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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!