28 Nov 2013

To Infinity and Beyond...

You have to admire Mathematicians. They figure out how to do remarkable things like calculate the distance from here to some distant planet, and how to make a three-dimensional object which only has a single side! 

We have all done this experiment at school, haven't we — you take a strip of paper, give it a half-twist and fasten it together. Then you start tracing a line with your pencil and before you know it you are back at the beginning and, what's more, you're still on the same side!

Wikipedia informs me that this was discovered by two German Mathematicians, one called August Ferdinand Möbius in 1858, and he gave his name to what we now know as the Mœbius strip.

A piece of paper ready to be joined into a Mœbius strip.
In the 1930's some Mœbius designs were seen in the work of the fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet. Then in the 1980's, Elizabeth Zimmermann realised that you could work this idea into knitting and that the twist made the item sit beautifully around your neck. The Mœbius Scarf was born.

These have become high fashion items over the last few years and wonderfully oversized versions can be seen in all the leading magazines. Referred to by their other name "Infinity Scarves", they have been featured on catwalks, runway shows and television programmes.

The scarf I am featuring in this blogpost is called the Sawston Infinity Scarf and is especially comfortable to wear as it is made from one of the softest wool fibres around, the Bluefaced Leicester, or BFL for short.

The BFL sheep breed was developed in the North of England over the 18th and 19th centuries and became acknowledged as a separate breed in the early 20th century. Now it is one of the most highly prized breeds in England and is also well represented in a number of other countries.

The fibre is soft and fine, measuring about 22-25 microns (close to the range of merino, which is usually about 18-24 microns). The wool is lustrous and items made from this yarn drape beautifully. The fibres have very smooth scales on the surface so the wool does not felt easily and is comfortable to wear. It also takes dye very well so good strong colours can be obtained.

The Sawston Infinity Scarf pattern also includes a smaller version, the Sawston Cowl and either can either be worked in hand-spun yarn or West Yorkshire Spinner's "WYS Bluefaced Leicester DK", which is a wonderful yarn to work with. 

I love hand-spinning BFL fleece. It is an easy fibre to work with as it has a good staple-length and both woollen and worsted spinning give good results. 

The Sawston Infinity Scarf scarf is warm and cozy and can be worn open with a nice "pocket" for your hands like a muffler, or it can be doubled up to give a wonderful sense of warmth around your neck on a cold day. 

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And now for Wovember, here are some facts about the Bluefaced Leicester breed:

The Bluefaced Leicester is one of three Leicester breeds, which also includes Border Leicesters and Leicester Longwool sheep.

The BFL sheep is so named because the skin on the face has a blue tinge. The wool is white!

They are large sheep, with adult ewes weighing about 80Kg (175 lbs) and rams about 115Kg (250 lbs). However, their average fleece weighs only 2-3 Kg (4-6 lbs).

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Enjoy spinning and using some BFL wool this month! If you haven't tried it before, you're in for a treat.

For more details of the Sawston Cowl and Infinity Scarf knitting pattern, please click here

Happy Spinning and BFL knitting!


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