Yarn, Fiber Arts and Photography contest forms

The forms are available online now. Click on the “About BLU” dropdown box above, then on the “National Show Info”. You can download/print the 3 contest forms. Please share these with all interested parties!

2012 National Show

The judge for the BFL show is Judy Moore. Judy is a nationally known and respected judge with experience judging BFLs. The show is scheduled for Friday, May 25th at 3PM. It is held at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival in Wooster Ohio.
Besides the sheep show, there will be competitions for fleece, yarn, fiber arts, and a photography competition. These will be held on Saturday, May 26th. Rules and entry forms are being completed and will be posted here on the website this week.

Great Lakes Fiber Show in Wooster

Tari Lohrey's display of color available from natural dyes.

BLU members Tari Lohrey, Anne Bisdorf, and Lisa Rodenfels attended the fiber festival in Wooster, OH this weekend as vendors. Between the three, BFL fiber was well represented; raw fleece, dyed locks, rovings, yarns, and some finished knitted items sold well in the booth marked with the big BLU banner. Fellow breeders Mike Lilburn, and Allen Fraley and daughter Alex were also in attendance.

Somerhill had 2 BFL entered in the show and sale that is held in conjunction with the festival. Somerhill Nethy Bridge (Bo), yearling ram, and Somerhill Tabitha, yearling ewe were judged on Saturday, and then went through the sale ring on Sunday afternoon. As she did last year, junior BLU member Alex was gracious to offer to show the sheep for Somerhill, and did a wonderful job.

The National Bluefaced Leicester show will be held at this venue in 2012. The BLU show will be held on Friday evening, and exhibitors will have the opportunity to enter their sheep in the sale on Sunday if they are so inclined. Start making plans to attend this show on Memorial Day weekend in 2012 !

Fiber Processing Surprises and Lessons Learned

By Kathleen Davidson

To a shepherd, homegrown fiber is priceless so sending it off to be processed can be stressful, to say the least. All the effort in growing and harvesting our wool should be reflected in the perfect processed product. But sometimes the returned product doesn’t meet our expectations.

What went wrong? Hopefully I give give some helpful hints to prevent surprise or catastrophe with your fiber. Lessons I learned by mistakes in my 25 years of fiber processing.

LESSON 1: Be very specific about what you want and label all the bags of wool in the box. One time I sent 5 batches of dyed wool for roving expecting 5 batches of roving to be returned. To my surprise, all 5 batches had been carded into one big technicolor cloud. I thought I had labeled everything clearly enough but I guess there was ambiguity somewhere.

LESSON 2: Even thought it costs more,separate boxes could be a good idea. Years ago I stuffed my precious Targhee fleeces that I had accumulated for 3 years in a box with Romney fleeces. Yup, they were carded together even though my directions clearly said, make Targhee roving and Romney roving.

Don’t assume the processor knows breed characteristics in fiber. Label, label, label.

LESSON 3: To wash or not to wash before shipping. You will save both shipping and processing money sending washed fiber if you can get it done at home but don’t be surprised if your fiber is rewashed at the mill because it was “sticky”. Mills value their expensive equipment and sticky fleeces can do damage.

Test your washed fiber by letting it sit in the sun for a day. If it feels sticky it will need to be washed again. Rewashing at the mill is sometimes a surprise expense but not a bad thing for the final product.

LESSON 4: Pick through your fleeces, removing as much vegetation as possible. A lot of vegetation falls out in picking and carding but if there is too much it will show up in your yarn. Check fleeces for weak tips and breaks.

It hurts to toss a fleece from your favorite ewe but sometimes you have to bite the bullet and chalk this year’s fleece up as a loss if it has weakness that will ruin a yarn run.

LESSON 5: Check the mill’s minimum weight requirements. These vary. Make sure you send enough fiber to meet the requirements. Calculate for loss in washing and carding. I usually send 32 pounds of greasy wool to make 15 pounds of yarn.

Some mills will call you if you need to send more fiber but others will just charge the minimum rate and surprise you with fewer skeins and a bigger bill. There are mills with no minimum weights for processing if you only want a few fleeces turned into yarn.

LESSON 6: Talk to the folks at the mill and tell them how you want your yarn to finish. Discuss weight, yards per skein, ply and whether you want it in cones or skeins. Don’t be surprised if you get a different weight than you had hoped for. Be flexible.

One mill I use lets the wool “tell her how it wants to be spun”. Another mill surprised me with the most gorgeous bouncy BFL yarn I have ever felt. The people that run the mills know the process much better than I do so I give them creative power with my fiber. I have never been disappointed.

The best thing to do is look at the yarn of other breeders. Buy a skein or two and knit with it. When you find the yarn that works for you ask who their processor is. Some breeders sell soft lofty skein while others have a more crisp yarn for definition of cables and Aran patterns.

