I have been asked many times over the years what my favorite wool is in regards to needle felting. I had mainly used Romney wool since that is the breed of sheep we own, so I didn’t feel like I really knew that answer. We have expanded our flock to Wensleydale and Blue Faced Leicester but I still didn’t feel like I had an honest answer to that question. I have decided to felt my way through the sheep breeds using wool from a particular breed to needle felt a sculpture of that breed of sheep. I hope to gain experience with different types of wool so that I can better answer your questions. On this adventure I am learning all about each breed and passing that on to you as well.
Blue Faced Leicester = (BLUE-FACED LESS-TER) In case you were wondering how to say it. 🙂 Also known as BFL.
The Blue faced Leicester has a very recognizable Roman nose, ears that are long and stand upright, and deep blue skin on their faces and legs. They do not have any horns (polled) and they don’t have wool on their legs, belly, neck and face. The BFL is generally white but natural colored lambs are produced because of recessive black genetics. The BFL is in the longwool breed category and is one of the three Leicester breeds of sheep. The other two Leicester breeds are English Leicester Longwool and Border Leicester. BFLs have the finest fleece of the three Leicester breeds.
BFL sheep first came to Canada from the United Kingdom in the 1970s and then to the United States from Nova Scotia in the 1980s. The Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America has much more information on this beautiful breed.
The fleece from a BFL can weigh up to 4 1/2 pounds compared to 8 pounds from our Romney’s. Their wool has a staple length of 3-6 inches. The wool has a distinctive bouncy/spiraling characteristic. Since it is lustrous it takes colors well when dyeing.
We first purchased Blue Faced Leicester’s three years ago. Up to that point we had a flock of registered Romney sheep. We love our Romney’s but soon fell in love with our new BFL’s. We purchased the BFL’s because I loved working with their wool for spinning. I didn’t know much about their personalities but was pleasantly surprised. They are very attentive, looking at you with their big eyes and moving their ears around to show they are paying attention to you. They have all been very docile letting me pet them and work with them and their lambs. They walk different and are taller than the Romney’s. They walk majestically and so all of our BFL’s are named after gods and goddesses. The fact that they do not have any wool on their bellies, legs and heads is a bonus as most of the wool from those areas on our Romney’s is dirty and matted anyway. Their babies are adorable with big eyes and ears, we think they look like kangaroos when they are babies.
Since we own Blue Faced Leicester sheep I have felted with it before, and I love spinning it into yarn. Right now it is my favorite wool for spinning, but I haven’t tried them all.
When comparing it to what I mainly use, Romney, the fiber is a bit smoother and the felting needle doesn’t grab it as easily and quickly. Felting the legs was a challenge with this wool. Felting the legs is never my favorite, but I couldn’t get the shape I wanted as easily. It took me longer to felt than it usually does. I also found that it left lines more than Romney, where I had to continually lay more wool over to make it look smooth. I also found that the more I worked on a certain place with the felting needle, for example the mouth, it stopped felting it together. It’s as if all of the wool scales that usually lock it together stopped working. This can and has happened to me with Romney but not as quickly. I spend a lot of time perfecting the facial features felting from different angles so I can see how this could happen. I used carded wool for the body and some locks from one of our BFL’s for the wool coat. I loved working with the uncarded springy locks. They are soft, lustrous and easily felted into place. They added the perfect texture I was looking for.
BFL felted to be nice and solid, not spongey like some I have felted with. It took quite a bit of felting to get it to be solid, but I am happy with the end product. I am going to give Blue Faced Leicester wool a felting score of 6 on a scale of 1 to 10. Ten being the best.
You can find listings on Etsy for BFL roving in many beautiful natural and dyed colors. If you have used BFL wool in your needle felting let me know what you think about felting with it in the comment section below.
The Blue Faced Leicester sheep sculpture that I made is available to purchase in my Etsy shop.
- Icelandic – 6
- Jacob – 3
- Blue Faced Leicester – 6
- Corriedale – 7
- Southdown – 7