Wool you believe it? Wa-Hi student wins state sewing competition

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WALLA WALLA — Danny Butler was dapper in his three-piece brown wool suit as he enthusiastically described his win at the Washington state Make it with Wool contest and fashion show.

Butler, 16, of Walla Walla won the junior division for his suit, which gets him an expenses-paid trip to San Antonio, Texas, for the national competition in January.

The state Make it with Wool competition and fashion show are sponsored each year by the Washington Wool Growers Auxiliary and the Washington State Sheep Producers Association. This year’s event was held in conjunction with the Sheep Producers’ annual convention in Yakima on Oct. 27. The national contest is sponsored by the American Sheep Industry.

Butler is the son of Dan and Angela Butler and is a junior at Walla Walla High School. He began sewing in the fourth grade, and he soon joined a local 4-H sewing group led by Shirl Phillips.

“Shirl has been a wonderful teacher,” said Butler. “Whenever I run into a problem, she helps me with it and shows me the best way to do things.”

Phillips has retired, and her group is now led by Heidi Lienweber of Walla Walla. But Phillips is still a mentor to several of her students, including Butlery.

Butler’s winning suit, which includes a tweed vest, is the second suit he’s made.

“I’ve also made lots of other things, like pants, PJs, bags and iPod cases,” he said. “I’m working on a lot of Christmas gifts right now.”

He said about two-thirds of the work making his winning suit was done on his sewing machine and about a third was hand-stitched. He estimates it took between 75 and 100 hours.

Butler learned about the Make it with Wool competition from his friend Michaela Nordheim of Waitsburg. Nordheim won the state junior division in 2010 and 2011 and traveled to national competitions both times. This year, Nordheim, 17, was runner-up in the senior division, and won a new sewing machine.

Butler and Nordheim have both competed the last few years in the fashion review at the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days. In September they tied for the win in the senior division.

“Michaela told me about Make it with Wool and how great her trips to nationals were,” Butler said. “I hadn’t sewn much with wool before, but I got some and started on the suit.”

Butler carries a four-point grade average in school and runs cross country and track. He’s also active in his church youth group. He hopes to attend an engineering college and eventually work as an engineer or designer.

Butler’s parents will accompany him to San Antonio in January. He also has begun thinking about next fall’s Wear it with Wool state competition.

“I’m planning to make a pea coat next,” he says. “And I’ll probably make slacks to go with the coat.”

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