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 March Bluefaced Leicester Woolalong

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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Clara Posted - 03/02/2010 : 10:49:30 AM
Hello everybody!

While the very last rows are being knit and ends darned in our February woolalong Cormostravaganza, I wanted to let you know where we’re headed next. Pack your bags for the British Isles and prepare to fondle the luscious longwool breed of Bluefaced Leicester.

It’s a fitting next step in our wool journey because the fibers behave quite differently than our Cormo, being longer and more lustrous, producing a smoother yarn with much more drape. And yet they’re still soft enough to help ween you from February’s Cormo. My goal is to get you a little more accustomed to these non-Merino waters before we dive head-first into the really different stuff.

I’m going easy on you this month, because Bluefaced Leicester (or BFL, as we’ll be calling it) is one of the easiest breed-specific wool yarns to source. A quick Ravelry search on BFL yarns brought a host of possibilities. But its ease of sourcing brings some interesting issues because we rarely have a direct connection with the farm where the fibers came from. Plus, there’s a new superwash BFL sock yarn base making its way around the hand-dyer circuit, and by virtue of its superwash nature, the fiber has most likely been processed in China.

In my mind, any purchase of a breed-specific wool sends a positive message to farmers and helps feed a breed-aware ecosystem. However, different wools will have different ecological footprints. Where you draw the line will be very much a personal thing.

In terms of specific BFL yarns, I have a few pointers – but the world is truly your oyster here.

I fell head over heels in love with the BFL from The Natural Dye Studio in the UK - such tender, delicate fibers, surprisingly springy, and in gorgeous colors. Cat Bordhi used them for her Reversing Leaves Socks in KBOW.

If you like something a little more plump and pure, consider the lovely undyed BFL from Iriss of Penzance (also in the UK), which comes in Aran and DK weights. This is plush and lively stuff.

You can also experience a very voluptuous bulky BFL from the Rowan Purelife British Breeds Collection. We’re 99.9% sure it’s all BFL or pretty close.

I also know that Spirit Trail Fiberworks and Briar Rose both have some gorgeous dyed BFL fibers, for our intrepid handspinners. And String Theory Yarn (my beloved LYS) has a lovely new BFL/nylon sock yarn you may want to try – their colors are quite enticing. I know that Three Irish Girls also has a BFL yarn, and many other hand-dyers offer their own colors on a similar BFL sock canvas. Fleece Artist also offers a heavier BFL that can be quite rich and buttery, with a bit more personality to it.

Those are just some suggestions to get you started on your journey.

In terms of what to knit, this will be dictated greatly by the weight of your yarn. Finer weights can work well for socks (BFL has less spring and elasticity than Merino, but the longer staple helps it resist abrasion) and beautifully for lace (love that drape!). In fact, I may knit myself a BFL version of Evelyn Clark’s Prairie Rose Shawl.

Heavier weights can make splendid sweaters, hats, mittens, or anything. You can always knit the Hill Country Hat using the Rowan Purelife British Breeds BFL if you want a quick one-skein swatch experience.

Please do chime in when you think you’ve sourced your yarn and/or fiber. We're meeting here and also in the KBOW discussion area on Ravelry. (While their technology/formatting makes this particular kind of discussion a little easier, I also want folks within KR to feel welcome and comfortable keeping it here if they'd like.)

Clara
Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher
20   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
jaymeKnits Posted - 05/11/2010 : 10:27:57 AM
I know I'm late to this party but I have loved BFL for years and my favorite source recently dried up Spinners Flock Farm is no longer doing their BFL yarn. After looking around I found a few that I want to try that have been mentioned in this thread and one that wasn't. Has anyone tried, seen touched etc Ashland Bay Klickitat? http://www.paradisefibers.net/Blue-Face-Leicester-Yarn-p/2152.htm

Jayme

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susan14_23 Posted - 04/13/2010 : 12:50:54 PM
Thanks Nutmeg Owl

Susan
NutmegOwl Posted - 04/12/2010 : 6:07:17 PM
Susan,

I'm on my third BFL project from the Glory Days Skein That Would Not End. The first, an Ivy Vines cowl, showed lace very well. The second, a Snapdragon Tam, has wonderful cable definition. The third is mostly stockinette (no pix posted yet) and I adore it, too. My yarn may not be quite as bouncy as merino, but it has done everything asked of it and been a complete pleasure along the way.

