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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The final chapter of 2010

Tankfully the Toft Team were kept lovely and warm head to toe in our knitwear through the final tour dates of 2010. November kicked off with Country Living London.

This was our first setup in Islington’s Business Design Centre, and it proved to be quite a chaotic one. Through all five days of trading we were overrun, and had to call in stock deliveries everyday to keep up with the handbag and headband sales.

We had a very busy event and it was great to see so many of our regular online customers.

From there we did a pit stop back at Toft and headed off up to Glasgow with the same event.

This was only our second time across the border with the Toft tradestand, and proved to be an equally successful event.

It was very chilly that far North, and our hats went down a storm.

It was a really long journey back on the Sunday evening, but fuelled with lots of coffee and muffins we made it back to Leamington Spa just after 1am.

After a chaotic Monday swapping all the stock and loading two vehicles and a horse trailer…we set off for Harrogate for The Knitting and Stitching Show.

This year it was a very big and busy event with Gok Wan’s Fashion Fix being filmed on the Friday night. Forget ‘Team Toft’, we were an alpaca army as we setup and manned our two tradestands.

Thousands of you came and said hi at A90, or TG124 and enjoyed a five minute rest bite putting your feet up on our sofas.

We had the usual suspects Kerry and Kate, dragged Carrie out of the shop and office, and were joined for the week by Laura and Lisbee.

It was a touch and go train experience for Kate Laura and Lisbee coming out of London with the snow and the minus seven weather conditions (little did we know then it would set in for Christmas).

Lisbee was thrown in at the deep arriving five minutes before we started trading on the Thursday not knowing one end of an alpaca from another. We are hoping the Bettinson/Stainton Toft anthem will be with us soon *

see their latest musical collaboration and follow them on twitter/myspace.

So we had a phenomenal time in Harrogate despite the very heavy snow and treacherous driving conditions.

It took a rescue mission by Rob and Doug to get us out on the Sunday evening and we all tested our muscles carrying the little remaining stock and sofas across the road and into the trailer.

Then…we were back in Harrogate for another weekend of snow at Simply Christmas- great to see so many Great Yorkshire Show customers, but sadly the weather killed the crowds.

Since then we’ve had all hands to the pump getting thousands of parcels out to you. We have made everything automatic 24hr delivery, the knitters haven’t stopped and we have sold that many knitting kits we have no tote bags left until January!

We have changed the opening hours of the on-farm shop for 2011. We will now be closed on a weekend from February through to October. The website will still be fully open for orders.
Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Alpaca Farm Workshop-tastic!

Carrie took a morning workshop with two of our lovely Toft Knitters, Margaret and Kate on the finer points of Circular Knitting a week or so ago. Some of you might be thinking 'what on earth?', whilst some may think, easy. Either way there is a bit more to it than just knitting in the round and making a tube - because lets face it, unless it's a cowl neck or a snood it's not much use! Kate and Margaret learnt several ways to join in the round, how you're always knitting the right side when your working in the round and also the Magic Loop Method. After several hours of knitting, nattering and tea and biscuit consumption they had it down and were looking forward to working up some circular Toft patterns in the near future. For everyone else we'll be putting some videos on the website detailing some circular knitting point - it'll be the first of many Toft Alpaca Shop mini-demos available on the website, including Katie's snood demo and Kerry's Net and Flower Scarf demo!

After the fun we've had recently at our workshops, we're really looking forward to the Cable Workshop on Saturday 13th November (where you could make this Cable Beanie) and the Festive workshops on 3rd and 17th December (where we'll be making Toft's Felt Baubles)- there are still some places left on these workshops and gift vouchers for all of our workshops are available. If you're wracking your brains for gift ideas, they make a great and unusual present for that crafty person in your life.

We just love showing people around the farm, getting them excited about British yarn production and best of all scrummy alpaca yarn and gorgeous luxury fashion products. So much so that we've added new dates and workshop topics for next year, the new workshop dates are;

*Sock and/or Glove Workshop on 21 January 2011 - learn techniques and tips on how to knit these items that people often find needlessly scary.

