Because I will be introducing a bunch more BFL (Bluefaced Leicester, pronounced "Lester") wool to the shop in the coming weeks, and because it is so far my very favorite wool to spin (actually, Leicester longwools in general are my favorite), I have decided to do a little research post so we can learn more about this lustrous, strong yet very soft wool. Because I'm a spinner and a knitter and not a shepherdess, I will be focusing more on the wool side of this topic, and won't be going far into breeding or other topics since that is all just confusing to someone who doesn't raise sheep or already have a knowledge about different breeds. I'm still new to learning about breeds, so I am learning right along with you!
The Bluefaced Leicester sheep (from now on will be abbreviated as BFL) gets its name from the skin pigment of its nose, it has a bluish to black coloring of the skin underneath the white hair of its nose. The BFL breed came into being in United Kingdom in the late 1800s - early 1900s and wasn't introduced into the United States until the 1970s. It is a longwool breed, with a springy and curly texture. BFL sheep are the majority white, but natural colors are becoming increasingly more common in the US. Its wool is not coarse like many other longwool sheep, and is actually next to skin soft while being much more durable and lustrous (shiny) than Merino. BFL has a noticeably lighter weight to its wool, which I love for spinning lofty woolen yarns. If you're into technical numbers and such, it has a micron count of 24-28, micron count is a measurement of the diameter of individual fibers in a fleece, the lower the micron number the more "fine" or thin the fiber. It has a staple length of 3-6", which is on the longer side and one of the factors that make its fleece sturdy and long-wearing.
For spinners/dyers: BFL wool is a bit slippery so is not the best choice for beginner spinners, however once you get the hang of spinning it, it practically spins itself its so smooth and buttery. That's the only way I know how to describe it, you'll have to experience it yourself. It also takes dye beautifully, with a bit of shine. When I have dyed it, it seems to have a slightly more muted appearance, yet the colors are saturated and clear.
BFL is a very versatile wool, being both soft and hard-wearing. It has a gorgeous drape and luster to it and blends beautifully with other fibers such as mohair or silk. The perfect yarn for sweaters, socks, mittens, hats, scarves, shawls...anything really! I look forward to spinning lots and lots of BFL for the shop in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
If you have a topic you'd like me to talk about next week, feel free to leave a comment below :)
Serene Fiber Arts
Amanda J. French
Fiber artist from Louisville, KY. Professionally, I spend my days spinning one of a kind yarns from wool and recycled fibers, and weaving with them. Other hobbies include; yoga, fitness, painting, studying languages, and knitting.