A Modern-Day Princess in Sheep’s Clothing

A True Story of a
Once-in-a-Lifetime Adventure in Reno, Nevada

By Richard E. Kelly (Erika’s Papa)

It had been an exciting three days for Ruth Waalkes at the American Sheep Industry’s annual convention in Reno, Nevada—a pleasant break from the day-to-day routine of cooking and cleaning. It was a special place for someone with a lifetime passion for sewing. For Ruth, a professional seamstress and one of the top sewing instructors in west Michigan, this was a golden opportunity to meet sewing peers and see up close state-of-the-art practices in how woolen clothes were being designed and sewn.

But that wasn’t why Ruth was attending the convention. What had drawn her here was an event that would be staged on Saturday, an event that a seamstress grandmother could only dream about. Her granddaughter, Erika Kelly Waalkes, was a contestant in the National Finals for Make It With Wool contest in the Junior Division. She would be competing with thirty other contestants, ages thirteen through sixteen, all first-place winners from their home states. They were here to model dresses, skirt-jacket ensembles or coats they designed and sewed, and awards would be presented at the end of the show.

The contestants had been sequestered for two full days away from family and friends while they attended workshops, shared stories with peers, and were introduced to the latest in sewing machine technology and pattern software. They had also met with custom sewing designers, sewing experts and fashion merchandisers—the six judges—who would inspect and critique the clothes they modeled on Saturday.
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