It’s all what you like and want your yarn to be. I use 3 different mills and although they spin different yarns for me, I would recommend all of them. Ask me about my yarn anytime!

BFL Yarn Loves Lace… try Old Shale!

Although I consider myself a “baby beginner knitter,” I love lace! I’m really fascinated by it; by knowing how to execute a few different kinds of stitches, you can create something so beautiful.

It’s not too bad, really… a few yarn overs, knit 2 or 3 togethers, slip slip knit, pass slipped stitch over, etc. If you can do these, you can knit some lace!

Bluefaced Leicester fiber spins up so wonderfully, and it has such great qualities as a yarn. It can spin very fine for lace knitting, if you want… or it can spin up so soft and airy in a sport weight, DK weight, or chunky weight. The yarns have great drape and feel.

No one says you must only knit lace with really tiny diameter “lace weight yarn”…. GO for the chunky stuff too! The effects are awesome! Lace weight yarns give you the gossamer, cobwebby beauty of traditional lace… but heavier weight yarns give lace a hip, modern look… really textural and interesting in its own way.

The easiest lace to start with is the very old traditional Shetland pattern, Old Shale. I have just discovered that Old Shale is technically NOT the same pattern as Feather & Fan, although for years I thought it was one in the same, with the names being used interchangeably. Old Shale is from “shael,” meaning “shell” in the Shetland dialect. It is also called Old Shell.

Visit this link for an excellent explanation of Old Shale, from Elizabeth Lovick on her website Northern Lace by Elizabeth Lovick, Fiber Life in Orkney (entry called Feather and Fan versus Old Shale, posted March 12, 2010.). She also explains about knitting the Old Shale pattern back and forth, in the round, or as an edging.


Winter is creeping up now in the Northern Hemisphere, and everywhere scarves, shawls, and wraps are popular… even in the warmer climates! Here in Texas, I’m seeing lots of cool-looking scarves coming out for winter. If you like to knit, spin up some BFL fiber or buy some BFL yarn and give lace a try! Try Old Shale if you never tried lace before.

Visit our Classifieds section to find BFL yarns and fiber for purchase.

The basic classic Old Shale (or Old Shell) pattern:

Work over a multiple of 18 sts + 2. This lace pattern has a 4 row repeat.

Row 1 (right side):  Knit across
Row 2: Stocking (or Stockinette) stitch across  (i.e., Purl across if you are working flat, or Knit across if working in the round)
Row 3: K1, *[K2 tog] 3 times, [yo, k1] 6 times, [k2 tog] 3 times, rep from * to last st, K1
Row 4: Reverse stocking stitch across  (i.e., Knit across if you are working flat, or Purl across if working in the round)

Old Shale is a scrunchy, soft pattern, with just the right amount of holes and texture for visual interest. It’s great for scarves, shawls, wraps, throws and afghans, baby blankets, and trims.

It’s great for beginners because once you get the easy 4 row repeat down, you can knit this pattern and still hold a conversation with your friends at the same time!

Lace Knitting Tip: Knitting lace in the more intricate patterns requires some concentration and no interruptions… and best practice is to insert a “life line” (a different color yarn run through every stitch on a row, like a stitch holder) through a completed perfect row.

Do it every so many rows in case you mess up some stitches. That way, if you do make a mistake, you can rip out your row(s) back down to your “life line” row, where you last left your “perfect” row of stitches.

Using the Classifieds

A message for BLU members

We have changed some things from how they were organized on the old site. There is now a separate piece of software that is being used to run our Membership Directory; we are using this area only for membership information and membership status, and have eliminated the “classified ad info” from each member’s entry.

New Classifieds Section

We have now included a separate Classified Ads area! All BLU members are encouraged to enter their own FREE classified ads here. All membership (FREE) classifieds are set up to run for 6 months, and include up to 4 photographs. Members can enter as many ads as they would like; we currently have the following categories:

  • Sheep
  • Fleece
  • Fiber & Yarn
  • Finished Products
  • Equipment
  • Dogs
  • Services
  • General
  • Wanted

We also have FREE Wanted ads. These are set to run for 6 months, and are free to everyone; members and non-menbers.

BLU also has the ability to accept PAID classified ads from non-BLU members (PayPal accepted). A paid classified ad includes up to 4 photographs, and are organized into 4 packages to choose from:

  • 30 day = $10.00
  • 90 day = $27.00 (a 10% discount)
  • 180 day = $48.00 (a 20% discount)
  • 1 year = $84.00 (a 30% discount)

Character count is quite generous at 1000 characters allowed, and remember, all classifieds can include up to 4 photos.

Please note: All advertisers are required to manage their own ads and photos. Any time you edit your ad, it will need to be approved again before it will appear.

Please follow the instructions in the Classifieds section. Paid classifieds can be paid directly through PayPal while using the system. All classified ads (free and paid) are subject to approval before your ad will appear on the site.