English Leicester - A Rare Heritage Sheep Breed
The last post described the process of creating a beautiful vintage scarf project, the Fanchon Hood. A portion of this piece was created with a very special wool known as Leicester Longwool, as pictured in the tassels above.
The sheep that provide this gorgeous fiber have a history worth noting. A pioneering man in Great Britain, Robert Bakewell, was adept at matching science with agriculture and is responsible for this breed. He set out to breed sheep that would grow up quickly and have not only a lot of meat for the table, but wool for the spindle as well. He selected the best animals of both qualities and bred them together. This is logical today, but in the 1700s was seen as novel and helped the breed gain traction with influential buyers. George Washington even kept some at Mount Vernon! Bakewell would show his sheep at fairs and even charge admission to see his favorite, named Two Pounder. Two Pounder's portrait was painted and some of the flock were quite lucrative as lovers - Bakewell leased his rams as studs.