," Goossen explained.
The contestants are judged on the construction, marketability and modeling of their outfits. They must also be able to answer questions about the wool industry.
"It is a sewing-based contest, but the end goal is the promotion of the material," Goossen said.
Goossen began sewing 10 years ago while in 4-H, learning skills from her mother, who also competed in the MIWW contest when she was young.
"It's a natural fiber, so it's easier to work with than your typical synthetic," Goossen said.
As she progressed, Goossen began doing her own research of tailoring skills to take her creations to the next level.
"It's a lot of shaping and fitting," Goossen said. "It's tailored to the person who is wearing it. It's fascinating to me."
Wool is more costly than other fabrics, but its quality imparts an elegant look.
"The fact that it is a more expensive material, there's a little more pressure to get it right," Goossen said. "...I have to do all my own steaming and pressing of my garments."
For this year's competition, Goossen made a shirt, skirt, coat and pair of gloves.
"I always make sure I make garments that can be worn separately because that increases their marketability," Goossen said. "...It was my first attempt at gloves — and probably my last."
Goossen said she was surprised when her name was called out as the winner.
"It was pretty much a wave of relief ... I was extremely honored and overjoyed," Goossen said.
With her win, Goossen was awarded the title of senior ambassador and will spend time promoting wool at conventions, classes and meetings for the rest of the year.
When she served as junior ambassador, Goossen had the dubious honor of attending the Kansas State Fair, wearing her wool outfit in the summer heat.
"It is a commitment to be the winner," Goossen said.
Over her years of competing, Goossen has met and made friends with many other competitors from across the country. She said she is especially close to several individuals from Kansas; some of whom she works with in the university's costume shop.
"People don't sew at this level anymore, especially at my age," Goossen said.
Sheep growers associations from 35 states hold contests and send winners to participate in the national MIWW contest.
"Our Kansas sheep growers are pretty proud of the Make It With Wool program," Goossen said.
For more information about Make It With Wool, visit http://www.kssheep.com/miyww.html.