Search This Blog

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Edward turns two.

Happy Birthday Edward! Two years after I first picked up a crochet hook and book sales on the #edsanimals collection are soaring. 

We enjoyed a fantastic day at the zoo, getting inspired by all the new animals. The zebra are always popular, but Ed's favourite is always the Giant Tortoise. 

His Grandma and Grandad decided to surprise him with two very special gifts. They have been named 'apple' and 'cheese' by Edward and this is their mansion! They will be living at Toft along with the 200 alpacas and Ed and I will enjoy giving them breakfast and cuddles everyday. 

In fact Edward was so thrilled with the guineapigs that he got in their hutch to help setup their beds! 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Oh deary me.. Where did three months go?

Has it really been that long? 

The pace at Toft at the moment is quite hard to keep up with, hence the silence. Edward's Menagerie has sold like I had never imagined, and our Studio is buzzing with hundreds (yes hundreds) of people every week coming to learn to crochet. 

The team has expanded again to welcome new staff and interns and that has made for a very dynamic group that will be heading us up into the busy winter period. The Cornflower Cafe has become a permanent fixture and we will be changing our opening hours to Wed-Sun from October 1st. That means a whole extra day at the weekend for more workshops! 

Meanwhile the AW14/15 collection is looking top-notch and we're ready to photoshoot next week for an October launch. 

Basically life is good, but busy, so keep up over on Facebook or Inatagram as I can't promise to snatch 15 minutes again for a while. But I will try... 

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Richard the Pig

Richard is one of two pigs in Edward's Menagerie. 

You'd think that working on an alpaca farm would be enough to satisfy my love of animals. Wrong. It's been fantastic the way becoming the mum of a toddler and designing Edward's Menagerie has given me the perfect excuse for numerous trips to farms, zoos and even just pet shops...

One of my favourite days out is a trip up to Harrogate for The Great Yorkshire Show. This year I hope to take Edward for the first time to peer over the pens with me at the biggest pigs I've ever seen. I'm pretty sure that he will be as excited as I am to meet all the different breeds of pig, sheep, goats and cow. In fact I am white excited now just thinking about it! When I first started developing TOFT back in 2006 I hauled my trailer full of handknits around every single agricultural show there was in the UK: the Royal Welsh, Bakewell, Newark and Notts, Royal Bath and West. You name it and I have sold alpaca knitwear there at some point in the last eight years. Camping in all weathers on a showground surrounded by partying young farmers was testing, but for me it felt like such a treat to get up very early, beg a coffee from the just-stirring food vendors, and head off to enjoying it with a large white pig. 

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Francis the Hedgehog

Francis is a hedgehog very close to my heart. Truth known, all hedgehogs are pretty close to my heart. 

I am a life-long member of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society thanks to being a pretty gung-ho then year old that spent all her pocket money at once. I collected any kind of hedgehog toy, every craft I did from clay making through to baking was always hedgehog themed, and I built hedgehog hotels all over Toft and bought 'spike's dinner' in the hope that they would move in. 

That said, Francis did not make it into the first .pdf of patterns, and it is only in the paperback that he makes his debut. Perhaps that's because I suspected spines might be a bit tricky, perhaps it was waiting to make sure I was good enough with my hook to do it justice, or maybe I was just waiting for the right time. 

I find it quite hard to make to the patterns to order and the collection has grown far more organically than that. I usually cement my ideas on beginning to crochet the next animal as I am sewing up the last one. This is why the collection won't really stop here: Ed's animal club is where the very latest animals go, and the patterns and yarn are exclusive to my subscribers for a while. 

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Penelope the Bear

Penelope began her life as a reindeer. No world of lie, the brownbear that is now very popular was originally an ill-conceived first attempt at a reindeer pattern.  With two floppy antlers strapped to her head she lasted around 48hours before I cut them off, pulled back the nose back to the colour change and crocheted my first bear. 

Cutesy teddy bears aren't my thing, but this is a strong lady who likes to wear designer shoes. She is a character that I admire, and is one of many successful female characters in Edward's Menagerie. I'm not sure a brown bear would ever have landed in the collection if it wasn't for the happy mistake, and sometimes that's how the best ones come-about.

