On the 30th of August Pom Pom caught the train from Euston station to Rugby. After a short bus ride we arrived at the Toft Manor’s Knitting to the Music festival. Pom Pom enjoyed delicious food, live music and most importantly the company of Toft’s prestigious alpacas. The Toft Alpacas stud farm was established in 1997 as an alpaca breeding farm. Luckily for all knitters, crocheters and fans of warm fuzzy accessories, Kerry joined the team in 2006. She transformed Toft into a luxury yarn brand.
These adorable creatures are just three of the one-hundred and fifty plus animals on the Toft farm. Pom Pom’s festival highlight was undeniably being able to take our very own alpacas on a walk around the farm. We were each given an alpaca; mine had a little smattering of green on his head, but this pop of colour was nothing compared to Lydia’s bright orange alpaca! Our guide, Rob, explained that a few of the alpacas had recently been painted for a Kaffe Fassett event a few weeks earlier.
As we walked past the field of male stud alpacas they all came rushing over to greet our females. A few of the male alpacas began spitting at each other. Rob explained that they were showing off, vying for the attention of the females. These studs are chosen by Rob and the team for their superior coats – and don’t they look wonderful! This selective breeding ensures that the next generation of Toft alpacas are even softer than the last. Please follow the link for more information on the Toft stud’s pedigrees.
Here is Lydia with female alpacas in the distance. They were all nursing, which made them a more shy. Unlike the males, they did not immediately rush over to say hello. Females are pregnant for about a year before giving birth. Baby alpacas, known as cria, will stay with their mothers for 6 months.
All of the male Toft alpacas which do not qualify as studs are sold to smallholders. Due to their placid nature, alpacas make wonderful pets. Rob mentioned that handling alpacas can boost creativity. They have also been used in therapy for a range of mental and emotional disorders. Who knew that caring for a cuddly alpaca could help one’s brain development? As the above photo illustrates, alpacas are walking lawn mowers. Many smallholders also use alpacas as guard animals for flocks of sheep or chickens. We love the idea of them looking after someone’s flock! There is not enough space for an alpaca at Pom Pom HQ, but if you live in the countryside and would like more information about alpaca husbandry please get in touch with Toft here.
Unfortunately, once the hour was up we had to return our alpacas to their handlers. Thankfully we were able to console ourselves by stroking all the glorious fibre in Toft’s shop. Toft manor, which houses the shop and workshop space, is a purpose-built haven of crisp modern design. The exposed wooden beams and serene white walls of this minimal space perfectly echo the aesthetic of Toft’s range of yarn. Kerry is the driving force behind Toft’s aesthetic; she decided to streamline their range by focusing on a selection of natural shades which showcase the alpacas’ subtle range of greys and tans. This range of colours comes in a variety of thicknesses from chunky through to lace weight.
These vintage printer trays hold a sample of every type of yarn that Toft have ever spun. Arranged by weight, the display is not only beautiful, but also a wonderful reference. It allows employees to help customers who ring to inquire about yarn they bought years ago. What a brilliant idea!
Whilst standing in Toft’s shop, Lydia and I felt like excitable children in a sweet shop; we had to resist the urge to try on each and every one of the samples. Toft’s designers focus on patterns which are ideal for beginners, as Kerry would like to encourage as many people as possible to learn either knitting or crochet. As designers ourselves, we know how challenging it can be to create patterns which are simple enough for beginners, yet also fun enough to – as the Toft website puts it – “get your needles twitching”. These patterns are just that! For those who need a little extra help, Toft offers a range of video tutorials here for each technique used in their patterns.
As well as their clothing and accessories, Toft offer an adorable range of crocheted amigurumi animals. There are anteaters, cats and even alpacas. Our favorite was the wall-mounted rhino head. Unfortunately, the rhino pattern is not currently available to purchase, but Toft do stock an elephant head kit. Now that is a project we would love to see on ravelry!
Always excited by pom poms, we were smitten with these! Toft stocks ethical fur, which comes from alpacas who have died of natural causes. The alpaca fur is magnificently luxurious and it is reassuring to know that no animals have been harmed to make them. To browse Toft’s entire range of ethical fur, please follow the link.
Sustainability and ethics are a priority at Toft. Their yarn is not only undyed, it also comes with a low carbon footprint. As the yarn company has expanded, Toft’s personal herd is no longer sufficient to meet demand, so Toft purchase additional fibre from owners of the 30,000 fleece growing alpacas which now reside in the UK. Many alpaca owners do not have the resources to use their animals’ fleece. By selling it to Toft, they prevent it going to waste.
We just love this yarn! Above is my purchase, a ball of Stone in Toft’s DK weight yarn being transformed into a Hierro. Kerry explained that the yarn is spun in a special way which fills it with miniature air pockets. This method ensures that cables retain their volume – even years after knitting. For this reason Pom Pom has selected Toft’s aran weight yarn for a hat in the next issue (PP7). If you love winter cables why not purchase one (or two?) balls, so you can get started the moment your copy arrives?
The Knitting to the Music festival continued with food and live music. Pom Pom had a wonderful time meeting lots of lovely people and getting inspired by all things alpaca. Whilst talking to Claire, one of the Toft team, I couldn’t help noticing her amazing nails. I just had to take a picture for the blog!
Toft offer a range of open days and workshops for knitters, crocheters, felters and alpaca enthusiasts. The farm also serves as a B&B, so why not stay the night? If you visit in the spring and summer you may even catch a birth! What could be better?
Photography By Lydia Gluck and Sonja Bargielowska. Words by Sonja, pictured brimming with alpaca love bellow: