I recently finished dyeing about 30 pounds of yarn I had spun from a local flock of Border Leceisters in Hinesburg and was reminded how incredibly lustrous this fiber is....as lustrous as mohair! Since it's a common breed around here, but not one most knitters hear about since it's not typically used for knitting yarn, I thought I'd share some specs on it with you this week, since if you stop by the store you'll see it available on the shelf.
The breed is know for its long wool which can be 6-10" after about a year's growth. It is not particularly soft, having a micron count generally in the 30 - 38 micron range, but what it lacks in next-to-the-skin softness it makes up for in sheen.
Because the fleece is wavy, rather than crimpy, it reflects light and so exhibits lots of luster (on a crimpy wool, the light gets caught in the little nooks and crannies and doesn't reflect back). Border Leicester has a lovely hand and, particularly when combed and spun worsted, is very durable. I have a hat knit out of it in the store and am working on some mittens right now. I did actually put enough of one color away for a sweater for myself...maybe I'll get to it in retirement?!
The Leiceister sheep, from which the Border Leicesters evolved, were first established in England (Leceistershire, of course) in the early 1700's and they played an important role in the improvement of the other long wool breeds in England. When Leicesiter rams were bred to Teeswater ewes, the Border Leceister breed was founded, its thought around 1767.
English Leceisters (also lovely, tho' more crimpy and not as long a wool as Border Leicesters) were first bought to the US by George Washington who kept a flock at Mt. Vernon, but it is unclear when the first Border Leceisters arrived here, although by 1920, there were 767 purebred Border Leicesters in the census.
In addition to the recently dyed yarn, I also have the fiber (blended with mohair) available in a natural grey for spinners. Hope you get a chance to either try spinning or knitting with this breed sometime. Jen