Blue Faced Leicester yarn is coming from a pretty recent breed in the wool world. It’s a fantastic base that we have used for years now but we had so many questions when we started knitting with it. Is Blue Faced Leicester yarn sturdy enough for socks? Is it itchy? What’s the difference with Merino? So we decided to break down all the Blue Faced Leicester facts with you.
What is Blue Faced Leicester yarn?
What are the BFL characteristics?
Let’s take a look at what the Encyclopedia Britannica tells us. The Leicester sheep is a breed specific to the UK and was developed by Robert Bakewell. He was one of the first ones to separate males and females to avoid random breeding. But then he developed a method where he exaggerated some traits by inbreeding and culled some of the sheep with undesirable traits. On top of that, he was also one of the first to breed sheep and cattle for meat rather than wool. It’s probably all very good from a farming POV but I don’t think I like him very much because of that.
Blue Faced Leicester has this great reputation around the wool world because the wool is shiny and soft, thanks to the lack of scales on the surface of the fibre.
Our supplier, the awesome people from ChesterWool, after processing the fiber, ends up with a 25 micron fibre diameter.
What does that mean? Micron is just the measurement of the fiber and the lower the micron, the finer the fibre. Pretty easy, right? So a 25 micron fiber means it’s fine (though not as fine as Merino but more on that later) and pretty similar to Mohair and Alpaca.
But that’s not all! Fine yarn can often more breakage, especially if they are used as socks. That’s why Blue Faced Leicester yarn is so great for socks. They are strong and durable without needing nylon. That brings us to the big fight of the wool world. Just kidding. Let’s compare BFL and Merino now.
Blue Faced Leicester vs Merino
Merino has a reputation of being very, very soft. With a range of 10 to 24 microns, it’s one of the finest fibers around. As I said above, fine can mean more breakage, especially in the heel area. That’s why most merino yarn, when used for socks, have nylon added to it. When we started knitting socks with Lydia, we researched why BFL didn’t have nylon added to it when merino/nylon is such a popular base.
Turns out that merino by itself isn’t sturdy enough for socks. It’ll pile badly and the heels will wear quickly. I can confirm that from experience. I knitted a short pair of socks in merino and they are toasty warm but sadly, after wearing them only a couple of times, they piled like crazy.
This being said, Merino is a great yarn, full of drape and sure to keep you warm.
We have already talked a bit about Blue Faced Leicester but what I didn’t mention is that it’s more springy and therefore keeps the memory of a shape better. So, to get back to our socks, with a BFL yarn, the fiber will remember the shape of your feet better than merino.
Both are great bases but after knitting with both, we definitely prefer BFL yarn for socks and sweaters. We still love merino though! It’s a great yarn for shawls, hats and sweaters and tops if you want something super soft next to your skin.
What to knit with Blue Faced Leicester ?
So now that we have seen what Blue Faced Leicester yarn is and compared it with Merino, let’s see what to make with it.
Is BFL a good knitting yarn or is it itchy?
Like I said before, Merino is softer and if you touch Merino then BFL one after the other, BFL will feel a tad rougher.
But BFL is still super soft. It’s not one of these wooly rough yarn that is super itchy when worn next to the skin. So no, to answer a question asked often, BFL isn’t an itchy yarn.
Of course, sensitivity may vary from one person to the other and a garment won’t feel the same when worn next to the neck or against your bare feet. I don’t feel a difference between my Merino and BFL socks but a shawl, when worn for a long time around the neck, can feel a bit itchy after a while once you get warm.
Now that we have explored all these facts about BFL, it’s time to see what we can knit with it.
BFL knitting patterns:
The Great British Baking Shawl by Lyrical Knits:
The Borg Cub Tee by Flax Field Designs :
We love doing collaborations with Roos from Flax Field Designs. There is always a very interesting background to her designs. The Borg Cub tee was partly born from the love Roos and Lydia share for Star Trek. It’s a quick knit and a great stash buster when you want to add something knew to your knitting wardrobe.
The Underwing Mitts by Erica Heusser :
The Underwing Mitts have been a real winner everytime we took them with us to a festival. Lydia got the idea to make small kits with the exact weight of BFL so people could purchase the pattern on Ravelry from the designer’s store and start their own mitts while having a drink at the local café. Can you feel I miss the yarn festivals atmosphere?
Focus on BFL as a sock yarn:
By now, you are probably sick of me talking about BFL as a sock yarn. But seriously, I’m one of these people who said “Me, knitting socks? Never!”, until I made my first pair and got addicted to both the process and the result.
Seriously, you can read or watch a show while knitting these babies and then your feet look cute, colorful and are THE WARMEST! Guys, handmade socks were my knitter epiphany.
The Speckled Space Socks by Amanda Stephens :
These very pretty socks go all the way back before Lydia realised she preferred vanilla socks because of pure mindless knitting choices.
The Speckled Space Socks pattern is such a pretty pattern and really showcase all these variegated colorways. And to top it off, it’s a free sock pattern.
I also have a soft spot for this colorway because it’s one of the very first ones we created together while having a dyeing holiday at my place in France.
Basic Vanilla Socks :
And here it comes! The most wonderful project for when Your Brain Needs A Break™: the vanilla socks.
Seriously they are the best to showcase this lonely skein of fingering weight you fell in love with. Solid, Variegated, semi-solid, speckled, you name it, those vanilla socks will look pretty in it.
You can knit them cuff- down or toe-up. Ravelry has a ton of patterns but I selected the French Vanilla Socks because it’s a free pattern that gives you cuff-down and toe-up versions.
I hope you got some answers to the questions you had regarding what is Blue Faced Leicester yarn and what you can make with it. Please share with us your favorite knitted or crocheted item made with BFL, we are always looking for new patterns.
Of course, you can have a look at our BFL base and if you got smitten with a certain color here but can’t find it in our shop, just send us a message!
Thank you for reading!