Sara Swanson

Amy Pyle – Manchester Community Fair’s 2017 Homemaker Champion

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Amy Pyle, 2017 Homemaker Champion.

Manchester Community Fair’s 2017 Homemaker Champion needed a lot of skills to win the title, but possibly the most important one isn’t something you can win a ribbon in, it was perseverance. Manchester’s Amy Pyle worked all year to get ready for the fair and in the end, with 38 entries in 6 of the 8 categories of the homemaker competition, she won Homemaker Champion

This was the 7th year she entered and although she placed every year, winning Reserve Championship five times, this was only her second time winning Homemaker Champion. But, when considering entering for the first time she received a lot of discouragement. Pyle explained, “Two years prior to entering in the homemaker competition, I had read about the contest and it compelled me. Most of the categories in the contest, were hobbies of interest to me.  I mentioned to a few people that it was something I may want to try.

Amy Pyle was awarded Champion. Jessica Hale was awarded Reserve Champion. Autumn Cole was awarded Junior Champion. And Lila Harvey was awarded Reserve Junior Champion.

My interest was met with skepticism. I heard things like: ‘You can’t win that, its too political…your’e not originally from Manchester”, ‘That’s too much work, only a few people win that’ or the one that truly fueled my fire: ‘But you aren’t a homemaker, a woman who works outside the home will never win champion’. That couldn’t be further from the truth as I have seen many women who work outside of the home win this competition. Yet, what that statement did was become a driving force for me to win.  Maybe to prove it to the haters, maybe to prove it to myself… but I was going to win.”

Pyle feels that in truth, the Homemaker Champion title could be more accurately described as “Creativity Champion” or “Hobby Champion”.  “I’m proud of the title and my achievement, but as a mom and a wife, the “Homemaker” label really doesn’t describe accurately what it is like to be a homemaker on a day to day basis,” she stated.  If the competition were to be truly a homemake competition, she suggested, the categories include “how to mediate fighting siblings, management of the never ending pile of laundry, trying to figure out why there are 7 half full cups of water on the table when you just cleaned the table off 2 hours ago and there are only 3 children present in the home, finding the right words to help your kids through a tough disappointment, pulling together a recently discovered school project or homework assignment on the fly… just keeping it all together; keeping the trains running, the fires burning and the troops motivated” “That’s what I think a homemaker does”, she stated.

Amy Pyle’s 2017 entry ribbons.

Good planning, Pyle explained, is how she was able to balance working, homemaking, and preparing for the competition. “I try to think of the competition as a year long project and not something I start 2 weeks before entries are due.  I work on sewing, crafts, gardening and canning throughout the year.  No doubt there is still always pressure in the days before entries are due and some projects that get scrapped or held for next year.” In fact, she was was working on a paper mache mask of Aku from Samurai Jack, but ran out of time. She plans to finish it and states that it is likely to make an appearance in next year’s exhibit building.

She couldn’t even estimate a number of hours invested in this year’s entries, “Some things have actual time frames to the stages like paper mache  or decoupage projects, but others are a way of life,” Pyle stated. She had 6 counted cross stitch entries this year that she had worked on all year. Most nights, when she sits down to watch TV or a movie, she cross-stiches.

Pyle recognizes pressure for women to be good homemakers on top of working. “Society drives that pressure,” she stated, “There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for a women to do “everything”.  Truly successful households are partnerships, where men and women contribute equally.”

Some of the prize winning homemaker entries.

Pyle believes we still have a long way to go as a society as a whole when it comes to valuing homemaking. But personally, other than those who originally discouraged her from competing, she has only encountered positive feedback.  “Most people think it is awesome and are very congratulatory.  Some friends want tips on how I win.  They want to bring me healthy competition; which I openly welcome,” Pyle stated, “There is more than enough room in this town to showcase all of the fabulous talent.  When I walked around the exhibit room this year, I was in awe of the amazing creativity that was being featured.  The little Village of Manchester has some mad skills.”

She found her decoupage Lego tray the hardiest. It demanded creativity, focus, and patience. But it was also the entry she was most proud of.

A contestant must enter 5 of the 8 homemaker categories to compete. The winner is determined by total points accumulated.  4 points are granted for each 1st place ribbon, 3 for 2nd, 2 for 3rd and an additional 1 point is added for any best in show. Of Pyle’s 38 entries, 6 were in needle crafts, 4 were in canning – pickles, dill beans, pickled garden mix, and grape juice, 2 in photography, 11 in crafts, 12 in floriculture, and 6 were in baking. She ribboned with many of her entries, but was most proud of her Decoupage entry, a Lego sorting tray was made from upcycled materials. With three “master builders” under 13 in her home, it will be sure to get some use.

Pyle’s relatives shared their love of gardening and preserving with her. Here are her award winning pickles.

While she mostly taught herself most of her skills by reading books or doing research, her family strongly influenced her. Her parents, aunts and uncles all have gardens. They all love to grow, preserve, and bake.  She feels that they instilled an appreciation for these in her. Canning is in fact a category she won first place with every entry in. And although in past years, she has made jams and jellies when her grapes are bountiful, last fall, she found a wonderful and simple grape juice recipe and tried it. It was a big success! It both won her a blue ribbon and her family loves it!

Pyle has been passing her skills on to her sons. “My boys are all very creative,” she stated, “They love to craft with me. They have both competed in the fair and this year both won first place in their age groups for paper mache. That is a project we all enjoy doing together. They also love to cook, bake and garden with me.”

This cross stitch picture entry took Amy Pyle the longest of all her entries. It was actually larger than the framed 11 x 14 piece she entered.

Pyle has been completing counted cross stitch projects since she was a tween. “It is certainly not as popular as it was in the 80’s when I caught the bug,” she stated.  “Many people are unaware of the important role that stitching, especially samplers played in Women’s History. In the later 1700’s when only 4 out of 10 women could write their names, stitching an alphabet, a signature and a moral verse was quite an accomplishment. I am proud to still be stitching.  I am proud of the women who came before me.  While misogyny is still an issue and as a feminist I will continue to fight for the equality of all women and men, I will never take for granted the obstacles that women have overcome or the sacrifices they have made for progress.”

While Pyle keeps most of her ribbons in a cabinet in the dining room, she decided to hang her Homemaker Champion ribbon on the wall next to her bed. “I can look at it while I am stitching away or when I first wake up in the morning,” she stated “my reminder not to listen to haters… to seize the day, make every day matter.”

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