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Friday, 30 March 2012

The farm is a glorious place to visit on a week like this! Book your trip now.

Hasn't the weather this week been glorious? No complaints here despite having to swap all our chunky knitwear for the finer variety and our socks for sandals.

And this fine weather has certainly caught the alpacas at their best. Almost in full fleece with just six more weeks left until shearing they are looking like big cuddly ewoks.

It's a great time to come up to the farm to meet the herd and see the alpacas in all their glory. You can come up to the farm for a visit anytime Monday-Friday 10am-4pm or in addition we will now be opening Saturdays from May onwards (NEWS TO FOLLOW SHORTLY).

A fab alternative to this is to join us on one of our craft workshops in knitting, crochet or felting. Spend a relaxing day here at Toft alpacas (Dunchurch, Warwickshire) getting to know all about alpacas and learning new skills. Each day includes a farm tour to get up close to our herd of over 150 alpacas.

Coming up pre-shearing we have an Intro to Felt Workshop on 14th April with a few spaces left. Book online here or give us a call on 01788 810626. The whole day course is just £5o per person and that includes all of your materials and and wonderful lunch. You will learn all the basics of wet felting, needle felting and knitted felt, and you will of course be working with luxorious alpaca fleece.

Come the week of May 15th the Shearer will be here and our herd will be transformed into skinny minnies! You can come and join us at Toft for this exciting event by booking on our workshop on 17th May. You will again spend a day on farm but this time see and learn about shearing alpacas and sorting fibre. You will then spend the afternoon making felted jewellery. This workshop is very limited with only a couple of spaces left so act now and book here.

If you are more animal mad than crazy about textiles then one of our Alpaca Fun Days could be for you. Spend a day on the farm halter training your own alpaca for the day. Great for all the family these summer days involve meeting all cria (baby alpacas- 50 due again this year!), a trek across the farm with your alpaca, followed by a picnic in the fields and then an obstacle course to finish! A great day out for all animal lovers. Book here.

So there's no excuse not to make a day of coming out to visit us. With an ever-expanding prgramme of events on farm, and the upcoming opening of 'Toft Studio' we will be hosting all manner of walks, talks and workshops.

Get booked in now as spaces are limited to small groups on all of our dates. Alternately if you have your own group and you'd like your own private tour then just get in touch to arrange a trip to us. All groups from 6-50 people are welcome with prior arrangement and cream-teas and craft classes are offered in addition to farm walks and talks.

Whether you are a WI, Knitting Group, School Party or simply a group looking to meet up and do an unusual and exciting activity for the day. Get in touch now to get us in your calendar.

With thanks to Emi for her photography and gorgeous alpaca treats from Japan.

Friday, 23 March 2012

What’s in your knitting bag?

Are you a neat tidy knitter with a bag to match, a ‘several-projects-in-my-bag’ kind of knitter, or perhaps you have a bag that resembles something akin to a black hole of unravelled yarn and unlabelled needle tips? Whatever kind of knitter you are (or are thinking of becoming) your knitting bag says a lot about you. Of course if you are going to take your knitting out and about it’s also essential to have, well, the essentials but what are they? Let’s take a look at the contents of two knitting bags and what they say about these knitters.

Knitter One – A knitting addict, often suffers with acute and enthusiastic start-itus. Loves simple patterns for garments and accessories, tends to have at least 4 projects on the go at any one time.

Contents of Bag:
Two projects currently still on needles. The first is two half knitted sleeves of
striped deck jumper – this knitter always knits two sleeves at the same time, or two legwarmers, gloves - you get the idea. (Toft Tip: Whilst this method doesn’t exactly save on time it does mean that you are less likely to suffer with second sock/sleeve/legwarmer syndrome and therefore never complete a project) Don’t mention her 1 and only 2 ply cable honeymoon sock (the yarn for the second is buried under a pile of ufo's!). This method allows you to ensure the length of each piece is perfectly even and using circular needles is a must in order that you have enough room for both items. They can also easily be put down without risk of losing either piece.

The second project is a small knitted and felted bag that a crocheting but non-knitting friend has asked this knitter to work up in 100% wool – she found this at Unravel and in return she is crocheting a chain scarf (who got the best deal there?!).

