This was the first year the Chesapeake Fibershed sponsored prizes in the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival Skein and Garment competition. To be eligible, entries had to use 100% fiber grown within the Chesapeake Fibershed. In the garment/article category, the judges selected a beautiful needle felted lamb created by Charlotte Dutton to win a Chesapeake Fibershed prize, which included beautiful locally made wood bowls by Jeff Struewing of WoodlandTurns.
Charlotte and her family have been raising sheep for 20 years in Frederick, Maryland. All the wool used in her entry was from her own sheep, American Border Leicesters. Charlotte is an experienced felter, but a beginner as far as using natural dyes. “I love to experiment with dyes, but I’m still in the ‘happy accidents’ phase as far as natural dyeing is concerned. I used crushed wild strawberries from our woods (on a trail to our horse pasture), and I had hoped for a darker color but the resulting very pale pink turned out to be perfect for the inside of the animal ears.”
Charlotte’s inspiration for her entry was a Border Leicester lamb, since they’re born with that distinctive curly coat. Her entry is 100 percent needle felted and the fine level of detail shows her keen knowledge of the animal and excellent needle felting skills.
As far as advice to someone just starting with felting, Charlotte says “don’t be afraid to experiment and find your own “vibe”, but note that medium to coarser wools tend to needle felt better. Finer wools wet felt better. Sometimes a mix of wools will get the result you’re looking for. Be patient with yourself, enjoy the process of working with the wool, just enjoy the smell and feel of the wool. Enjoy the journey.”