5th National BFL Show August 16th in Allegan, MI

The BLU- sponsored dinner will be on SATURDAY evening, August 16th. We are arranging for a room, but will order off the menu for simplicity’s sake. The BLU dinner will be held at the London Grill in Kalamazoo (london-grill.com)
The London Grill is not far from the host hotel, Fairfield Inn Kalamazoo West (special rate of $99 per night if we meet minimum of 10 rooms reserved) 269-353-6400; indicate you are reserving with the Bluefaced Leicester Union group.

As far as presentations are concerned, we have an offer of several presentations from a fiber expert, Christine Kurt, who can expertly expound on any number of fiber topics, be it spinning, weaving, dying, felting, lace-making, color combinations, etc. Perhaps we can use this forum to collect ideas as to what people would be interested in. We envision the presentations taking place either after the show on Saturday or before 2 pm on Sunday, As to non-fiber related presentations, suggestions are welcome.

Sheep Show Judge: Dave Smith from Indiana.
There will be separate black and white shows. The shows will be on Saturday morning. The entry forms can be downloaded from the BLU site, bflsheep.com. The deadline is July 1, with late fees added to entries postmarked after the 15th.
We are actively seeking sponsorships for the sponsored awards classes. List of classes is as follows:

Classes for the 2014 National BFL Show – Michigan Fiber Festival
Whites and black will be shown separately, in two different shows.

Individual and pair classes. Each exhibitor is allowed two entries per class (except in pair classes, where one pair equals one entry)
1. Aged ewes (over 2 years old)
2. Pair of aged ewes
3. Yearling ewes
4. Pair of yearling ewes
5. Ewe lambs
6. Pair of ewe lambs
Champion and reserve ewe *
7. Aged rams
8. Yearling rams
9. Ram lambs
10. Pair of ram lambs
Champion and reserve ram*

Group and special classes: each exhibitor allowed one entry per class.

11. Pen of three lambs / young flock (2 ewe lambs, 1 ram lamb)*
12. Get of sire (any three sheep sired by the same ram)*
13. Flock (2 ewe lambs, 2 yearling ewes, 1 ram)*
14. Best head, ram (white only)*
15. Best head, ewe (white only)*
16. Best fleece*
*sponsored award class (winners will receive an award in addition to a ribbon)

Black Sheep Gathering Report

From Robina Koenig
The Black Sheep Gathering was held in Eugene, OR, last weekend. As usual, we all had a great time in the mild weather. My daughter Callie went with me this year and Jared Lloyd stopped by but didn’t show. I missed Nancy Gilkeson but her granddaughter Brooke was representing the family. This is my ‘sheep friends vacation’ and it was good to see everyone, share thoughts and ideas, enjoy the potluck followed by the Spinner’s Lead, plus the sheep show. Hope all is well with those who were not attending and that they will be back next year.

The Blues had their own show again this year, showing both white and natural coloreds together. The classes were well represented. The judge was David Cook. This year I only showed three ewe lambs and three ram lambs. Bearhill Farms (CA) won Champion Ram with a yearling and Liongate Farm (OR) won Champion Ewe with her yearling. This was a first-time showing at BSG for Karen—well done! Here are the winners of all classes. Congratulations to all who entered. Robina @ Tumble Creek Farm

Yearling Ram
1 Bearhill Farms
2 B Jakubos

Ram Lamb
1 Bearhill Farms
2 Tumble Creek Farm
3 Four Oaks Farm
4 Bearhill Farms
5 Liongate Farm
6 Tumble Creek Farm

Pair of Ram Lambs
1 Bearhill Farms
2 Liongate Farm
3 Tumble Creek Farm

Champion Ram, yearling—Bearhill Farms
Res Champion Ram, lamb—Bearhill Farms

Yearling Ewe
1 Liongate Farm
2 Liongate Farm
3 Four Oaks Farm
4 Four Oaks Farm

Ewe Lamb
1 Tumble Creek Farm
2 Bearhill Farms
3 Four Oaks Farm
4 Tumble Creek Farm
5 Tumble Creek Farm
6 Four Oaks Farm

Pair of Ewe Lambs
1 Tumble Creek Farm
2 Four Oaks Farm

Champion Ewe, yearling—Liongate Farm
Res Champion Ewe, lamb— Liongate Farm

Breeder’s Young Flock
1 Tumble Creek Farm
2 Four Oaks Farm

Micron Testing Project Results

Submitted by Robina Koenig @ Tumble Creek Farm, Bend, Oregon

Happy New Year and I hope everyone had a wonderful 2013 as we look forward to 2014.