1 deluxe set of KnitPro Symphonie Interchangeable knitting needles with extra size tips, 3.75mm 12mm and 15mm – practically every needle you will ever need in one handy case with different length cords (also added a 30cm cord to the collection), plus stoppers for the easy change between projects. Perfect for knitting anything whether circular or straight, lots of stitches or just a few! Since this set is several years old she’s labelled the needle sizes – newer sets have the sizes printed on the needle tips.
2 pairs of fixed circular needles
1 pairs of rosewood and mother of pearl tipped knitting needles size 4mm (brought on a whim at Unravel)
1 crochet hook (4mm) – useful for picking up dropped stitches and crocheting of course.
Scraps of yarn to use as markers etc
The e-mails and telephone numbers of her knitting group ladies
Handcream and lip balm

1 small zipped case holding the following;

Tape measure

1 pair of sewing scissors
1 cable needle (5mm)
1 DPN (lost it’s set)
Needle size gauge
1 row counter
2 metallic stitch holders
Various stitch markers
Pen for making notes on a pattern

Knitter Two: A meticulous Toft knitter, a perfectionist when it comes to working out a pattern, she's integral in working up samples for Toft’s beginner knitting kits. Recently discovered a love of sock knitting and can sometimes be heard to cry – ‘not garter stitch again!’

Two projects currently on needles, one baby jacket in cashmere and a child’s sock (the second is yet to be cast on) in a wool nylon mix. Like our first knitter this knitter likes to have several projects on the go and this is in addition to her Toft knitting!
One ball of
Toft sock yarn in Oatmeal ready to knit another pair of socks whenever the fancy takes her, in fact this is the second of two balls and the lace knee high socks are currently on DPNs at home (in her stay at home knitting bag!)
1 pair of chunky knitting needles often used by her children with scraps of yarn as practice pieces (Toft Tip –
chunky alpaca yarn is great to learn to knit with as it knits up quickly and it’s nice and robust for tight tension newbies)
1 notepad and a pen for pattern notes
Set of 4 DPNs for sock knitting
2 pairs of scissors
Small zipped case containing the following;
Tape measure
1 mint
Needle size conversion gauge
1 cable needle
Leftover fine yarn
2 stitch holders
1 crochet hook
Sheephead stitch counter
Various stitch markers

So there you have it an anthropological look into two knitters bags and perhaps a little insight into their personalities too, or are we just reading too much into this?! Let's face it, it’s just an excuse to talk knitting and be nosey! Share your knitting bag photos here on via
Twitter or our Facebook page.

So now that Spring seems to have sprung what projects are on your needles? For us we feel it’s time to get some lighter knitting on the needles like a pair of socks, a lacy scarf or our new easy tunic vest all of which can be worn year round.

Crochet is also great for summer especially if you are new to this craft, beacuse what could be better than using up oddments in your stash to practise and hone your technique with small test squares that could be made into a blanket for example. If you haven’t got the foggiest where to start with crochet though why not book yourself on our Introduction to Crochet workshop on Saturday 7th April, spaces are filling fast but we can squeeze a few more in! Another popular summer workshop and passtime is felting (it's so lovely to be able to take this outside in the spring weather) and we have some spaces on our alpaca felt workshop on Saturday 14th April .

Our workshops are proving to be even more popular than usual this year, which is fantastic since we will soon be able to run them in the nearly completed Toft studio. We’ve added to the subjects too, this year we’re also offering alpaca fleece processing, a must for alpaca owners and handspinners alike and a quilted patchwork workshop both of which are available to book online now for September.

To celebrate the opening of the new studio in the coming weeks, we are planning a Craft Open Day on Saturday 4th August. If you came to our 5th birthday party last year you'll have some idea of what to expect, come and join us for craft taster sessions like knitting, crochet and felting, plus tours of the farm and lots more. No need to book, just turn up at Toft Manor, CV22 6NR from 10am!

Friday, 16 March 2012

The Stitch and Craft Show, Olympia

Greetings from the Stitch and Craft Show. This is the biggest spring craft exhibition, and covers all things knit, tapestry, cross stitch and papercraft split over three floors. As a result there are a lot of different people through the doors in a day with widely varied interests and skills.

We are at stand FI04 on the first floor, and have the full range of our knitting kits available.

The show features a big quilting display- and this patchwork yurt by Mollie Makes.

The show is open until 5pm on Sunday. Hope to meet some of you here.

Meanwhile if any of your are in the Midlands and short of something to do tomorrow- The British Alpaca Futurity is being held at the NEC. We also have a tradestand here- and you will have the chance of seeing over 400 of the UK's top alpacas in one place.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Bulb Bag Workshop Review

We can't be sure if it's the whiff of spring in the air, or perhaps it's the love felt (pardon the pun) for our bulb bags, but last weekend's bulb bag workshop was one of the nicest workshop sessions in a long while.

Don't get us wrong, our craft workshops are always great fun. We love sharing our alpaca and craft knowledge with all our visitors, but sometimes it all comes together in a magic way- the weather, the mix of people, the animals looking their full fleece snuggly best, the knitting and of course the cake- this was one of those days.

After a gloriously sunny walk, a highlight of which was watching Archie the llama trotting and swooshing grandly about his paddock, we came back to the farm to choose two balls of Aran alpaca yarn and a unique handturned small button with which to begin knitting mini bulb bags.

