5 Minutes With: Bluefaced Leicester Sheep | Riley Studio

5 Minutes With: Bluefaced Leicester Sheep

by Hello Riley |

Find out more about the characterful pedigree sheep whose soft fleece is the only ingredient of our low impact British wool. 

It takes a special kind of sheep to make our 100% British wool knitwear. 

Bluefaced Leicesters are a pedigree sheep known and loved by a select group of sheep breeders and farmers across the UK. As well as being large and beautiful animals with a soft, lustrous fleece, the story of the Bluefaced Leicester is tied to the wider history of the British wool industry.

Once a prized material, British wool is now going to waste in vast quantities. Currently, the market value of British wool is so low that the price offered doesn't cover the cost of shearing. "This has led to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of high quality British wool being wasted", notes The Campaign For Wool, "with farmers being forced to burn or bury it after shearing."

It's a sad state of affairs, but where others see waste we see opportunity. Our championing of British wool in Collection 07 is part of a rehabilitation process designed to show the potential of this wonderful material; It's organic, it's biodegradable and it's locally sourced. 

To get the inside track on Bluefaced Leicesters and their wonderful wool, we posed a few questions to some of the sheep on a recent visit to our supplier in Lancashire. 

 

 

Firstly, tell us about the name, Bluefaced Leicester. Where did it come from? 

Our ancestors have been called many names over the years: Dishley Leicester, Hexham Leicester, Blue-Headed Mainewe - but today we go by Bluefaced Leicester, or BFL for short.

Originally, the name came from the English agriculturalist, Robert Bakewell, who invented many of the modern faming practices people still follow today. He started breeding the first recognised Bluefaced Leicesters in Dishley, Leicestershire, back in the eighteenth century.

We're proud of our midlands heritage, so we're glad that Leicester is still part of our name. 

 

 

How would we recognise a Bluefaced Leicester sheep if we saw one in the field? 

We're a breed that's blessed with a fuller figure and a large Roman nose. We think it gives us character. 

You can find us in fields across Northern England, Wales and Scotland. Our faces are mainly white with dark blue skin underneath. If you look closely at our noses, you'll can sometimes see some of the blue coming through. 

 

  

We found you because of your fantastic wool. What makes it so special?

Our fleece is very curly and fine, which helps to trap the heat and keep out the rain when we're out in the fields. Apparently, it's those same qualities that make it great wool for clothing, but all we can tell you is that it keeps us very warm and dry. 

  

How does it feel to know that your fleece has been turned into our low impact British wool knitwear? 

We're very glad to see it going to a good home. Our wool has always been special to us, so it's heartbreaking to see it buried or burnt instead of being used. Hopefully this is only the beginning and many more people will start to see the value and potential of British wool again. 

 

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Photography by Percy Dean