Spinning BFL (Blue Faced Leicester)

According to Wiikipedia: The Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) is a longwool breed of sheep which evolved from a breeding scheme of Robert Bakewell, in Dishley, Leicestershire in the eighteenth century. First known as the Dishley Leicester, and then the Hexham Leicester, because of the prevalence of the breed in Northumberland, the name Bluefaced Leicester became known at the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1970s, the Bluefaced Leicester was exported to Canada. Exported frozen semen from the United Kingdom is now used to expand the genetic diversity in Canada and the United States. This breed is raised primarily for meat, but their fleece is becoming increasingly popular for handspinning.

1024px-Ewe_and_lambs_in_the_gardenphoto courtesy of Wikipedia

I ordered some grey BFL from World of Wool as part of my Black Friday haul.  At 26 microns, the wool roving is quite soft, though not as soft as merino wool which is usually sold at a lower micron of 23 and the highest I have seen merino being sold.  The higher the micron, the sturdier the fiber. The BFL colors sold at WOW are mostly natural colors.  The only dyed ones are black and bright white.  I thought I should try it for spinning as a lot of spinners really rave about it.  The price of natural BFL is less expensive than dyed 18.5 micron merino, but the same price as dyed 23 micron merino, making it a bit more pricey comparatively.  You are paying more for a British breed that is a bit coarser on the fiber count.   BFL is one of the longwool varieties of sheep.  When I opened the packet, I got a slight wiff of sheep, but it isn’t unpleasant.  It passes the face and neck test and feels quite soft, but obviously not as soft as merino.  If you didn’t know better, you would think that you have a 23 micron count of merino. The roving has a long staple of about 3 inches or more and is really lovely to spin.

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The yarn plied beautifully and made a really lovely skein.

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The yarn is soft enough to wear next to the skin and is quite bouncy.  I love how it feels.  I am glad that I had a chance to spin this and it will definitely be going into a scarf.

I also got some BFL in my sample pack of carded wool from Benridge Woolworks.  The price of carded BFL from Benridge is about three times the price of BFL roving from Wow.   I received 78g of a natural white which is more of a yellowish or blond color.  I could see a bit of VM, which the WOW BFL barely has.  The carding on this sample is better than what I received for the Gotland and alpaca.  There is not much of a smell to this. You really have to get your nose in it to smell anything.  However, there is a very slight feeling of grease and the fiber feels more coarse than the grey roving. I decided to spin this straight from the batt.

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This single ball felt more like waxed string.  It plied ok, but it was slow to pick up and I think that was due to the residue of lanolin.  I had to scour this a couple of times on the stove as there was a lot of dirt in the yarn and to get the grease out.

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The yarn is quite stiff in comparison to the grey and a bit scratchy.  It is still quite on the yellow side and less greasy than before.  I was quite disappointed in the outcome.  In spite of that, it will not go to waste.  It is very strong and will make good warp for a table runner or tapestry.  BFL is meant to be one of the softest of the British breeds, so I did have high expectations for this carded batt.

You can see the difference between the two skeins.  One is fluffy, and one is not.  I probably will not be purchasing this again, mainly due to value for money.  I am on a budget, so I have to spend wisely.  I only purchased the BFL from WOW as I got 20% off in my Black Friday deal and it was something I wanted to try.  There are more British breeds from WOW I would like to try and they are in my wish list for when another sale comes up.  I won’t be purchasing any more carded batts from Benridge due to the price and quality.  I feel sad about this as I would like to support the British wool economy.  This was the first time I have bought local so to speak.  I know that there are others out there, but I don’t feel I can justify high prices going in blind.  However, I am happy to spin samples if someone wants to send me some for free and wants an honest opinion.

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