INKOM – Learning to sew is a birthright for women in Ariana Long’s family.
Long, a 16 year old Inkom girl who attended Century High School in Pocatello, was taught sewing by her mother, Kristi Bernier-Long, when she was only 7 years old. Bernier-Long, on the other hand, learned from his mother, who also learned from his mother.
The family legacy is in good hands with Long, who was recently told that the red wool coat he designed and created took first place in the state in the annual Make it With Wool contest, sponsored by the Idaho Wool Growers Association.
The coat – made of 100% Pendleton wool with lining, collar, black belt, clasp front and shaped trim – will now be entered in the American Sheep Industry Association national competition. If it weren’t for the COVID-19 pandemic, Long would have been invited to Denver to participate directly in national competitions.
Long, who won the junior division of the competition, admitted that he was nervous about entering the coat in the contest. This was the first time he had worked with wool and made changes himself, without his mother’s help.
“It means a lot to me personally,” Long said. “This is one of the first outfits I can do myself and be convinced of my talent.”
Over the years, Long has sewn her own pajamas and several dresses, including semi-formal 1950s-style dresses. For the coat design, he modified McCall’s pattern.
“I added a few different personal accessories and styles,” Long said.
Lama previously modeled the coat during the 4H competition at the Eastern Idaho State Fair, where he won a medal in the style review category.
Long is the representative for the eastern 4H district and has been active in 4H and FFA for several years.
“I saw a lot of people showing sheep (in 4H) and I have been exposed to the wool industry through that program,” said Long, who hopes to have a career as a major veterinarian. “I’ve done a lot of learning about the animals featured in 4H and their respective industries.”
Long personally participated in a race featuring a horse and his dog, the German shepherd.
For winning the state contest, he was awarded a full fleece and 10 yards of wool for his future project. He explained that he used thick, hard-to-work wool for his coat, and that it would be easier to work with lighter wool in the future.
He was so desperate to get the coat back from the national appraisal that he ended up wearing it regularly.
Idaho Make it with Wool Director Kim Monk said the contest was meant to promote the quality and versatility of wool and has been around for decades. She looked at photos dating from the 1940’s of entries from Latah County in the Idaho state pageant.
Monk personally won the Idaho contest as a student in the 1980s. He earned a master’s degree in textile design from the University of Idaho.
“Wool as a fiber is very versatile. Wool is a natural fiber; it’s very sustainable,” says Monk.
Monk said he was impressed with all the entries in this year’s contest, including Long’s coat.
“It’s so beautiful. I want it,” he said.
Mia Sharnhost, from Genesee, took second place in the junior division.
There are 230,000 sheep raised in Idaho, and the herd has grown by 5% over the past two years, said Naomi Gordon, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association. Gordon emphasized that wool has antimicrobial properties and is good for human health and the environment.
“Fine wool is one of the finest fabrics you will find in the entire world,” says Gordon.
Gordon says proponents of using natural fibers tend to prefer wool, which he says “has had a bad reputation in the past from people who don’t understand the product.”
As well as clothing, Gordon said wool was used in brick making, as an insulator in computers and in fire-resistant uniforms.