Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Mystery of Blue-Faced Leicester...Unwound

Pick up a skein of yarn and check the label for fiber content, and there’s a good chance that
yarn will contain some percentage of wool—likely Merino, a particularly fine variety of sheep’s
wool. Merino is one of the most popular types of wool for use in yarn and garments, but recently
something different appeared among the yarn offerings at Bobbin’s Nest Studio: Indigo Moon’s
100% Blue-faced Leicester (pronounced "Lester") wool. Nothing against soft and lovely Merino, but if the recent rainy weather has you itching to start a cozy new project using something a bit more exotic than your trusty standby wool, Blue-faced Leicester (or BFL as it is commonly referred to) may be the yarn for you.

Thank You Wikipedia and Magic Foundry on Flickr for this image

That hefty name—Blue-faced Leicester—indicates the breed of sheep from which this wool
is spun. The Blue-faced Leicester is a specific variety of Leicester sheep, haling from
Northumberland (in Northeast England). Originating during the early twentieth century,
Blue-faced Leicesters are primarily used for crossbreeding purposes, and it’s not difficult to
understand why. According to the Leicester Longwool Sheep Breeder’s Association, Leicesters
are an exceptionally large, adaptable, and hardy breed, and Blue-faced Leicesters are outstanding for crossbreeding, even among other varieties of Leicester.

Unfortunately, their usefulness as sires in breeding lambs is not exactly a nod to their beauty; Leicesters are at best an awkwardly charming animal, with an expression that seems to say, “Really? You’re wearing that?” The beauty of the Blue-faced Leicester’s fleece more than makes up for whatever it may lack in good looks, however, and the wool (and whatever you choose to make with it) is guaranteed to be more attractive than the sheep itself.

Blue-faced Leicesters are a long wool variety, meaning they produce long-stapled wool (3-6” staple length) with a wide fiber diameter (in contrast to Merino varieties, which are fine wool sheep producing wool with narrow fiber diameters). Although long wool fleece seems to appear less often in luxury sweaters, it’s popular with hand spinners, so the beautiful skeins produced by artisan companies like Indigo Moon should come as no surprise. The wool you’ll see coming from Blue-faced Leicesters equals Merino wools in softness, but also has an intriguing luster and, when knit, an elegant drape.

Combined with the rich, nature-inspired hues of the Indigo Moon 100% BFL, this unique wool choice has no trouble inspiring the urge to knit up a brand new scarf to use the next time winter weather rolls around.

As Kate was writing this blog post, I received an email from Trish at Indigo Moon touting the wonder that is BFL.  I thought I should share it with you...

If you haven’t tried the new Blue-faced Leicester yet ….here’s another reason…well actually two…why you should.
As you already know, the BFL is awesome for shawls – the drape is the best I’ve seen (without silk), the colours just pop and the yarn isn’t as sprongy as Merino so it’s stays more where it’s blocked. But do you know how great it is for socks?
I’ve focussed on the greatness of BFL for shawls, scarves etc …and forgot about socks! How could I do that!??!
For those of you that don’t want nylon in your yarn – or prefer a yarn that you may or may not use for socks – then the BFL is a great choice. It is 430 yds per 100gm – so there’s plenty of yarn for pretty much any pair of socks. BFL is naturally strong – so the nylon really isn’t needed for strength – in fact my suppliers claim that BFL with or without nylon should last the same amount of time. And BFL is less stretchy than the Merino so they will retain their shape better (if you are really concerned about the socks not getting larger with wear, just go down a part needle size). And the dyes come out so beautifully on the BFL – more shimmer, less matte.
And …it’s superwash! so if you really must put the socks in the washer and/or dryer (on gentle and low heat) you can! Pin It


Anonymous said...

Love the new look and the online shopping option!

Somerhill said...

Harumpht~! I cannot believe you don't think BFLs are as elegant and stunningly beautiful as I do! :^)


Somerhill said...

BTW - LOVELY yarn!