Wednesday morning, Barton County 4-Hers arrived bright and early at the annex of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Great Bend. Some came loaded down with clothing and home decorating projects, others with dress bags and hangers full of tops, skirts, dresses and pants. They came hoping to impress judges with their skills in buymanship and construction.
“I chose this design and this fabric because it’s something I knew I’d really like wearing,” said senior construction entrant Heather Schneider from TLC Twisters 4-H Club. She brought a light, sleeveless chevron patterned tank top she constructed, paired with a green top and jeans she purchased, which tied in with her shoes and other accessories. A sewer for four years, this was a project she completed on her own.
Anybody can walk into The Buckle and put together an outfit, said judge Michelle Brokes. But being able to construct an item that the wearer loves, that will get plenty of wear, that makes her feel good--that’s an important accomplishment. It’s one that becomes more and more fleeting, too, as our society moves towards a more disposable one, said judge Diane Zook, a former Larned Family and Consumer Science teacher who now volunteers with the Pawnee County Extension.
“It’s hard to find fabric, and when something gets worn or torn, we don’t fix it anymore. We just toss it,” Zook said. Still, the art of sewing isn’t completely lost. But today, it’s more common for 4-Hers and others taking up the craft of sewing to create items for home decor or to quilt she said. But for those who stuck with the craft, a table of garments worthy of coming from the racks of even the best of retail stores lay in wait for her final judging for champion. Here, seams, seams were pressed, edges serged, corners turned. Details like understitching were present, and complicated techniques were on display, lending the table the aire of true haute couture.
Zook visited with Jayla Wyant, member of Eureka Homesteaders, who brought a simple circle skirt and a pillow to be judged for construction. A first year sewer, she received praise for her choice of fabric and for her efforts in finding a pattern for her skirt which required no seams. She also received some suggestions for improvement.
“When you get to the senior level, the judges will right away turn to the inside of the garment, and you want to make sure it looks as pretty on the inside as it does on the outside,” she said. The final verdict, a promising first garment.
Then, Jayla presented a pillow she’d made. It was one of 51 she’d sewn for Christmas presents for her members of her immediate and extended family. With a few gently made suggestions about fluffing stuffing and a new way to hand-stitch the pillow closed, Jaylie learned her pillow would receive a blue ribbon.
Below the surface
The projects measure more than what is seen on the surface. For both buymanship and construction, judges ask about the reason the garment was picked, where it will be worn, and other questions to draw out the entrant’s speaking skills.
“We want to encourage them to put thought into the outfits they choose, and to think about what the real costs of the garment are, including cleaning expenses,” Erin Petersilie, Walnut Creek FACS agent said.
Modeling skills are also part of the final score, and this year, former 4-Her and 2014 Miss Barton County, Bonnie Boultinghouse worked with entrants on how to walk, pivot, turn, and show their project in the best light. For junior entrant Haley Hicks of Great Bend City Slickers, the lessons paid off. While modeling her junior western wear outfit, she impressed Petersilie with her perfected turns during the opening of her presentation.
Wednesday night, entrants modeled their outfits for the community at the annual 4-H Fashion Revue at the Crest Theater. The public will get one more chance to see this year’s Barton County fashionistas at the Barton County Fair, July 11 at 6:30 p.m. on the free stage at Expo 2.