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Timmy the Jack Russell

Timmy is the kind of dog that fearlessly leaps into a dark caves. 

Here at Toft we lost our Jack Russell, Ace, in 2012 at a grand old age. Like Timmy he was an adventure dog who took himself off to wherever he fancied that day. The fifth time you had to apologise for him going through the cat flap and eating the neighbour's cat food it was reasonably easy to get angry with him, but he has high spirits and was a loving pet. 

Timmy is the only dog in Edward's Menagerie. Why?  I'll let you into a bit of a secret- there are a few other dog breeds out there, but they have been made as special gifts for my nearest and dearest. Every now and again it's an indulgent pleasure of mine to just whip an animal up without writing down the pattern. So they remain one of a kind characters like their owners. 

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Caitlin the Giraffe

Following the launch of Edward's Menagerie in October 2013 I have been inundated with requests for a crochet giraffe pattern. I had no idea how many big giraffe fans there were out there and I am pleased to announce that Caitlin the giraffe made it into the Edward's Menagerie paperback

In the new paperback I have arranged the animals into three groups by their complexity, and Caitlin enters the menagerie as a level three animal due to the colour changing techniques involved.  I would strongly recommended using the technique video I have just recorded before making such of the patterns involving multiple colours. I am recommending a method that creates a clean colour change from one to another which gives you a much neater finish on your animal. 

Due to the nature of the reasonably demanding colour change pattern we are running a workshop on the 30th August where you can come and perfect all your amigurumi techniques under our expert guidance. BOOK HERE

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: Emma the Bunny

Emma the bunny was the second animal to join the menagerie, and she rapidly became the number one favourite with all our customers. The irresistible floppy ears have made thousands of people fall in love with her and pick up their hooks and crochet the pattern.  

My niece and nephew's reaction to my second ever crochet project may well be one of the main reasons why I kept going.

Emma the bunny was catapulted to fame in a very early copy of Simply Crochet Magazine and has become the most popular little animal I've taken onto Create and Craft TV.  The bunny pattern has a broad appeal partly due to looking fantastic in most of the Toft colours.  I have personally crocheted one in stone, silver and cream, but have seen gorgeous examples in steel, fudge and mushroom.  Thousands of you have made this pattern and they can all be seen on Ravelry and on the #edsanimals hashtag.

Emma remains one of Edward's favourite animals and sits in pride of place on his  mantlepiece when she's not enjoying a cup of tea with him from his tin teaset.  I am certain that my original stone DK bunny will be in my family for a very long time.  

The 'meet my menagerie' campaign is a 50 day countdown to the official launch of my Edward's Menagerie book.  The Edward's Menagerie paperback can be ordered HERE.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Meet my Menagerie: 50 days of #edsanimals

Over the next 50 days I am going to introduce you to Edward's Menagerie.  This #50daysofcrochet campaign will start to uncover the characters that are now so much more than crochet patterns.

Each animal has had a name since September 2013, and now each animal also has a personality, vocation and back-story.

Many of you have already made many of the patterns from Edward's Menagerie, and I hope you'll be amused to read the way I perceive that animal's persona. I would of course like to add my disclaimer that the characters are all fictional.

The new Edward's Menagerie paperback contains full paragraph descriptions of each and every animal pattern.  I will be giving you a taste of their personalities.

If I pull this off I will have written an eye-watering amount of original content in just over a month.  Wish me luck.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Shearing time again and the fleeces are better than ever before!

This week has been another crazy one as the whole team pulled together for our annual 'harvest'. Ben Wheeler the shearer arrived Sunday evening and we all got ready to roll our sleeves up, start the shears at 7am Monday and keep going until the last alpaca was naked. 

This year the whole process was over in just 48hrs thanks to having many able hands on site in the form of our three current textile interns from the University of Loughborough (and plenty of great cake from The Cornflower Cafe). Lisa, Alison and Ellie enjoyed two days of hard work moving alpacas around the farm, fleece grading and assisting the shearer. 