*Introduction to Knitting on 12 February 2011 - Toft's infamous beginner knitting workshop where we'll teach all the basics to newbies and offer advice to intermediates - usually we knit the gorgeous Toft Knitted Necklace.

*Felt Workshop on 4 March 2011 - learn the various felting techniques so suited to alpaca knitting or fleece, including wet felting, needle felting and knitted felting.

*Next Step Beginner Course - Pattern Reading on 1 April 2011 - If you've loved the Introduction to knitting and want to start that next challenge this is the workshop for you. We'll de-mystify all the pattern jargon that probably looks like a foreign language just now!

*Alpaca Jewelry and Shearing Workshop on 17 May 2011 - To coincide with our shearing week, come and join us to learn more about the process of field to fashion and make some gorgeous knitted or felted (or both) jewelry using alpaca yarn and fleece. A fantastic opportunity to see the inner workings of Toft Alpaca farm!

More details can be found on the website and you can book there for yourself or to give as a gift, alternatively give us a call at the Toft office on 01788 810 626.

For any Toft Alpaca fans in the south of the country Carrie will be visiting National Trust property, The Vyne nr Basingstoke in Hampshire on 17th November to run a version of Toft's Festive Workshops, one AM and one PM. We'll be making 3 baubles using knitting and felting techniques, and Carrie will be teaching knitting from the beginning if necessary so all are welcome. A roaring fire and refreshments are included all for £35 pp. Call National Trust Box Office for bookings on 08442 491 895- they're filling fast!

For Toft Alpacas on the road team there is no let up now until December, we'll travelling around the country again with lots of alpaca goodies, yarn, and luxury garments for the discerning shopper and alpaca fan! This weekend the team can be found in Dublin for The Knitting and Stitching Show (29 October), then Birmingham for the ICHF from 4-7th November , Country Living London from 10-13th November, Glasgow for the Country Living Show from 18th-21st November, The Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate from 25-28th November and lots more to follow in December! Phew - an exhausting schedule but we love meeting you all so come and see us if we're in your area!!

Oh and don't forget to visit us for the first Toft Knitter's Group on 1 November at 4pm!
We've more exciting news about late night Christmas shopping, a sample sale and Christmasy events coming soon...

Friday, 8 October 2010

October Alpaca Adventures

We've had a couple of misty mornings here at the farm this week, the day then clears to reveal the warm autumn sun and a glorious view over Draycote water - we are so lucky to work in such beautiful surroundings! Why not come and visit the shop during this gorgeous time of year and see what we mean?! And if it gets too cold there's always lots of alpaca goodies to keep you toasty!

The past few weeks have been super busy at Toft Alpaca Shop and Stud Farm. Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd October were workshop days- we had two lovely groups of ladies who joined us for a tour of the farm (a rather wet and blustery one on Friday) and then tuition in Felting techniques and on Saturday an introduction to knitting.

All the felt bag designs were marvelously creative and everyone surprised Kerry by enjoying wet felting more than needle felting, usually it's the other way round.

After their two walks adventure dogs Ace and Harvey were too tired to even eat fleece- a favourite pastime during felting workshops!

Saturday's knitters all gave the craft a real shot and were so engrossed with their chosen projects that the snooker room was unusually quiet! Tongues were sticking out with concentration and there were frequent shrieks of either joy at a finished row or horror at a dropped stitch! Everyone went home well on their way to a finished item whether it was a necklace, cowl or wristwarmers - there were a few twisted pearl stitches but it all added to the fun of the day and the uniqueness of each item.

Kerry set off to Ally Pally last Wednesday with a new set of shelves 'hand crafted' on the farm by Rob, which made the stand look even better than usual- showing off Toft's 100% baby alpaca garments and natural colour yarns to their very best. The show was a great success with lots of newbie knitters visiting the stand to buy knitting kits. Ally Pally gave us the chance to debut lots of new knitting kits and the large Toft Cotton Totes- and as usual we sold out of buttons!

