Just in case you ever try to stitch up a newspaper outfit, Walela Mystic can tell you the secret to making it work.
''You have to have more than one newspaper layer and use the biggest stitch you can get," said the 12-year-old home-schooled student from Wichita Falls, Texas. "You don't want to mess up."
Recently, Mystic designed and constructed a pleated two-piece dress with bow belt made entirely out of Wichita Falls Times Record News newspapers.
She made the dress as her entry in the 2013 District 3 4-H Fashion Show held Saturday in Bryson, Texas, and modeled it there. It won second place.
The cost to make the paper dress, which consists of a skirt made out of newspaper end rolls: $1.75.
Mystic used newspapers from her grandfather Karlynn Shasteen's stash, then bought a paper for 75 cents specifically for its full-color newspaper logo that she transformed into a bow belt.
She also spent $2 to buy a newspaper end roll, which is a fat roll of unprinted paper left over after a press run, but figures she only used $1 of it.
She learned about the availability of the large blank end rolls a few months ago when her American Heritage Girls troop toured the newspaper building.
Mystic got ideas for her newspaper dress online but ultimately scaled her favorite idea down and adapted it to her own petite figure.
She sewed Velcro closures into the dress and belt to fasten them closed.
''It was a little difficult, but I figured it out," she said.
The entire outfit was stitched together on her Brother sewing machine. Her grandfather introduced her to sewing years ago when he let her watch as he mended his clothes and taught her how to sew a little pouch of her own.
She designed the dress with one seam along the waist that stitched together 14 layers of newsprint.
She folded and stitched pleats to give the bodice some body and room for movement.
''The pleats give stability when you sew it and allow you to move easier," she said. "If you sew it right, the pleats can unfold when you need to reach for something or sit down."
The skirt, which looks from a distance like lace, is made from triangles of end roll paper, strategically placed and stitched to flare out and provide a little room for movement.
''A solid newspaper skirt would be wrinkled real fast. I had to do a lot of planning on that one," she said.
Using a Martha Stewart specialty punch, she hole-punched a design along the paper skirt's edge, mimicking lace.
But even that took trial and error before Mystic realized that she needed to use a backing sheet for all punches.
Without it, the paper tore so badly it looked like a dog had chewed it up, she said.
Even wearing her delicate new creation was a little nerve-wracking. "If I got water on it at all, it was going to be bad," she said.
Her worst fears almost came true when she arrived at the fashion show and a fellow contestant approached her and shook her by the shoulders, startling Mystic and tearing the strap of her dress.
Luckily, she brought a repair kit with her and taped the strap back in place for the judging.
Mystic's mother, Krystal James, has home-schooled Walela and her three siblings ever since kindergarten for just this type of creative opportunity.
''We felt that public school was lacking in a couple of areas, like teaching of finance, independence and teaching some of the principles of entrepreneurship," James said.
The idea to enter a newspaper dress in the 4-H contest was Walela's own. When she suggested it to her mother, James said she was all for it.
''I told her, 'Make it happen,' " she said.
(Follow Times Record News writer Ann Work on Twitter @AnnWork1)