The fleeces coming off The Toft Alpaca Stud herd were of an outstanding quality, being sorted whilst still warm into our top yarn manufacturing grades.  The stud have done very well again this year in the show ring, and their dedication to breeding fineness and a lack of guard hair really shows in the fleeces of the young animals that fly into the top grade year after year. 

Once again lots of you came to have a look at what it was all about. I extend that invitation to anyone who is interested in where their yarn comes from and learning more about farming alpacas here in the UK. We'll be shearing around the same time again next year and there will be more workshop spaces available to come and get hands-on. 

Shearing week is always a fun but exhausting one, and when over 200 alpacas run back into their fields boasting their new haircuts it's a proud moment. It's the beginning of the yarn process, and the decisions are yet to be made about which weights, colours and designs this year's Toft fleeces will be processed into. As many of you will be aware we do buy other fleeces and have now expanded our range to include wool too, but the Toft fleeces remain at the heart of what we do and will make some pretty exclusive top-notch yarn. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Fifty animals in Edward's Menagerie: introducing the last ten to join.

I remember thinking back in late September 2012 that perhaps having crocheted ten animals was 'a bit much'. Then when I stood on our Ally Pally tradestand in October 2013 I was quite overwhelmed by what thirty animals look like collectively.

 If I'm completely honest I am quite intimidated by the thought of having to see a giant pile of the now fifty animals in the Edward's Menagerie collection next time we build a tradestand! 

In that time it's not just the menagerie and my crochet skills that have grown and developed. I now have a running, chattering, boisterous toddler making it ever harder to find time to crochet (not that I'm complaining!). 

The latest ten animals to have their eyes sewn on are the ten bonus patterns available as a .pdf when you place a pre-order for the NEW paperback. 

Susan the Badger
Erica the Camel
Sheila the Kangaroo
Logan the Moose
Donna the Reindeer
Harriet the Sloth
Andre the Lemur
Zack the Skunk
Mae the Snowleopard
Frank the Armadillo

As the original animals now all have fully fledged characters, these too will reveal their occupations, hobbies and habits through a #50daysofcrochet campaign coming soon. 

I have been startled and thrilled by the numbers of you that have already pre-ordered the book. I know you'll fall further in love with Edward's Menagerie when it finally lands here at Toft and we get it straight out to your doormats and coffee tables. 


Thursday, 8 May 2014

There's no hiding now: Edward's Menagerie is being published inpaperback

Well, the cat's out of the bag. Edward's Menagerie had been officially published by David and Charles and is up for pre-order on Amazon (and with us of course)

That said, if you order it direct from TOFT then I've thrown in a bonus .pdf with a further ten additional patterns including a lindyhopping lemur... seriously. 

I can't really believe that I've crocheted fifty original animals. Fifty. That's a lot of amigurumi and the double crochet stitch. Please don't ask me how I found the time to do this with a baby- I quite frankly have no idea. 

Over the next couple of months you're about to see a pretty special social media campaign. Here at the Toft office we have grown to become very fond of the characters from Edward's Menagerie. With the help of my very enthusiastic colleagues I've prepared something that I hope will entertain and amuse you all. 

Watch this space. 

Right now I feel like this 👆

The creation of Edward's Menagerie has been a real pleasure, and the best is yet to come once I see all your animals!  #edsanimals 

But for now it's time to catch up on some sleep. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Another wonderful Wonderwool Wales with the whole family in tow...

For the last eight years I have spent at least 15 weekends a year on the road hawking Toft wares across the UK and beyond. The last year before Ed I wracked up a record 32 events in a year! 

I have always enjoyed shows, fairs and exhibitions- there's something about building a small shop for a few days and then taking it all down again that appeals.  In 2014 Toft is only attending 12 shows, having handpicked only the best events and streamlined the season. 

Wonderwool Wales is one of my favourites, and was made even better this year with the addition of the little man. The first year I exhibited I had one dog (Harvey) with me. Year two I upgraded to two dogs (Harvey and Pete). Year three and we take two alpacas along with us too, then finally this year I decide that perhaps both dogs, two alpacas and a toddler might be a little hard going! 