As promised, the Micron Testing Project, approved and paid for by the board, was completed within 2013 with the goal of finding the average micron count for the North American Bluefaced Leicester flock. All of our current material reflects UK information. Due to the differences in staple length of the samples from each farm represented here, the Micron Profile graph was not taken into consideration.

A total of 90 samples were submitted from 9 farms for this project. I would like to personally thank those that participated. Your individual reports will be mailed to you shortly. My summary is at the end of these definitions.

Following is a definition of the terms used and are directly from the American Wool Council, a division of the American Sheep Industry Association.

The Average Fiber Diameter (AFD) is the thickness of the wool sample measured in microns. A micron is 1 millionth of a meter or 1/25,400 inches. Average diameter is necessary because a wool fiber does not grow at a uniform thickness on the sheep, and fibers growing next to each other will grow at different rates. It is not uncommon to see fibers with diameters that are 15 microns different (or more) within a single sample. (See Table 1)

Information on AFD and the corresponding USDA wool grade is presented in Table 1. The US is the only country in the world that has an actual fiber diameter measurement in microns associated with its Wool Grades. The USDA wool grade also takes variability of fiber diameter into consideration. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have only started reporting variability of fiber diameter, something that the US has done for the past 50 years.

Standard Deviation (SD) is a measure of the variation of wool fiber diameter. Statistically speaking, 2/3 of the fibers measured fall with +/- one SD of the Average Fiber Diameter. For example—a sample with an AFD of 22.5 micron and an SD of 4.5 micron would have 2/3’s of the fibers measured between 18 and 27 micron. The other 1/3 of the fibers would be finer than 18 micron or coarser than 27 micron. The smaller the SD, the closer the fibers are to the Average Fiber Diameter, resulting in less variation among the individual fiber diameters for the entire sample.

Because lack of uniformity affects processing performance, the USDA wool grades have a maximum allowable SD for each wool grade (Table 1). If the SD is greater than the maximum allowed, the wool sample is downgraded to the next lower USDA grade. Also, coarser wool tends to be more variable; therefore, the SD allowance increases as the fiber diameter increases.

Coefficient of Variation (CV%) is also a measure of the variability of the sample, but is expressed as a percentage and is relative to the mean or Average Fiber Diameter. The mathematical equation is: CV% = SD/AFD x 100. This measurement is particularly useful because it allows one to compare wools of different fiber diameters. Ideally, the CV% should be 20% or less on an individual animal sample.

Coarse Edge Micron (CEM) provides information on how coarse the top 5% of the fibers are in relationship to the AFD. The smaller the CEM, the more uniform the wool sample. Samples with a high CEM tend to have a “tail” on the Histogram that shows a trailing off of fiber diameter, rather than the desired high peaked, bell shape curve.

Comfort Factor (CF%) is the percentage of fibers equal to or less than 30 micron. It has beeen documented that fibers greater than 30 micron in diameter are rigid and do not bend when they come in contact with skin. Fibers over 30 micron are responsible for the prickly feeling of wool and can cause skin irritation, leading people to erroneously state they are allergic to wool. Wool that is going to be made into garments designed to be worn next to the skin should have a comfort factor of 95% or greater. Garments made with a Comfort Factor of +95% do not feel scrtchy or cause skin irritations.

A Histogram is a graph that shows the individual fiber diameter measurements of a sample. The fiber diameter of each fiber measurement is put into “bars” on the chart, usually in one-micron groups. The higher the height of the “bar” the more fibers have been measured in that micron group. The Histogram is a quick and easy way to view the variability of fiber diameter within a sample.