Some of the group couldn't pick just one and few opted for a big button instead of a small one. One creative lady even decided to try a striped bag, she very kindly sent some photos pre felting.

Toft Top Tip- don't always stick to the rules- upgrading to a bigger button than recommended makes for a fab statement. And because you can always transform your bag by swapping the button for a different wood type or size there's no excuse not to use your bag season after season.

The dogs were as usual a bit of a talking point, joined on Saturday by honorary workshop guest Matilda the terrier cross. Harvey skulked around under the table trying to disguise himself with yarn in order to pounce on any crumbs that might fall from the yummy shortbread biscuits that are fast becoming as talked about as the view from Toft.

We discussed the endless merits of knitting with KnitPros especially since circular needles are used for knitting any size of bulb bag. We covered topics such as felting, picking up stitches, knitting in the round and leaving and returning to sts (several of these techniques can be found in our knitting help pages). Our new KnitPro sets and the fixed needles were super popular in the postworkshop shopping spree, as was chunky yarn for a couple of beginner snoods

Toft Top Tip- you don't need to be a beginner to love our beginner knitting kits like the snoods or beret, they are perfect easy knitting projects to take to your knitting group so you don't get your needles in a twist after a few classes of wine!

If you are a Toft SUBSCRIBER tomorrow's free knitting pattern will be for a simple snood or cowl.

Sarah (thank you for your photos), she of striped bulb bag fame, went for several chunky colours with which to knit rib cowls- a fantastic effort for someone who claimed to have taught herself to knit backwards by mistake and then re-learnt the right way just a week or so ago!

So if you fancy joining us for another fantastic alpaca crafty knitting workshop we've a beginner crochet workshop and felting workshop next month. The next bulb bag workshop is 26th May and they're all available to book online now. The next time we host a workshop we will be in Toft Studio- what a treat.

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, 2 March 2012

Toft at Unravel 2012

Last weekend (has it been a week already?!) Carrie and Mr P went to their old home town of Farnham Surrey with a truck load of alpaca yarn and knitted goodies for a weekend of Unravel and the prospect of meeting up with lots of old friends.

This was Unravel's 4th year and in that time the show has grown from just two or three rooms of local traders to filling every nook and cranny of the Farnham Maltings even down to the cafe - resplendent with Farnham Knitwit's creations, to the bridge across the river decorated with crocheted balloons. Every corner you turned there was a fabulous artistic knit related creation to behold and to greet people outside the Maltings were four very cute sheep (breed unknown) one of whom made a heroic escape for freedom on Saturday morning. It was a very funny sight from Toft's first floor vantage point - to see a gorgeous fluffy sheep dashing as fast as she could down the car park closely followed by passers by doing their best sheep dog herding impressions.

This year we were situated in a great corner of the Barley Room that could quite honestly have be built for us. Carrie & Mr P didn't have too huge a row whilst setting up (that blinking wood!) and had a chance to catch up with Ingrid Wagner and her Extreme Knitting as she was situated just opposite, before heading out into Farnham to meet with friends for supper.

Saturday morning saw a long queue outside The Maltings, Carrie spotted lots of familiar faces who all popped by to say hello and satiate their alpaca yarn cravings with the five weights of yarn that we had with us. She also took along a few exclusives from the S/S 12 collection (available online now!) including the Clematis Beret and new two colour bobble hottie.

Firm favourite such as the striped deck jumper and round neck jumper were the most popular, so much so that Carrie sold out of mushroom fine alpaca yarn that first afternoon. The sale lace cardigans were also a hit as we knew they would be with the chic inhabitants of Farnham and surrounds!

Lots of pom poms were also purchased - many as inexpensive and easy to care for pets we suspect, but also quite a few to adorn pom pom beanies and the beginner pom pom scarf. It was also the first outing for our new selection of KnitPro needles, available online now in various fixed chunky sizes as well as two different sets, the feedback on us now selling these needles was fantastic so we're glad we took the plunge.

Sunday was another busy day with more familiar faces and some who decided to come back after having such a good time on Saturday. The fashion show took place in the afternoon and Carrie managed to recruit a keen camera woman (!) to take some pics for her of our outfit - those to follow. We dressed our lucky model in a cross-over dress, a pom pom beanie, the new and exclusive S/S 12 chunky cable cape, some cable wristwarmers and bobble legwarmers - do you think she was cosy enough?!

This little fella was one of three knitted moles and molehills to be found outside The Maltings - we just couldn't resist him! Well we are looking forward to Unravel 2013 already - it's certainly a show not to miss, especially if it's anything like this year!

*Carrie apologises to all the fantastic 'knit' artists of whose work she took photos of however she didn't take down names and feels very naughty.*