We loaded Lady Gaga and Byzantius onto the trailer at 4.30am on the Saturday morning and headed through Malvern and into Wales. Due to some slow moving traffic we just about managed to throw the stand up in under an hour and got ready to trade. 

Thank you to all those customers who came to squeeze our yarn and pap our alpacas. They were very 'strawy' by Sunday afternoon, but still very well behaved. 

See you next year Wonderwool. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

The Cornflower opens its doors at Toft and there's big cake-filled smiles all round!

The Cornflower pop-up cafe opened its doors on May 1st and, I know I'm a little but biased but, it's the best coffee for miles. The cakes and cream teas are delicious (we're all getting a bit worried that our calorie intake is about to get serious this summer!) and the soups and salads are yum. 

When I got dropped off at York University by my parents in 2003 I met a friend that has now become a colleague. Jenny and Georgie run The Cornflower and have worked with Toft for a couple of years now. Those of you who have visited our Open Days for the last couple of years will have met Betty and The Morning Glory Bus. We are so pleased that these very talented bakers and baristas have now become part of our team and will work alongside us to deliver you an even better workshop and customer experience when you come and visit Toft.

Ever since opened the Studio two years ago people have walked in the door looking for cream teas, and we know that our average customer drives 50 miles to see us- thankfully we've now got the space to offer you the refreshment you were looking for without sending you down to Dunchurch village. 

The Cornflower is open Thursday-Saturday 9am-4pm and will also cater our Toft Knit Nights every other Thursday until 8pm. 

It's a really good thing for Toft and the experience is now complete. Meet an alpaca, squeeze some yarn and then stuff yourself with tiffin! 

Come and see for yourself soon. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

A long overdue post about the best knitting workshop EVER!

I'm not much of a knitter really, and truth told since I've mastered crochet I have never really looked back. So, when asked by a friend to bring some yarn away with me on a ski holiday to teach her to knit I was initially a bit dubious (and genuinely concerned that I might have forgotten how to do it!).  

I have skied with the same group of friends for a few years. Every year we go to a different place, sometimes we drive, sometimes we fly, but this year we decided to take the train all the way to the mountains.  We were looking at a full day of travel and it seemed like the perfect excuse to get our knit on and I had my eye on some charcoal chunky that was crying out to become a big beanie. 

Once I floated this idea to the general group I was astounded by the reaction from both the guys and girls. I ended up boarding the train with 1.2kg of yarn! An intensive knitting lesson and six beanie hats coming right up! 

Needless to day it was one of the best knitting workshops I've had the pleasure of teaching.  Lots of wine, bread, cheese and some great vintage (6yrs isn't bad!) TOFT yarns I've been stashing away for a rainy day.  My best friend, husband, her husband and not one but TWO other guys and myself all made a hat and wore it with pride that holiday. Couldn't really ask for much more! 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Gearing up for another Open Day Easter Monday.

Toft Open Days have become somewhat legendary. Every year we open up our doors for knitters and non-knitters alike to come and give the alpacas a hug on Easter Monday, the first Saturday in August and the last Saturday before Christmas. 

Ordinarily our workshop programme isn't geared towards families and children (but this may be about to change-more later), so our farm Open Days are the only real chance to come and get hands-on with our herd on the obstacle course and we offer drop-in craft sessions for children all day. The days are designed for everyone to get involved with what we do here at Toft and learn to speak 'alpaca' and perhaps learn a new skill in knitting or crochet. 

This Easter Open Day 2014 is a particularly special one as for the first time our Studio will be hosting The Cornflower pop-up cafe, which will then return every Thursday- Saturday through May, June, July and August. The ladies behind this new venture are extremely talented bakers, baristas and hostesses, and this we are guaranteed to get a but fatter this summer as we enjoy cream teas and rocky roads all round! 

So next Monday 21st April we will be open 10am-4pm for you to come and get at taste of Toft Alpaca at its best. Hope to see you there and bring the sunshine with you!