*The Micron Profile graphs the variation of the fiber diameter along the staple during the growing season. Individual wool fibers are measured every 5 millimeters along the fiber. The left side corresponds to the fiber tip; right side fiber base (closest to the skin). In addition, minimum & maximum micron, the finest point from the tip (FPFT) are reported. This information is useful to determine how environment differences are affecting the Average Fiber Diameter during the growing season. Drastic changes in fiber diameter often result in weak or tender wool that breaks easily when stretched or processed. With the micron profile information, growers can make management decisions that benefit wool growth throughout the year. A “flat line” indicates more uniform wool grown throughout the year.
*The participating farms will see this graph on their individual reports.

NOTE: The OFDA2000 measures individual fibers along the staple length and uses this information to calculate the average fiber diameter of the entire wool sample. The results reported will be different than a side sample submitted to a laboratory for analysis. The laboratory technique used for measuring a side sample (boh OFDA100 or Sirolan Laserscan) uses a 2mm snippet from the base of the wool sample for conducting the fiber diameter test. With a laboratory test, you are getting an AFD report as close to the time of sampling as possible.


forms 010

Following is my brief summary of the BFL wool micron test results from Texas A&M, sponsored by BLU in 2013.

Our US flock has used UK genetics via LAI for the past several years. The resulting offspring have been extensively used for breeding as well, increasing the influence of the original elite UK sires and widening our North American Bluefaced Leicester gene pool. One way the results of this infusion of new blood can be evaluated is in our fleeces. While qualities such as handle, crimp and softness are somewhat subjective, micron diameter is measurable data that can be reported precisely and used as a selection tool for the future. Climate plays a part in our fleeces as well, as do feeds grown and fed across the country. All of these must be considered when evaluating and reading micron reports.

Nine North American farms participated in our free micron testing project. There were 90 samples submitted, and it should be noted that there were differing numbers of sheep tested from each farm. The average micron diameter of all animals as a group 27.7. The lowest farm average was 23.9 and the highest was 30.2. Most of the samples were from ewes and only a few rams that I could guess from some names given. I did not notice a reportable difference between them.

I would like to offer a personal comment on the Comfort Factor definition. Bluefaced Leicester wool is not typically thought of as being a ‘close to the skin’ or ‘baby underwear’ wool such as Rambouillet would be. Please keep in mind that the italicized comment in the definition is heard often; however, I wear my BFL in comfort and with pride.

Happy New Year to All. It has been my pleasure to work on this project and I hope you will seek to do your own micron testing of your flock if you were unable to participate.

BLU Member Nancy Starkey reports from MS&W festival


Photos by permission by Marcus Skeel

Mark Soper and I (and our wonderful sheepdogs) perform the Working Sheepdog Demonstrations at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival each year, and we use yearling Bluefaced Leicester ewes from my flock in the demos.  These young BFLs are probably the classiest “demo sheep” around, and they certainly catch the attention of the festival crowds.  People love the regal look of the BFLs, and their flowing fleeces are a big part of their appeal.


MidOhio Fiber Fair

BFL fiber was well represented at the recent MidOhio Fiber Fair, held in Newark, OH.  Breeders Anne Bisdorf and Lisa Rodenfels had adjoining booths at the show.  Anne had raw fleeces and natural rovings; while Lisa’s booth featured natural white and dyed BFL yarn and dyed locks in a rainbow of colors.

Here is Anne’s very attractively displayed booth.








An example of a dyed BFL skein.

Three Bags Full …..

By Carol Densmore, Cross Wind Farm. Carol  judges wool shows and is an advanced student in the Master Spinner Program as well as a BFL breeder.

……of Long Leicester Wool
English – Border – Bluefaced Leicester
Instead of researching genealogy and family stories, I tend to apply the same focus on sheep. Especially the breeds I raise—Bluefaced Leicester being one of them. Having one of the Leicester breeds, I was naturally drawn to the other breeds that sport the Leicester name—English Leicester and Border Leicester. Not enough to put them in my pastures, but enough to investigate what lineage and commonalities they share beside the name; and to dispel the belief that the Bluefaced Leicester is not a longwool.

As with many improved breeds, especially in the U.K., the history often leads back to Robert Bakewell. Turns out over 200 years ago Bakewell was responsible for developing a distinct, improved breed known as Dishley Leicester. From the Dishley Leicester, and the breeding methods used to get there, came a number of breeds including the long wool group of today’s English Leicester, Border Leicester, and Bluefaced Leicester. The ancestral lineage is pretty clear.

