theresa mARTin

mixed media art

Never again, although I’m glad I tried. A tale of embroidery, sheep and the search for texture.


An important element in my artwork is showing the sense of hand. Recently I’ve been working toward gaining skills to increase this aspect of my work. I was lucky to find an embroidery class at Artistic Artifacts  with Ruth Chandler of Textile Evolution  where I learned an incredible 18 embroidery stitches in one day. Last year I learned how to dye fabric and fiber at Artistic Artifacts. This all feeds my love for fiber, texture and color. I also love sheep, their wool, texture, and color and all were in abundance at The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, sponsored by the Maryland Sheep Breeders Association, Inc. and held at the Howard County Fairgrounds in Maryland last weekend.

There were over 1000 sheep and 40 different varieties.




Hello Face


Such a sweet face

The following photos are some of the different types of fleece.



Beautiful White Fleece


Beautiful Textured Fleece

Curls and Waves

I absolutely LOVE the colorway of all the yarn that was available. The yearly show is a knitters paradise.

Yarn and Fleece

Yarn on top of Fleece


Magical skeins (because they remind me of the broom in Fantasia)

Beautiful color way yarn

Vibrant Earth Tones

Rich Jewel Tones

Rich Jewel Tones

It’s a fun filled weekend of live animals, arts, crafts, supplies and more. Vendors were selling food, sheep, yarn, and everything one would need to make yarn including….



Bags of Fleece

Bags of Fleece

…fleece straight from the backs of the sheep.

WHAT IS THE ARTIST’S EQUIVALENT OF EYES TOO BIG FOR STOMACH? This is! I purchased a small Teeswater X fleece and a Merino fleece with the idea I would make my own fiber for embroidery.

It’s an arduous process to wash and dry the fleece without ‘felting’ it. Apparently, any agitation during the washing process binds the fiber in a way that causes it to felt. The goal is to keep the strands separated so the wool can be spun or used as locks.

I worked a long time getting a small amount of clean fleece by hand washing and rinsing. Water must be kept to a certain temperature and agitation must be avoided. My fibers didn’t appear to bind into felt, even though, during the drying process, the washing machine spin cycle accidentally threw rinse water on the fleece. I stopped it quickly as I’d read that agitation of any kind was a big no no.

At the end, when I saw the clean fleece, I decided it was definitely worth it.


The never again part comes because this requires a better set up to do properly. I washed and rinsed the fleece in a small bucket which is not the best scenario for this type of intensive process.  I will send off the larger merino fleece to a mill to be washed and processed.

I gained a huge appreciation for the spinners and the dyers who make their own yarn.  I’ve been playing with new ideas, yarns and fibers and the direction is intriguing. I’ve tested the extreme end of trying to make my own yarn and I’m happy being somewhere between making my own yarn, dying fibers myself, hand stitching and using a sewing machine for stitching. It will be interesting to see where the new knowledge and skills takes me.

Experiment in hand stitching

Experiment in hand stitching on hand dyed fabrics

12 thoughts on “Never again, although I’m glad I tried. A tale of embroidery, sheep and the search for texture.

  1. It IS a hard and tedious process for sure. Like you, after one try, I figured it’s easier to buy it instead!! But you know what is the lure of this…..the colors! I’m such a sucker for fibers that have beautiful colors….I want them all. Which is why I crocheted/knitted for many years. And I started out in the 70’s with embroidery/cross-stitch/needlepoint. Just touching those yarns made me swoon. Thanks for sharing your experience and those DIVINE photos. Those hanging hanks of beauty are so luscious and tempting!!! 🙂

  2. It’s interesting to me that you are not just interested in paper arts and assemblage, but fiber arts as well (as am I )- I want to do it all, which I sometimes feel is a hinderance as I never master or excel in any one art form. But how to choose when they all have such different wonders to offer!

    • I know what you mean about the possibility of trying different things possibly being a hinderance. I’ve considered that it might be good to concentrate on one form of making art and admire those who do. I like to try it all too. I see nothing wrong with that choice and have pieces that combine rusted metal, paper and fabric so the different mediums become a vocabulary or a tool to make art. That’s why I always say I’m a mixed media artist even though it seems vague. My advice is to try it all if that appeals to you. In the exploration you may find yourself concentrating on one aspect more than another. Meanwhile you get to enjoy all the different wonders.

  3. The photos are wonderful! I have several small bags of dyed fleece purchased for felting and they’re beautiful but they’re still in the original bags. I’ve never thought to spin my own embroidery threads. Do you have a spinning wheel? I would definitely love to get ‘back’ into embroidery (I did some – crewel – so many years ago) hence all the new books in my library. I’m very intrigued by stumpwork and couching. Being as impatient as I am, I would be better off going to a shop that sells lovely wools all ready for me to stitch. The last photo is very intriguing – is that a slipper?

    • The last photo is a heart, although I have been looking for the paperwhimsy slipper pattern we once used. I can’t find it. That is a project I want to do in the future. I bought a hand spinner and some roving and I plan to learn to spin. That said, I will mostly buy my threads in future. I may do some dying of plain threads, and that will be as basic as I go. I’m glad to know more about it all and it’s been fun exploring new territory.

  4. Here are some links to the wonderful people I contacted about washing the fleece:
    in case anyone is looking for a Mill. It looks like they have an amazing set up and they have been very helpful.

  5. At least you gave it a go, Theresa, and at least you didn’t buy an actual sheep! I have been tempted to do that but common sense fortunately prevailed. I now leave the yarn making and dying to others and support them by buying the resulting yarns. A safer bet, I think! Adored seeing all those different textured sheep.

    • I have been tempted to buy a sheep but this experience more than sobered me to the difficulties. Sheep would be great where you live Frieda. But yes, it’s best to think of it as supporting those who do this whole beautiful, arduous process. I am glad I gave it a go.

  6. WOW! I am impressed! (me thinks you are a bit crazy!) I think I will buy it from those who love doing the process! Thanks for sharing Theresa!

  7. Oh wow Theresa-I love EVERYTHING about this post-the photos are spectacular!!!! I certainly commend you for trying this process-no way I’d try it-ever! I would love to own a sheep tho 🙂 Your stitched heart is so beautiful and reminds me of the special things the women used to make during the Victorian era-love it!

  8. SO enjoyed this post…your wonderful photos along with your adventurous spirit = all ways dear Theresa!!!
    There must have been so much temptation at the fair … the colors and textures are not easy to resist…
    Your stitched heart is brilliant … all of the colors I adore and each and every stitch is magical too!

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