-----
Nutmeg Owl
Quaecumque sunt vera
http://www.owlwaysknitting.wordpress.com
mathiemom Posted - 04/12/2010 : 2:13:11 PM
Sandy, I've actually had the same experience with FA (not with BFL, but another yarn). I think what happens is that the dyelots can vary hugely in saturation, tone, etc. within the same colorway. So if the vendor took a photo of that colorway from the last batch and is still using that on their website, even though the new batch is different . . . well, what you see isn't what you get. When it happened to me, I just sucked it up and used the yarn anyway, but if it ever happens again, I'm returning the yarn. I actually phoned the vendor recently regarding some FA yarn I was considering buying, and she told me that the new batch she had gotten in was significantly less saturated than the photos across all of the colorways. I said no thanks and didn't order it. I have had good luck with Colorsong yarn (another web merchant) . . . they seem to photograph each new batch, so you have a better idea of what you're actually going to get.

Wendy
susan14_23 Posted - 03/23/2010 : 1:01:49 PM
I just got some Fleece Artist BFL sock yarn in the mail yesterday. So soft, and gorgeous deep color(Ultraviolet)! I need to make my niece a pair of socks for her birthday first but then I can't wait to start on some socks for me with this yarn. I thought it said it was machine washable and it's not, but that's not a problem.

Clara's first post says this yarn has "less spring and elasticity than merino". What does that mean as far as picking a stitch pattern - can I use a more complicated stitch pattern/cables or am I better off with stockinette?


Susan
sandyt Posted - 03/21/2010 : 6:51:16 PM
It doesn't happen often..the odd thing? the yarn poses for a photoshoot in full gorgeous color. Why is that??? When I opened the bag I gasped. ooohhhh my???? Did something happen in the mail?? Was it scared to death living in it's packaging that it actually changed color???
Luann Posted - 03/21/2010 : 3:03:07 PM
Sorry about the colorway disappointment, Sandy - I hate when that happens. That's why Clara created the destash table at the KR Retreat, right?

Last night I ripped out Multnomah and started over on a bigger needle. The larger it got, the springier the garter stitch became, and I suddenly woke up out of my BFF BFL trance to realize that this shawl was not going to drape unless drastic measures were taken. So - thanks to a little 1 am insomnia, I ripped and restarted. And I don't mind a bit, because I'm still loving every stitch!

Luann

Knit and let knit!
http://www.luannocracy.blogspot.com
sandyt Posted - 03/21/2010 : 07:43:12 AM
I was so excited!! I ordered 2 skeins of FA BFL sock in the colorway 'Seashore'. It arrived and ugh...what was I thinking? The yarn is soft and yummy-the colorway, not what I expected.

So, I'll hug it instead of knitting it..or maybe I'll make 2 pairs of anklets and gift them? Maybe the Shell socks??
minh Posted - 03/19/2010 : 6:25:41 PM
Wendy, we'd better make sure that our evil twins get a separate car when carpooling back from the retreat! Don't want to be crushed under the weight of all the yarn they will buy at the marketplace...

http://minkyknits.blogspot.com
Luann Posted - 03/19/2010 : 10:20:18 AM
BFL is definitely addicting... it's soft yet sheepy, got a kind of meatiness to it that I associate with the felt from the felt activity board from my kindergarten. It just feels really, really good to knit with. I am working away on my Multnomah wondering what next month is going to bring... so many wools, so little time!

Luann

Knit and let knit!
http://www.luannocracy.blogspot.com
mathiemom Posted - 03/19/2010 : 07:02:44 AM
An open message to Clara:

This week the postal carrier brought me two ADDITIONAL 250g, 1000+ yd skeins of Fleece Artist BFL 2/8. And it is All. Your. Fault. Ripping open the bag, I swooned at the colorways while delighting in the soft, drape-y quality of the BFL. I may have to drop out of the Woolalong in future months, as I fear that I have become hopelessly addicted to the loveliness of BFL and might not ever be able to knit with anything else.

(How did this BFL get ordered? I have absolutely no idea - must've been my evil twin Gwendy.)

BTW my Madli Shawl, currently under construction with my original skein of BFL 2/8, is about 2/3 - 3/4 done. Can't wait to finish it!

Wendy
NutmegOwl Posted - 03/17/2010 : 08:19:19 AM
BFL is BFF indeed!
I've posted some photos of my first, most delightful BFL project: Glorious Vines, including some detail photos here and here. See blog for more details and rapturous discussion.

-----
Nutmeg Owl
Quaecumque sunt vera
http://www.owlwaysknitting.wordpress.com
Luann Posted - 03/05/2010 : 2:25:32 PM
I like what you are saying, Sheila. Last month I just fished out the Foxfire Fiber cormo I bought at the 2008 KR Retreat out of my stash and said hello to it. This month I find I have two different BFL BFF yarns. Would also like to actually use some of them, but if nothing else I'm getting some quality stash-diving time in.