Talking of new knitting kits, Gianni, photographer extraordinaire, will be photographing all the new items for inclusion on the website soon, including these two beautiful scarf patterns, the Bobble Scarf and the Chunky Cable Lace, which were big hits at Ally Pally.

In other Toft Alpaca news, Kerry visited a sock factory recently and despite expecting something out of Wallace & Gromit she came away raving about the factory and the process. Here you can see some of the yarns they had going at the time and this next photo is not a piece from the Tardice but it is in fact a sock knitting machine - the yarns run along the top and feed down, knitting a kind of complex french knitting style tube that pops out of the bottom as a perfect sock. So coming soon will be a new range of Cream and Black Alpaca socks to replace our current Knee High
and Walking Socks, with Charcoal and Silver coming in the new year. We can't wait here at Toft Alpaca Shop Office!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Autumn's Arrival

Autumn has arrived at Toft Alpacas, the birthing season is over with the last Cria, Darth Maul(he's a dark brown Cria and all our brown Alpacas are named after Star Wars characters!) who was born on 7 September. Toft has seen around 50 Cria born this year, the most we’ve ever had. We’re excited in the boutique about the gorgeous fleeces these fluffy little ones will produce for Toft Alpaca Shop yarns in the coming years. More photos of Cria bottle feeding (that's Puck above) can be found on our facebook page.

Like most people in the UK, here at Toft we had a false start to the autumn at the end of August when it was so cold we were all wearing far too many layers, Shirley insisted the heating be put on and the sun suddenly reappeared. The heating was promptly turned off again least we all pass out or curl up with the dogs under the desks for a snooze!

Lucky for us it’s getting properly chilly now and we’re all go for head to foot alpaca-chic – how we love the autumn and winter!

Other signs that the summer is overhave come in the shape of our on-trend and much
sought after plait hat which is now available as a knitting kit particularly popular with the fashion conscious and knitting skiers and snowboarders (also available as a final product for those less crafty but decidedly stylish types). Kerry has witnessed it being worn with the plait at the front Mohawk style at one of the recent shows– a look that’s not for the faint hearted!

Toft’s fabulous army of knitters have been working their alpaca socks off recently to keep up with the demand for items in the shop and online but particularly on the road during Toft’s grand UK tour. Our facebook page has more pics of recent shows at I Knit London and the Newbury and Malvern shows, not to mention photos of a daring mannequin rescue! The girls can now be found modelling our products in the on farm boutique, they’re yet to be named but it probably won’t be long before they are.

Toft knitter Margaret has been working on some gorgeous cable and lace scarf patterns. Doris and Helen have made near weekly visits with Mini Bulb Bags and Button Hats and Emma has been working up some Giant Bulb Bags which close with the use of our Giant Toggles. They are likely to make their debut at Ally Pally so look out for them if you’re planning on attending! We’ll also be at the Stitching and Knitting shows at Dublin and Harrogate, the Country Living Magazine shows in Glasgow and London as well as Crafts for Christmas in Birmingham to mention just a few.

Encouraged by the fashion press, here in the office we’re teaming our cable alpaca legwarmers with our sho-ots (shoe-boots to you
and I!) wrist warmers and matching aran cable headbands, proving that even knitwear
accessories can be great work wear. Similar headbands...
...were to be found on the Prada catwalks this season, teamed with an up-do and the fifties trend. N.B. We’ve also found they’re great for bad-hair days and chilly autumn walks! Carrie tweeted and posted on facebook about the similarity a few weeks ago and a flurry of orders came in soon afterward. The great selection of natural colours we have suit any hair colour!

Sticking with the catwalk trends, not only is knitwear a big fashion story (isn’t it always in Autumn and Winter?) it seems cables, the bigger the better are an instant update to your wardrobe. If you are a knitter, our chunky cable tunic kit (adapted from the well loved cable tank top) is a fantastic fast and enjoyable knitti
ng kit that’s been popular at several shows already. Why not buy it in this seasons must have Camel chunky which is on special offer.

