Exmoor Blueface

I’m not going to lie here – I have a bit of a thing for Exmoor Blueface.  It could be because I love Exmoor – it’s one of the most starkly beautiful places in the world.  Or maybe it’s the name – it conjurs up delightful images of cartoony sheep with sky blue faces, prancing around and grinning, well, sheepishly.

It could be both of those things, but it ain’t.  It’s because the wool is blimmin’ gorgeous.

It’s hard to write about this – society doesn’t really want to hear the tale of one woman’s love for her wool.  But you will, my fellow felters (and if you’re not yet felters, be not put off by this review, for one day you will find a fibre that is your love – your woolmate.) And Exmoor Blueface is the wool that got me hooked on felting, the wool that sends me into a panic if my stocks run low.

It’s good wool, is what I’m saying.

So where better than to start the Wool Review with this, my first favourite fibre.

About the wool

The Exmoor Blueface sheep is a cross between the Exmoor Horn and Leicester Blueface.  In my research so far I haven’t found many suppliers of this wool or breeders of this sheep.

Purchased from John Arbon – £3.75 per 100g + p&p

Exmoor Blueface can also sometimes be purchased from Sara’s Texture Crafts

Available Colours – Natural White

All images, unless otherwise specified, shows wool purchased from John Arbon.

First Impressions

The Exmoor Blueface has a pleasant sheepy smell – I could sniff it for hours!  The colour is a pale creamy white and the fibres have a nice crinkly texture to them, feeling strong yet easy to pull apart.  There is no vegetable matter and the fibres are even and mid-length, with very few (if any) coarser guard hairs.

Exmoor Blueface Review - fibres roll


Exmoor Blueface Review - fibres 3
The fibres pull apart easily

Looking closely at the fibres reveals a nice crinkly effect that helps the wool felt easily to itself or other wools.

Nice crinkly fibres
Nice crinkly fibres

Exmoor Blueface Review - fibres 2

The Ball Test

The Ball Test is my comparison test between the different core wools to help determine suitability for purpose (i.e. dry needle felting), versatility and speed.  I start off with approx. 10 inches of fibre and felt using a 36 gauge triangle needle for five minutes (recording my progress at both the 3 and 5 minute marks), then I spend another 5 minutes using a 38 gauge triangle, recording my results at the 10-minute mark.  If I feel that the ball is still unfinished at this point I continue until it is completed to my standards – a tight, firm, even ball that is relatively smooth and as lump-free as possible.
Exmoor Blueface - making a ball
Exmoor Blueface – making a ball

0-3 minutes, using a 36 triangle needle

The ball is relatively easy to form by rolling the length of the fibres and tucking in the ends as I turn it.  It does slip at times, but is easy to keep in place.  It’s holding the shape together, but very loosely – at this stage I feel parts could still unravel.

The ball at this stage is not very round and is still quite squidgy.

Exmoor Blueface ball - 3 minutes
Exmoor Blueface ball – 3 minutes

3-5 minutes mark, using a 36 triangle needle

After felting for two more minutes the ball is now rounder and feels more secure.  It’s still fuzzy in places but is beginning to get quite neat.  Likewise it has become more compact but is still squidgy in places – I feel that it could be considered complete at this point (and may be a good point to consider adding eyes etc if you need to sew them in) but it is probably still too hairy and squashy for most people.

Exmoor Blueface ball - 5 minutes
Exmoor Blueface ball – 5 minutes

5-10 minutes mark, using a 38 triangle needle

By this point, having switched to a 38 triangle needle, the ball starts to take a much rounder shape, and by the 10-minute mark it is very round, albeit not perfect.  It is a little bumpy in places, and still a little squashy and hairy, but not enough to put me off – at this point I would be happy to consider it finished and use it.

Exmoor Blueface ball - 10 minutes
Exmoor Blueface ball – 10 minutes

Finishing the ball (10+ minutes – ball finished at 15 minutes)

After another 5 minutes with the 38 triangle I would consider this perfectly finished.  The ball is smooth and round and feels tight to touch.  At this point it may be too tight for adding eyes if you haven’t already made sockets in position.

Exmoor Blueface ball - finished
Exmoor Blueface ball – finished

In Summary

Exmoor Blueface is a great wool to work with.  It has a nice crinkly texture, is pale enough to be used as a substitute for white tops and felts well as a top coat (i.e. without being covered with other wool).  It is versatile and suitable for both larger pieces and small details, and top-colours felt to it easily.  Doesn’t shed much and no strong guard-hairs.

Would you create a whole model in this wool?

 Yep – I would and I have!  Observe:
Winter Bunny
The Winter Bunny


Whilst the eagle-eyed among you will notice Mr Bunny here has a pink nose, belly and ears, the rest of it is made solely from Exmoor Blueface.  It did require a bit of patience and a 40 triangle needle to seperate some of the closer fibres, but the end result is lovely.

The Exmoor Blueface used in the Winter Bunny image above were purchased from Sara’s Texture Crafts.

Similar to Exmoor Blueface…

 Welsh Mountain (review coming soon)

Please note that different clips may produce wool that differs from the description given above.  All wool reviews are based on the quality of the clip I am using at the time of review.

Some photographs have been edited to ensure images represent the wool as true-to-life as possible, as apparently the ability to take accurate pictures of wool is not one of my strengths!

4 thoughts on “Exmoor Blueface

  1. There are probably more Exmoor Blueface sheep than you’ll find mentioned online, because Johm Arbon has coined/popularized the name. They would also be called mule sheep, mule meaning a crossbreed sheep with a BFL ram parent and local breed ewe (which varies depending on where in the UK you are).

    Knitters and hand spinners love Bluefaced Leicester for its softness so Exmoor Blueface is cashing in on that popularity. Most time mule sheep wool is all blended together (and is probably some of the wool in English 56s) but John Arbon must have an arrangement with the British Wool marketing board to keep it separated and local.


    1. Thanks Alison, that is really interesting! I’m not sure of the hows and whys behind the naming or classification but I can certainly understand the appeal of using something ‘local’ as it were, and interesting to consider how it might be marketed (I work in marketing). I hadn’t come across the concept of mule sheep, so I appreciate your knowledge! Something for me to look into (and yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the base for English 56s, although I strongly suspect cheviot is a major player there).


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