Fibre Sampling Sessions: Bluefaced Leicester

By Grace Verhagen, fibre junkie and junior reporter

Handspun singles on the bobbin, Tapestry colourway

Handspun singles on the bobbin, Tapestry colourway

Before the summer instalment of TNNA this year, Felicia asked me to spin and knit samples of every fibre base that SweetGeorgia has available for sale. Right on! I gladly agreed — I thought the experience of comparing all eleven different blends would be unique and educational — and oh boy was I right!

My task was to spin approximately 35 grams of each different fibre base; enough to produce a sample skein of yarn as well as a knitted 5” x 5” swatch to show how the fibre would look and behave in a finished project.

Although all fibre bases are available in every colour that SweetGeorgia dyes, each sample I tested was dyed in the ‘Tapestry‘ colourway, part of our new fall palette. This way I could more easily compare the different attributes of the fibres.

I spun each sample the same way so I could keep my results as consistent as possible. After weighing myself a 35 gram length of top, I divided this in half lengthwise so I could create two equal bobbins of singles to be plied back together. Then I divided each of those lengths in half again the same way so the colours would repeat more often in the final yarn.

For a majority of the fibre samples I tried to spin the singles to a thickness that would result in a DK weight yarn after they were plied together. However, the pure silk samples I spun as fine as possible so I could knit a light, lacy swatch that would be more representative of the type of yarn most people would wish to create with this fibre.

All samples were spun worsted on my Schacht Ladybug using with a fast or medium whorl.

Part One: BFL Is My BFF

Handspun BFL yarns in SweetGeorgia's Tapestry colourway

Handspun BFL yarns in SweetGeorgia’s Tapestry colourway

I decided to tackle the BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) blends first. Bluefaced Leicester is a ridiculously cute sheep whose wool has become very popular in recent years. The medium-long staple length is sturdy enough to be used in socks, but it is also soft enough to worn next in the skin in a shawl or sweater. SweetGeorgia offers top comprised of 100% BFL, 100% superwash BFL, and 75% BFL/25% tussah silk.

Fibre Base #1 – BFL (100% bluefaced leicester wool)

Fibre Base #1 – BFL (100% bluefaced leicester wool)

Fibre Base #1 – BFL (100% bluefaced leicester wool)

When I compared this top side by side with my other samples, I noticed right away how much crimp and bounce is in this wool! This quality allows the fibre to hold itself together while it is being handled, yet it still drafts extremely well. The crimp gives the resulting yarn structure and confidence. The fibre has a matte look to it, and this in combination with the slightly fuzzy texture of the yarn made the resulting swatch rather rustic and natural looking.

Fibre Base #2 – Superwash BFL (100% superwash bluefaced leicester wool)

Fibre Base #2 – Superwash BFL (100% superwash bluefaced leicester wool)

Fibre Base #2 – Superwash BFL (100% superwash bluefaced leicester wool)

This fibre base has all the crimp of the original BFL fibre, but with extra POOF! Superwash wool has been specially treated so it will not felt if machine washed. This top feels thick and bulky for its weight. It also absorbed the dye differently than the natural BFL – the colours seem slightly more rich and saturated. Spinning this fibre feels exactly the same as working with regular BFL, except it drafts a little bit smoother.

Fibre Base #3 – BFL + Silk (100% bluefaced leicester wool, 25% tussah silk)

Fibre Base #3 – BFL + Silk (100% bluefaced leicester wool, 25% tussah silk)

Fibre Base #3 – BFL + Silk (100% bluefaced leicester wool, 25% tussah silk)

Oh! This sample has all the puffiness and bounce of the other BFL wools, but the silk blended into this fibre makes feel softer to the touch. The silk has absorbed the dye differently than the wool around it – this top has extra tints of colour captured by the silk, and my singles look extremely shiny on their bobbins. The BFL keeps the resulting yarn sturdy and plump, and it drafts like butter onto my spinning wheel.

Take a peek at the photo below of the final swatches produced by the experiments with BFL yarn; compare the contrast of colours and shine between the three different blends!

SweetGeorgia BFL and blends

SweetGeorgia BFL and blends

Next week, I will explore the merino blends that SweetGeorgia has to offer!

Cheers!
-Grace

PS. Want to learn to spin with Grace?! She will be teaching a 4-week beginning spinning class at the SweetGeorgia Yarns Studio in Vancouver starting August 6th!