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Home > Border & Blue Faced Leicesters

Photo of some of Sue Johnson's Border Leicesters, here in Hinesburg.

Named for the region in England where these breeds originated, the “Leicestershire” sheep produce a long and lustrous wool. This group of sheep are easily recognizable by their Roman noses (see the closeup of a BFL -Blue FAced Leicester, below!).

This group was developed by Robert Bakewell in the 1700s and ultimately because 3 distinct breeds: Border Leicester, English Longwool Leicesters & Blue Faced Leicesters.

The Border Leicester branch...

By 1920, there were 767 registered Borders in the US.  The wool is long in staple (6-10 “). It is not particularly soft, with a micron count of about 30-35 (commercial fine wools like merino are generally in the 18-21 micron range, Corriedale in the 22-24 micron, for example). But what it looses in softness, it makes up for in luster and durability.

Because the wool shaft is long and wavy (photo left) rather than crimpy (like the lock of Cormo sheep locks shown photo below), when light hits the locks of the Leicester group of sheep, it bounces back off and reflects light. This is what makes it look lustrous to our eyes. In contrast, fine wools like Cormo, Merino & Rambouillet, the crimp (kinks) in each shaft of wool catch, or traps, the light so it can't reflect back off so these wools look “matt” or dull in finish, as you can see in the photo below.

Also, the long length and larger micrometer of the wool makes these Leicester wools more durable and less likely to pill than shorter/finer fibers. It also is what gives them, along with their twist, a good stitch definition. Vermont Border Leicester Yarn

The Blue-Faced Leicester (BFL) branch   don’t have a truly “blue” face, but the dark facial skin, which is covered in white fiber, can sometimes looks “blu-ish”! This phot of a BFL, taken at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, shows the Roman nose so characteristic of this group of sheep.

This breed is smaller than and has a finer micrometer than it’s Border cousin (Blue Faced typically are around 22-25 micron. And the locks feature a tighter, more ringlet formation compared to the wavier cousin, making it a favorite breed for locks for Santa beards and hair for dolls and other needle felted critters. And to use these locks as embellishment in wet felting is really nice too if you want to add some “squiggle” to your surface design.

The fleeces are much smaller (4 pound range) compared to the Border Leicesters, too.

The long staple length and lustrous characteristics of  both these “Leicester” breeds make for a yarn that takes dye brilliantly and provides really good stitch definition. And great durability. If I was going to knit an Alice Starmore or other complex stitch/cable pattern garment and I wanted all that work to wear well and look new and crisp for a long time, I’d choose either of these yarns.

Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Yarns