Bluefaced Leicester

Having been somewhat burned by my futile experiences in pronouncing Manx Loaghtan, I would like to take a moment to assist visitors to this site who are unfamiliar with the ways in which the English language likes to trick foreigners by creating words that have gleefully abandoned all thoughts of logic and predictability.

It’s pronounced Lester – Bluefaced Lester.  Say it with me: Leh-ster.

On behalf of England, I’m sorry.  Over time our language has evolved, as they all do, but as the pronunciation of our words has altered we collectively voted as a nation to keep the older, archaic spellings and not let the rest of the world in on the secret.  It’s that famous English sense of humour you’ve all heard about – the same sense of humour that brought you Monty Python, Benny Hill and convinced the rest of the world that we still say ‘governor’ (despite the legal requirement in force that means all American actors attempting an English accent must start off with ‘Right-o guv-eh-norr’, we don’t say that word, and if we did it would be ‘Guv’.  And while we’re on the subject, it’s ‘righty-ho’.)  When an English child turns 13 they attend a ceremony where they are anointed with tea, presented with a ceremonial bowler hat and given their own copy of the secret book that tells us things like what Stonehenge was really built for (clue – aliens), who Jack the Ripper really was (clue – alien) and how to pronounce the secret ‘trick’ words like ‘Chalmondley’, ‘Mainwaring’, ‘Cirencester’ and ‘Magdellan’* Then we go on a pub crawl with the Queen, but I’m not supposed to talk about that.

So now you know this, you can now read the rest of the review safe in the knowledge that the voice in your head is pronouncing the name correctly. 

* You thought I was going to tell you, didn’t you.  I will not betray my people!

Quick Points

Flippity Felts Category – Dense and Springy

  • Very attractive wool, although the black is more like charcoal with brown undertones
  • Soft to touch
  • Good for creating fur with volume
  • Hard to 3D felt with from scratch – I found it tough to make core shapes with, or to create smaller shapes (cheeks, etc)
  • Can be used to gradually increase the size of core shapes (layering up) quite effectively
  • Felts large and is difficult to get a very firm core
  • Supposedly better suited to flat needle felting (i.e picture felting) or wet felting

About the Wool

Micron – 26
Staple length – 8-15cm
Handle – silky and soft
 
Available colours – Natural white, oatmeal, black, dyed colours
 
They don’t have blue faces, they don’t have blue faces!! Frankly, that’s all you need to know about these deceptive little beasties. They have grey skin under white fur.  Yes, I know that in animal terms the word blue is often used as a jazzier alternative to grey – I used to keep rats, and we did the same thing there. Nonetheless, naming these sheep blue-faced is the animal husbandry version of wearing a push-up bra – taking something small and seriously enhancing it.

Bluefaced Leicester is, certainly within the UK, a very easy wool to get hold of and is sold by numerous suppliers.

You can read more about the breed here.

First Impressions

The colour, although described as black, isn’t actually very black at all – it’s more a very dark brown, or a charcoal grey with brown undertones.  It’s very beautiful though – even though this is a natural colour top the colours are very evenly distributed.  The fibres are very dense, with a thick springy fluffiness that makes the bundle feel very ‘full’.  There’s no strong scent to the fibres.  There are some white guard hairs but no vegetable matter.  It pulls apart very easily with a little shedding.
A nicely coloured bundle of Bluefaced Leicester tops

A nicely coloured bundle of Bluefaced Leicester tops

 

Bluefaced Leicester comes in a nice range of natural colours

Bluefaced Leicester comes in a nice range of natural colours

 The fibres have a nice shallow crinkle with a slightly coarse texture that mades it seem as though it will be perfect for needle felting.

Close up of Bluefaced Leicester fibres

Close up of Bluefaced Leicester fibres

The Ball Test

The Ball Test is my comparison test between the different core wools to help determine suitability for purpose (i.e. dry needle felting), versatility and speed.  I start off with approx. 10 inches of fibre and felt using a 36 gauge triangle needle for five minutes (recording my progress at both the 3 and 5 minute marks), then I spend another 5 minutes using a 38 gauge triangle, recording my results at the 10-minute mark.  If I feel that the ball is still unfinished at this point I continue until it is completed to my standards – a tight, firm, even ball that is relatively smooth and as lump-free as possible.

Starting amount of Bluefaced Leicester

Starting amount of Bluefaced Leicester

0-3 minutes, using a 36 triangle needle

The fibres pull apart nice and easily, with little effort or shedding.  When starting the ball there is some resistance against the 36 triangle, which makes it feel like quite hard work right from the offset.  It doesn’t shed as you work, but there are some sticky-outy guard hairs.  It forms a neat surface quickly (which feels soft).  The ball itself is still quite incomplete at 3 minutes, but that which has been worked on is starting to feel quite solid. Due to the resistance against the needle my hand aches a little by the end of this session.

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 3 mins

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 3 mins

3-5 minutes, using a 36 triangle needle

The core is starting to get very solid now and by the 5 minute mark a reasonable ball shape has been achieved, albeit still quite scruffy in places.  The area I originally started on is now strongly resisting the needle, which makes it tough going.  The outer layer of the ball is squishy and with a fuzz to it, and whilst there are still some lumps there are very few needle marks.  My hand is aching more now – I’m looking forward to having an easier time by switching to the 38 triangle.

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 5 mins

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 5 mins

5-10 minutes, using a 38 triangle needle

The 38 triangle gives almost no resistance – this isn’t great as it feels like you’re not actually doing anything.  However, despite feeling this I found the ball (somehow) actually started shaping up quite well.  Although it shaped very quickly and neatly the ball didn’t feel very solid and there doesn’t feel like there’s much strength to the surface.

The final ball is neat and attractive and feels very soft.  It is light but quite squishy.  I think adding to this ball would be tricky as the top layer has so little resistance – anything I try to felt onto it is just going to sink into the surface.  There were no fold marks or holes left by the end.

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 10 mins

Bluefaced Leicester ball test 10 mins

In Summary

Personally I found this fibre difficult to work with, and this surprised me – its availability from so many suppliers coupled with how well known a fibre it is made me start out with high expectations.  I found it, in comparison to the other core wools I’ve tested, to be slow going, and to be honest it made me wonder if it was something I had done.  It could be that I was unlucky and that my sample was not representative of the fibre’s true nature – I don’t know.

The fibre is soft and very pretty, and makes a nice top colour or dense hair for a fuller-coated animal.  If you see some of the many dyed examples of this fibre and you want to use it as a top colour then I would still go for it.  Its lack of scent may also be a selling point for some; its availability is also very good within the UK if nowhere else.  It may be that this isn’t a fibre that’s particularly suited for 3D needle felting, faring better for flat felters or wet felters, but as I do neither of those I can’t comment.

Would You Create a whole model using this wool?

It is do-able.  While this fibre isn’t the easiest to use it isn’t impossible, and if it came to it I would, but it would be slow going and the end result would probably be less firm than I prefer.

 

Have you found this fibre tricky to needle felt with, or are your experiences different to mine? Let me know in the comments.

 Please note that different clips may produce wool that differs from the description given above.  All wool reviews are based on the quality of the clip I am using at the time of review.

Some photographs have been edited to ensure images represent the wool as true-to-life as possible, as apparently the ability to take accurate pictures of wool is not one of my strengths.