Thursday, 1 December 2011

Finally, the answer to Kitty's query!

Just yesterday (LOL) Kitty wondered what is a Leicester? She actually should have asked, where is Leicester?

Leicester (pronounced Lester) is a city in England. Animals are generally named for the region they come from in the U.K. The Leicesters are  part of the English Longwool family of sheep. The most well know of this type is the Bluefaced Leicester (or BFL to those in the know).

This great map from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook shows the locations of the different sheep breeds in the U.K.

BFL is easy to find and I have bought several skeins on Etsy. This is the first in my new yarn discoveries (please forgive my naivete!) What an extaordinary fiber! It is very soft. It's not Merino, but if you think sheep's wool is rough and itchy, this will change your mind!

This is a swatch that I knit up. Isn't the color amazing? This wool was spun and dyed by a lovely young woman from Edinburgh. She also sells hand knits and patterns. You can find her here:

The English Longwool Family traces it's origins in Britain to the Romans. Here is a list of the main family members. Notice how many are conservation breeds, 8 out of 10. Not good statistics! All photos are from Wikimedia Commons.

Bluefaced Leicester

Leicester Longwool - conservation breed

Cotswold - critical conservation breed

Greyface and Whiteface Dartmoor - conservation breed

Wensleydale- conservation breed

Devon and Cornwall Longwool - conservation breed
Lincoln Longwool - conservation breed
Teeswater - conservation breed
Border Leicester

Romney - conservation breed

So remember, if you want, literally, to help keep these breeds alive and discover fabulous new knitting fibers, look for one of these wools for your next project. Doing a Google search of the fiber by name will direct you to many sellers. I was also happy to find out that the amazing Rowan company has joined the effort to save British sheep. They have started a new line of wool called British Sheep Breeds. It's available in three weights. Rowan also has other organic and environnementally friendly products. You can find them here:

Have you tried any of these wools? Let us know what you think!
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