Luann

Knit and let knit!
http://www.luannocracy.blogspot.com
susan14_23 Posted - 03/05/2010 : 2:07:33 PM
This sounds fun - I might join you! I'm actually working on a chemo hat for my friend who was just diagnosed with cancer, but at least I may buy some BFL this month and be ready to start a project in a week or two when I'm done with the hat. I'll probably do socks but maybe a shawl would be nice.

If you buy yarn on eBay, I searched for blue faced leicester and only got one hit, but I got several by searching under blue face (not faced) leicester and BFL.

Susan
Shelia Posted - 03/05/2010 : 09:01:05 AM
Maybe I misunderstood the original intent of the Woolalong, but I though it was to "introduce" breed-specific wools to folks. There's no requirement that the wool be actually spun or knit. Just having some BFL yarn or fiber should count, it can be stroked, squeezed, and sniffed, right?

My kettle-dyed BFL sweater has both sleeves finished, but I was distracted a couple of days ago by the need to "break in" a new spinning tool, a Hansen electric Mini-Spinner. Of course, I chose some BFL fiber to use, so now I'm hooked on both the spinner and the fiber and must finish spinning the 8 oz. before I go back to the sweater. My house is full of BFL fumes!

Shelia
www.letstalkstash.blogspot.com
ravelry name - sheliaknits
marfa Posted - 03/05/2010 : 06:28:10 AM
How do.

As someone else wrote re lurking,so shall I - February flew by as did the 56" of snow we had. Seems prudent (whenever did that come into play, you ask me ^.. ^) to read about the faboo BFL WIPs & do one for myself later.

Can't wait to see what you all do.

Martha

http://marfasmewsings.blogspot.com
mathiemom Posted - 03/04/2010 : 4:13:47 PM
Ooh, ooh, ooh, BFL, love of my life! I've been onto this breed since buying some Spirit Trail DK weight at the KR Retreat a few years back and knitting it up into a pair of soft, lovely socks that wear like IRON. It so happens that I started a Madli's Shawl (from Nancy Bush's Estonian lace book) in Fleece Artist BFL 2/8 before taking a break to make a vest for the ravelympics. That's all done now, so . . . on with the BFL shawl! The 2/8 is a nice weight - just a little thinner than fingering - so it feels comforting and substantial while still sporting a fabulous drape. I'm using sz 7 needles . . . that way, the project works up pretty quickly and will make for a nice big shawl!
Wendy

ps: Clara, for the vest project I used yarn spun from my friend Helaine's sheep, a Romney/Corriedale cross. I was a little worried that it would be too scratchy, too rough, etc., etc., but it I was determined to take your philosophy from KBOW to heart and just go for it. I'm so glad I did - the vest worked up beautifully. While I probably wouldn't wear it right next to my skin (I am especially prone to "wool scratchies"), it's lovely and soft over a cotton top. And - bonus - while I was working on this vest, the natural lanolin in the yarn did a fantastic job of keeping my hands soft; I didn't need hand lotion for the two weeks I worked on it! I'm so glad that you're doing these projects to introduce us to different wool breeds. Thank you!

Wendy
Jane Posted - 03/04/2010 : 12:09:20 PM
quote:
Originally posted by Clara

quote:
Originally posted by Jane
That's it, Clara -- I saw those two whooping it up in the tavern at the Retreat!

Jane

Betty needs a warm hat: Support KR
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: My Flickr Album




Don't deny it - I saw your evil twin June there too.

Clara
Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher


Busted! And Lanea -- I figured that one out years ago! You've been quite the evil enabler since I met you!

Jane

Betty needs a warm hat: Support KR
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: My Flickr Album
Lanea Posted - 03/04/2010 : 08:53:13 AM
So, what if I am the evil twin, and I'm trying to keep you all from meeting my good twin, hmmmm?

See proof of insanity: http://crazylanea.com/
Read my audiobook reviews: http://booksforears.com/
Buy handmade sock knitting bags: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5031570
Join the KR Webring: http://www.crazylanea.com/fiberarts/2006/07/the_knitters_re.html
Clara Posted - 03/04/2010 : 06:45:42 AM
quote:
Originally posted by Jane
That's it, Clara -- I saw those two whooping it up in the tavern at the Retreat!

Jane

Betty needs a warm hat: Support KR
Blog: Not Plain Jane
Photos: My Flickr Album




Don't deny it - I saw your evil twin June there too.

Clara
Your friendly Knitter's Review publisher

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