Snoods are a huge part of the Autumn/Winter trend, worn as we do at the farm over chiffon or silk blouses tucked under our baby alpaca pinafore dresses or in fact with just about any outfit. New this season is our lace knit baby alpaca snood,

a sumptuous circle of lace patterned fabric. It’s the alternative to our unisex baby alpaca snood, but just as beautiful and versatile and perhaps even more suitable for evenings out, especially in the run up to the party season! They are available in cream, Oatmeal or Charcoal, and they’re selling fast (no fear an order is on its way from Peru very soon). For the men amongst you, if you aren’t quite convinced about a unisex snood, our new striped men’s scarf is a great treat for yourself or an even

better present idea. The two stripe colour variations will suit any wardrobe and could be worn for work or at the weekend. Most of the Toft chaps (not to mention Dads and Brothers) are likely to find these under the tree this Christmas (shhh don’t tell them!). In fact so chic are they that Gianni Diliberto, photographer extraordinaire sports one that was given to him as a little thank from all at Toft for the his marvellous photography work to be found on our new snow-white

Along with this new look Toft Alpaca Shop website we also took receipt of brand spanking new Toft Cotton Tote Bags that all our knitting kits will now be sold in. Not only that but they also hold our new goody bags- worth far more than the £20 we are selling them for, these bags are a random lucky dip purchase of our finest yarn in a selection of colours, available in Lace through to Chunky weight. We'll also throw in some vintage patterns for you to enjoy (or giggle at!)- they are a perfect selection for any toy or blanket knitter or Toft Alpaca yarn enthusiast! They can be purchased individually and our large totes will be available soon too- great for minimal effort present wrapping or indeed any stylish shoppers!

Due to popular demand another Toft bag that has made it’s debut is our Mini

Bulb Bag knitting kit. Knitted with our Aran weight yarn and then lightly felted, this cute version of Toft’s famous Bulb Bag is perfect for those who like a smaller handbag and it’s great for evenings out. Toft’s Mini Bulb Bag kit is available in all our beautiful colours with a small hand turned button all wrapped up with the pattern in a Toft Cotton Tote. For the non-knitters of you it is of course available as a finished product in a selection of colours and your choice of button.

In preparation for the coming months in which knitting becomes even more popular and our winter proof products come into their own Kerry and Rob have been doing lots of fleece sorting and

grading, more photos of this process and those involved and covered in fluff can be found on facebook. Several hundred kilos (slight understatement!) have been delivered to Haggers Mill in the past three weeks and now we’re just

waiting for all the gorgeous yarn back! This will include a few new additions to the Toft Alpaca Yarn range– more details to follow.

Toft Alpaca Farm Workshops are proving very popular with our Cable Workshop being featured in Knitting Magazine’s October issue. Two of our kits, the Felted Baubles and our Cable Beanies were featured in Simply Knitting’s Top 20 Christmas Knitting Treats. Talking of which we’ve opened bookings for our two Christmas Retreat workshops which will be lovely days of crafty relaxation here at Toft Manor, away from the hustle and bustle of December. We’ll be showing attendees how to make our gorgeous Felted Baubles that can be customised with needle felted stripes, spots or even lettering, as well as giving you a tour of Toft stud farm and a homemade lunch of course. Of course there’s also a circular knitting workshop and two workshops in the New Year, dates to be confirmed but more details can be found on our website or give us a call to book your place. Carrie is also running a one-off Christmas workshop at The Vyne a National Trust property in Hampshire for Toft fans in the South. Bookings for this one can be made through National Trust’s Box office on 01553 764864, lunch and roaring fire included!

The last thing to tell you about are some new sale items that are available in the shop and on line including our thick and toasty Wellie Socks in colours to brighten any winter day!
Enjoy the beginning of autumn and we’ll be back with another installment in October. In the meantime of course you could always pop in to visit the farm in Dunchurch, particular on Saturday 9 October when there will be an open day for those interested in alpacas to come and enjoy informal farm tours and question and answer sessions.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A Busy Summer!

Within the last few months things at Toft have been super busy - some might say chaotically so - but we just love it! Kerry and Katie have literally been touring the country setting up stands at shows with almost military precision- if there was a chic, alpaca clad, military knitting division of course! They've visited Alcester, Stoneleigh, London, Bakewell, Stirling, Harrogate, not to mention Paris and Dublin too with more venues planned!

