Thursday, 23 August 2012

Embrace the Face

Bluefaced Leicester

Leicester longwool Breed 


Micron 24-28

About Bluefaced Leicester sheep: The blue face comes from the very fine white hairs over the dark black skin creating the visual illusion of a blue hue. They also have erect ears and wool is tightly purled, fine and semi-lustrous. The Bluefaced Leicester (Pronounced Lester) sheep evolved in Northumberland in the early 1900’s as direct descendants of the now extinct, Dishley Leicester. They were first brought over to Canada in 1970. The BFL is also one of the largest British breed sheep.


My Spinning experience: There seems to be 2 kinds of spinners where BFL is concerned. One is those who love spinning BFL and one is those who love spinning BFL.  My previous experiences with BFL have been with top or dyed roving. Did you know that top is fiber all lined up perfectly in the one direction and just by dyeing top, it is no longer top? Through the dyeing process, no matter how careful, the fiber is no longer perfectly aligned, making it roving. I’d personally take this fact to the bank as it was told me at a workshop by Judith MacKenzie.

Anyway, back to the BFL. So, my experience till now was primarily of top or roving (and will be for quite some time with it constituting a good 25% of my stash). BFL is a lovely fiber that dyes beautifully and blends exceptionally well with fibers like silk. My lock spinning experience was also a pleasant one.  If spinning top, make sure to fluff it out a bit to allow easy drafting without it grabbing and running away from you in a clump. Spinning from the lock was a breeze. The finished yarn shows lovely stitch definition and is lovely as next to skin soft for knit/woven garments.



Badger Faced Welsh Mountain

Staple: 7.5-10cm

Micron: 26-37

About Badger Faced Welsh Mountain Sheep  Have roamed the Welsh hills for centuries but only reached , recognized breed status in 1976, the same year that Peter Casserly of New Zealand hand sheared a record 353 lambs in 9 hours (he also sheared Shrek) and The Donnie and Marie Show debuted on the tube. They, the Badger faced sheep and not Donnie and Marie, were also used as markers on hills for shepherds to locate their flocks. There are 2 distinctive type of badger Faced Welsh Mountain sheep. Torddu (pronounced Torthee) has a dark belly, face markings and a light coloured fleece. It is 3 times more numerous than Torwen and considered The Badger. The other, Torwen has a white belly, face markings and dark fleece.

The breed is primarily a meat sheep though the fleece was processed locally, dyed and woven into the famous Welsh red cloaks.

My Spinning Experience: My Torddu sample was sooo interesting looking in the wee baggie. I only wish I left it in there! The colours are stunning in their range, especially within the [i]kemp which gave me an incredible looking yarn but too prickly for next-to-skin wear. Anyway, my sample included everything from short fibers to even shorter second and likely 3rd cuts. Kemp of every colour and bits of absolutely everything the sheep came into contact with. It was obviously a happy sheep as it must have roamed near and far, being so filthy. The fiber was quite dry (little to no lanolin/grease) but no way it could have been cleaned. Surely. With such short fibers I had to spin this one a little longer draw.
After the Torddu….it was clearly evident that my breed stash needed restructuring and my floor, wheel and clothes, cleaning. I needed a wine.
My resolution:
Pile 1:Commercially prepared and ready to spin fiber and/or locks
Pile 2: Looks clean but needs carding
Pile 3: The raw and I-haven’t-a-clue-what-to-do-with-that pile

[i] Kemp: The heaviest, coarsest hair fibers. They do not accept dye and can be prickly in the resulting yarn. Kemp is not desirable in a fleece for hand spinning but does create a tweedy effect.

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