I’m not sure if Bakewell focused mainly on long wools, but that’s what he got with this group—a distinct range of wool on the long wool spectrum. Typically when we think of long wool breeds we think of a stronger, heavier fleece. One that stands up to outer wear, rugs, and even upholstery with a micron count higher than 35, or so. And that’s what you get with English Leicester wool…length, luster, and strength. It’s right up there with the Lincoln and Cotswold. Beautiful stuff! Then around 1850 the Border Leicester was established as a breed after many years of breed improvement. The Border Leicester is a product of a Dishley Leicester and Cheviot (and/or Teeswater) cross. And even though the cross created a sheep that is smaller than its Leicester ancestor and wool that is not as course, it’s still carries all the traits of a long wool breed…length, luster, and strength. And it stays in that category for sheep and wool shows. Then around 1920 the Bluefaced Leicester started to appear on the landscape with its tiny purled locks and not-so-voluminous fleece. In fact, one doesn’t think of heavy duty uses for BFL but instead for items worn next to the skin. So how could it be in the same category of a stronger, courser long wool breed? There are a couple of reasons.

First, the ancestral lineage shows a clear path back to the Dishley Leicester. And as the breeding improved, the BFL wool retained the Leicester luster and strength. The fleece length and volume changed but not into a totally different structure like the dense, squared-off lock of medium and fine wool breeds. Unlike medium breed wool that was a result of crossing a fine and long wool breeds, BFL wool held the classic longwool structure—individual locks that grow and hang parallel to the body—due to continuous improved breeding of the Dishley Leicester as opposed to crossbreeding.

Second, a distinct characteristic of a long wool breed is that its long locks easily part so that you can see the sheep’s skin. And the long locks are easily separated from each other. Even though BFL wool is finer than the English Leicester or Border Leicester, it still has those same characteristics. The difference in the micron count or the size of the lock doesn’t determine whether it’s longwool or, say, medium wool. The ancestral lineage of the sheep plus the wool characteristics it retains solidifies its place as a longwool breed.

Some books, judges, and breeders want to categorize BFL in the medium-wool category. I can see why. It’s finer in microns than the typical longwool, but not like a fine wool breed; a whole BFL fleece doesn’t have the volume of its distant Leicester cousins; and the purly lock structure is much thinner than the wider, wavier lock of a longwool sheep. That doesn’t place it into a medium wool category; it places it on the other end of the long wool spectrum…the finer end. That’s the beauty of this Leicester group, the options we have when it comes to the size of sheep and the variety of wool.

Whether it’s English, Border, or Bluefaced, the Leicester group keeps its place in the long wool pipeline as it has for centuries. Even with crossbreeding and improved breeding, the Leicester’s have stayed inside the realm of what constitutes long wool giving us three bags full of long Leicester wool.

Sheep and Man, M. L. Ryder. Duckworth & Co (January 25, 2007)
The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, Carol Ekarius and Deborah Robson. Storey Publishing, LLC (June 1, 2011)
Bluefaced Leicester Breeders Association, http://www.blueleicester.co.uk/
Bluefaced Leicester Union of North America, http://bflsheep.com/
Leicester Wool Sheep Breeders Association, http://www.leicesterlongwool.org/
American Border Leicester Association, http://www.ablasheep.org/


National Show Skein and Fiber Art photos

A view of the vendor booth in the Great Lakes Fiber Show. The booth was available for all BLU members to sell their wares.





Some of the skeins entered in the competition at the national show.




In the foreground is the champion skein, a plyed laceweight 100% BFL yarn spun by Christina Kurk.

The champion fiber art, a sweater knitted by Christina Kurk

Scenes from the National Show – Fiber Events

Kelly Ward explaining  how to fit a BFL for show.

Carol Densmore demonstrating how to process a BFL fleece for spinning.   In the background are some of the photo contest entries.


Kelly Ward, Letty Klein, and Anne Bisdorf discussing fiber art and skein competition placings.

Letty Klein, judging the BFL fleece competition