Kate and Kerry spent a rather hot and humid weekend at the CLA Game Fair in Alcester in July. The show was attended by 144,000 people over three days and the Toft Alpaca stand greeted new and familiar faces. Our newly delivered Baker Boy hats

made with an alpaca tweed fabric each with unique vintage linings went down a storm with the country set. We were witness to some fantastic goings-on including ladies dancing on horseback, a pen of camels from Dubai, lots of gorgeous doggy shows, as well as some very interesting fashion choices (the mustard lady to be found on our facebook page)-especially given the humid weather!

Those who have visited the website will know that last month we gained a new team member in Carrie who can now be found most days surrounded by yarn and patterns at the Toft Alpaca Shop and 'office'. On her first day at Toft she was well and truly welcomed with the birth of a Cria - one of the 50 we've had at Toft this year. As well as managing the shop Carrie will be extending Toft Alpaca Shop's schedule of workshops expanding on the popular introduction to knitting and felting and offering sessions on Cable and Circular knitting.

The last weekend of July saw Toft Alpaca at the first Knit Nation held at Imperial College, London, organised by Alice Yu and Cookie A and attended by Ravelry. It was Carrie's first show and although she left with tired feet there was still a spring in her step from an even greater enthusiasm for Toft yarns. She shares her thoughts of Knit Nation below:

"So it was my first show with Toft and what a brilliant day we had. Imperial College was a great venue and having arrived early I managed to catch up on some knitting magazines over breakfast on Thurloe Road. As the doors opened I met some Toft Alpaca regulars as well as lots of new faces - although they were all new to me! I really enjoyed sharing my new found knowledge of the products and the yarn, offering some knitting know-how when necessary. It was great to have the chance of being part of 'Toft on the Road!'. For the knitters amongst you I noticed that we had the most interest in our laceweight yarn and indeed this was a running theme for most exhibitors, so much so I've started a topic titled 'For the Love of Lace' on our Ravelry page. Knitters it seems still want to spend their pennies on sumptuous yarns to create beautiful items, but they also want even more value for money, and with the great yardage you get from lace it gives just that! Currently on my needles are some double strand lace weight gloves that will hopefully become a knitting kit in the new year (picture to follow!). In the meantime I'm looking forward to my next show already…"

Carrie has also been setting us up on Facebook, Twitter and Ravelry - we plan on our pages being regularly updated with news, photos, offers and free patterns from the Toft Alpaca Shop. We've also been featured monthly in magazines ranging from Vogue Knitting US, to Good Housekeeping and The Knitter which has led to lots of websales especially from our US fans.

You may have noticed the uber stylish new photographs from our latest fashion shoot by the fabulous Gianni Diliberto which are appearing on our website. We are so pleased with the way his photography has brought out the very best of our alpaca products. Kate and Kerry had a fun filled day kitting out our gorgeous model in head to toe alpaca - luckily she was a consummate professional and didn't pass out in the surprising July heat that day! A highlight of the new collection is the stunning Ribbed, fine knit cardigan jacket - it's been so popular in fact we've re-order it already.

Of course we've been wearing alpaca on all but the hottest days of summer, whether it be our Bulb Bags, Toft necklaces or the versatile fine knit snood - which, as Katie will demonstrate at the drop of a ball of laceweight alpaca, can be worn not only as a snood but as a summer evening shrug or pashmina.

Carrie nearly fell off her chair this week with excitement after thinking she'd spotted a pair of Toft's legwarmers on a Christian Dior catwalk! So a quick fashion forecast (to be found in all the fashion magazines littering the office) our legwarmers are one of the must have autumn/winter 10/11 items - wear them over boots for a statement or with your lounge pants at home. Kerry is even working on a pair that will be perfect for your yoga or pilates class with bare toes and heels. Not that we're wishing away summer at all you understand!!

This week Toft have visited the Bakewell Show and will be heading to UK Knit Camp in Stirling in a few days. Updates to follow...