|Photo courtesy of Potosi Sheep Farm|
July 2012 Breed of the Month
Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) Registry Information
Here are the samples that I have washed for this
project. Fleece was free of veg and light on the lanolin. Some fleece
can have heavier lanolin content and need to be washed in very HOT
Raising Bluefaced Leicester
The Bluefaced Leicester ( also Robert Bakewell's Sheep) is a very distinctive breed with large erect ears Roman nose and tightly purled fleece. In addition the face, part of the neck and belly should be free of wool. They also have dark skin on the heads that can be seen though the short hairs giving them the name Bluefaced Leicester. They are not an aggressive breed but very flock oriented. Full grown rams can weigh upwards of 250lb while ewe only get to be 175lb. The weight on the shorn fleece can vary from 2lbs 4oz to 4lb 8oz. Over all they are easy keepers. Just a side note this breed can be scrapie resistant we are breeding for the RR gene. Much of the AI that is coming into the US must come from an RR and QR rams
The fiber may differ from fleece to fleece but should have some of the same qualities. Staple length is 3-6 inches and microns can fall in the 24's -28's range. Locks are very distinctive and should have a three denominational look to them( as seen in the photo below). There seems to be a difference in fleece types when looking at many of the American BFL Breeders. The main distinction is that breeders in the western US tend to produce fleeces that have more of an open lock were as eastern US breeders produce fleeces that have a tight lock or pencil lock. Regardless the locks wash up nicely in the correct temperature water (140degrees plus). Fibers, once washed, should have a nice luster to them.
Processing and Spinning
This was probably one of the nicest fleece I have worked with. Fleece came from http://www.potosisheepfarm.com... It was so nice I had to have to sheep too. Her name in Eudora, she is a 2 year old BFL and has the more western BFL qualities. I chose a fleece with a more open lock because I am hand processing it. I used hand cards due to the fact that I have more control than I would if I had used my drum carder. The locks fluffed up with out too much effort.
|To the Left 2oz carded / to the right uncarded|
Here are some examples of tails spinning with the locks and conventional 2 ply .
try some yourself at the ETSY Shop https://www.etsy.com/listing/105622732/washed-bfl-fiber-locks-1oz
June 2012 Breed of the Month
Raising Shetland Sheep
Feederbrook Farm has been raising Shetlands since 2005. They are easy keepers. We have found them to be great foragers and resistant and resilient to parasites. Good tight fencing is recommended for this breed. They are considered a smaller sheep, ewes weighing between 80lb-100lb and Rams 100lb-150lb. Rams can be aggressive and a bit destructive if not kept in the right environment. Ewes are easy lambers and on average have twins. Docking the tail is not necessary since they have a primitive fluke tail to start which. This is good for the novice shepherd. We decided to start with the Shetland sheep for a number of reasons, Small size, variety of markings and colors, easy birthing, high reproductive rates and they are just endearing. We at one point were up to 45+ (flock wise) But have since down size to 7 Shetlands. We found that the amount of effort and energy that it take to raise a Shetland versus a larger breed is about the same. The about of finished spinnable fiber gotten off of one Shetland is around 2.5 to 3 lbs. We are getting 6 to 8 lbs. of spinnable fiber from the BFL crosses.Note that Shetlands cannot be shorn at any time. Sheering has to be time just right. Because they are a primitive breed they have a tendency to roo. This is where the wool naturally breaks away from the animal. If the sheep is shorn too soon rooing will happen and felt the tips for the next year. If the sheep is shorn after rooing then the fleece will appear to have a second cut look to it or even a break.
Shetlands have 3 different types of coats. One of the coat types is the short and spongy type like the morrit ( or brown fleece) sample to the left. The staple length of 2-2.5 inches also has more crimp and is softer.
The grey fleece sample below is an example of a medium coat type. The crimp is a bit more visible and the staple length is 3-5 inches. Also you might that the tips of the fiber are slightly darker. Some of the lambs are born black or dark brown and may fade to grey or even white. The fader gene can be seen on the lamb at birth. The lamb will have what they call sugar lips basically light wool at the mussel.
The third type of Shetland Coat is a double coat or beaver coat. . This coat is the most primitive of all of the coat types. The longer part of the fleece sample ( pictured on the right ) is a course Kemp fiber that resembles human hair. The shorter fibers are softer. Staple length on the double coated Shetlands is 5-7 and has a tendency to be very straight . Here is a sample of the Kemp fiber after dehairing.
Processing and Spinning
For the hand spinner processing a fleece by hand is not too difficult provided that you are starting with a fleece that is relatively clean( free of Veg) , free from breaks and shorn just at the time of rooing. If you are using had cards or even a drum carder you might want to stick with the medium or even the double coated Shetland fibers. Lanolin content is not as heavy as other breeds but the washing water still needs to be at a good 140-180 degrees to lift all of the grease. We have found that the lose of weight after washing is less than other fleece which typically about 30%. Because of the breeds size and behavior fleeces do tend to have a bit more veg especially if they are kept with a larger breed or larger animal. The VM that is in the fiber will come put but some will stay in and will need to be picked out as you spin or if you are working with the milled yarn picked out as you knit. Shetland fiber does take the dye really well. It has a mat finish but is not dull and washed out.