A $20 second-hand Bernette sewing machine is the secret to success for Wanaka designer Ruth Arkless, a finalist for the third time in the World of Wearable Art Awards Show (WOW).

Ms Arkless is one of two Otago designers among 102 finalists from 19 countries. The other is Dunedin’s Bruce Mahalski.

Ms Arkless has entered the last five shows and was a finalist in 2018 and 2019.

Being a previous finalist had not made it easier, she said.

“It takes months to make, such a long time, but it is such a creative release,” she said.

She bought her sewing machine at a Dunedin garage sale in 2017 and used it to create her last three WOW entries.

“I didn’t have a sewing machine that worked .. I have had a lot of secondhand ones that I bought because I thought I could get them working, but I didn’t.”

Ms Arkless taught herself to machine sew and is very good at straight lines.

“If anything becomes too technical, it becomes a hand-sewing project.”

In 2018, she created a mostly hand-sewn sculptural piece, The Diatomist, from foam, hot glue and layers of fabric.

In 2019, her mountainous 2.5m high entry, Cultural Peak, was mostly machine-sewn.

Cultural Peak . . . a 2.5m high by 2.5m wide wearable creation by Ruth Arkless was a finalist in the 2019 Wearable Arts Awards in 2019. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

She then blunted more than three pairs of scissors while fraying the fabric.

This year’s entry, a secret for now, was inspired by the impact of social media.

She started it for last year’s show, which was cancelled because of Covid.

Ms Arkless put the garment aside to focus on moving from Cromwell to Wanaka, coping with lockdown and building a new house.

She completed the design between January and May.

She also teaches part time with Southern Health School, which provides education for Wanaka and Cromwell pupils who cannot attend school for health reasons.

This year’s judges include WOW founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff, Zambesi designer Elisabeth Findlay, sculptor Jeff Thomson, Academy Award-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne, Swedish-born celebrity stylist B Akerlund and Weta Workshop chief executive Sir Richard Taylor.

The show is in Wellington, from September 30 to October 17.