(Emilee and her winning coat)
Make It With Wool contestants competed in a “Forward with Fashion” style show during the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI)/National Lamb Feeders Association Annual Convention on Jan. 28, 2012.
Although she didn’t take top honors, Emilee Koss from Clarence Center, N.Y., won the Creative Machine Embroidery award of $500 for making her lovely embroidered coat (pictured above.) The coat’s embellished with a fun swirl design using red mohair yarn.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Emillee about her sewing achievements, goals and where she finds inspiration:
When and how did you learn to sew?
I learned to sew when I was seven years old and joined my local 4-H club. My first project was a simple hand stitched apron for the 4-H Textile Review. As I got older, I realized how much I enjoyed sewing and started sewing for competitions like the Make it with Wool Competition. It was my grandmother who taught me and she has provided me with help and support. Together we would look at ready-made garments in stores and copy the construction methods or look up new couture finishes and techniques to apply to a garment.
What kinds of projects do you like making?
I love sewing apparel. I like the idea of being able to create my own look and style for myself. I can pull ideas from numerous garments or designers and combine them to create a garment unique to my style and needs. Plus, when sewing clothes for myself, I can achieve the proper fit. I took many classes with the American Sewing Guild to learn fitting tricks. I spend a lot of time fitting my garments, and it’s a great fit that makes me love and wear a garment.
What inspired you to make your winning coat?
What usually inspires me to make something is the lack of it on the market. I wanted a coat that was casual but still striking and stylish. The cut of the coat, the hood and placket with zipper all keep it casual. It’s the machine embroidery in the red mohair against the black background that adds drama and makes the coat unique. Because I sew for myself, I sew what I want to wear.
How do you think your coat would better/influence the wool industry?
I think my coat promotes the versatility of wool–that wool can be fashionable. The purpose of The Make It With Wool Competition is to show the beauty and variety of wool available in today’s market. The sheep industry has worked hard on improving the quality of wool and the result is outstanding. Wool is not just for knitted sweaters and warm socks. There are great lightweight wools for slacks, men’s suits and women’s dresses that will have people questioning if it is really wool. There are novelty wools to create a unique garment and boiled or felted wools to make the warmest winter coats.
What value do you see in sewing?
The value in sewing for me is a chance to express and expand my creativity. When sewing a garment, there are so many style choices and it provides the opportunity to experiment or try something new. Sewing has also provided me with self confidence. Finishing a garment, being able to wear it and having people compliment it, gives a sense of pride knowing that it was your hard work that made it happen.
Do you think sewing is an important life skill? Do you think it should be taught in more junior high or high school classrooms?
I think many people don’t see sewing as an important life skill because we are so dependant on buying our clothes from stores. But I think being able to be self sufficient whether its completing an entire outfit or just having the skill to sew a button or hem a dress gives you confidence. So while the ability to sew may seem to be just a hobby, I think having at least the basic sewing skills shows independence.
Do your friends sew? Or have you taught any of your friends how to sew?
My friends in high school did not know how to sew and were impressed by the fact that I could. Now attending the Fashion Institute of Technology many of my friends know how to sew and some are even studying fashion design. I was able to teach a group of young 4-H girls to sew. I had so much fun teaching them to sew because they were very enthusiastic and eager to learn.
What advice would you give the beginner sewer?
I think it’s important for beginner sewers to sew something their excited about or interested in. That way, you can be sure you’ll finish your project, even if there is a little frustration along the way. Learning to sew can take dedication to conquer the art!
Are you interested in machine embroidery? Do you own an embroidery machine?
I like to use machine embroidery to personalize my fabric. It’s another chance to get creative and add something unique. Embroidery made my coat interesting and unique; without it, it would just be another coat. I do not own an embroidery machine, but do have easy access to my grandmother’s machine.
What are your future sewing plans?
My immediate sewing plans are to make a vintage inspired suit using 100% navy wool that my grandmother purchased in Italy over 50 years ago with the intent of having a suit made for herself. I am currently studying Textile and Surface Design at The Fashion Institute and will always find sewing to be an inspiration and tool in my career.