The Toft Alpaca Shop yarn brand was born in September 2006, a product of the successful and established Toft Alpaca Stud farm upon which Kerry Lord had grown up.
Kerry Lord says, "Sitting in a James Joyce seminar in the last term of my degree, I desperately clung onto a scrap of a sentence I had at least some chance of selling my intellect on: Councillor Nannetti's alpaca jacket. On completion of my finals I made a somewhat sheepish return back to Toft (colander and pot plant in hand) to be thrown back into the midst of shearing week and my enforced enlistment as 'broom girl'. One hundred and fifty fleeces later and the barn, garage, and what was formerly my bedroom were bursting with fluffy crimpy softness. Sleepy eyed and unthinkingly inquisitive I boldly asked; 'so what exactly are we doing with all this fibre?' Amidst the dust and spit and toenail clippings, I now take great joy in seeing the fleeces roll off the backs of the animals at shearing time. I now have a concrete idea of what every fleece will become within that season’s collection even before the alpacas had time to feel the sun warming their freshly exposed unmentionables. I never thought that I would be deferring dreams of Dublin libraries, in exchange for casting on, K2tog and sewing; trying to make (and most importantly sell) that perfect alpaca jacket."
Ten years on and three books later, The Toft Alpaca Shop has evolved into TOFTuk, offering luxury 100% wool yarn in a variety of colours and weights alongside a small amount of alpaca, still spun from the animals on the farm itself. TOFT is dedicated to getting more people knitting and offers a great range of beginner easy knitting and crochet patterns for total craft newbies, including kits for the best-selling Edward's Menagerie and Edward's Imaginarium range.
From the offset TOFT has been dedicated to British eco-conscious processing. All of our handknitted yarns for retail are spun in the UK. Eco-yarns and locally sourced knitting projects are proving extremely popular, with large brands now releasing their own 'green knitting' collections. At TOFT we do not carry one environmentally conscious yarn line, rather ALL of our yarn and products are ecologically and ethically sound.
Our hand knitted collection is powered by our team of wonderful knitters, working from home across Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. These ladies are so dedicated to TOFT and our customers they have been known to work through the night to ensure an order is out for a special Birthday or Christmas gift! At TOFT we have always adopted a policy of not putting pressure on any of our craftspeople in order to ensure the highest standard of work – some ladies knit dozens of handbags a week and others a few hats every month.
Alongside our British alpaca and luxury 100% wool range we also stock a British designed selection of imported alpaca fur products. When working with Peru we have been careful to ensure that we are working with fair trade importers. We work with companies who employ a team of in-house makers and also work with independent often family businesses or small co-operatives, carefully managing to ensure fair rates of pay and suitable working conditions. Working conditions, wages and workload expectations are continually monitored with all of our knitters to ensure we are fairly trading with Peru, and this maintains our high quality production. We are determined not to support alpacas being killed for their skins, and thus all of teddy bears, fur scarves and pom poms are made from the pelts of animals which have died from natural causes. As a consequence the availability and variability in the stock across our range can be very different subject to obtainability.
All craft workshops are hosted in the TOFT Studio building, a bright and spacious barn conversion at Toft Manor, Dunchurch, Warwickshire CV22 6NR. See WORKSHOPS to view programme and book.
The TOFT Shop, which sells our full range of yarns is also located here and is open 10am-4pm at the weekends. The shop is also open by appointment only Monday-Friday, please CONTACT US to book. You can view opening times HERE.
We are now pleased to offer both walks and talks and specially tailored learn to knit or learn to crochet afternoons for small groups. Please CONTACT US for details.
TOFT is dedicated to getting as many people knitting as possible through an extensive knitting workshop programme and a full range of online knitting and crochet help.
With our designs we aim to appeal to the newbie crafter learning their knit, purl and crochet for the first time whilst also developing more advanced patterns for experienced and dedicated crafters.
At TOFT we have a wealth of beginner knitting and crochet kits to help you as you learn and each product states the 'SKILL LEVEL' so grab your needles and hooks, select a beginner pattern and learn how to cast on and beyond!
TOFT craft workshops are conducted in this relaxed and picturesque rural Midlands location surrounded by fields of alpacas. Book an appointment and escape for the day, the TOFT Studio is a short hop from the M40 and M1.
A BIT MORE ABOUT ALPACA (WHERE OUR STORY BEGAN)
Known for over six thousand years as the 'Fibre of the Gods' alpaca wool is a warm, soft, light-weight and lustrous fibre celebrated for its hypoallergenic qualities and myriad of natural colours. Today alpaca fibre is produced throughout the world, with large national herds in the UK, Australia and the United States. Alpaca's versatility, wide natural colour range and inherent softness make it a very exclusive and much sought after natural material which deservedly holds a unique place on the catwalks of the world stage. Here in the UK there are now upwards of 30,000 fleece growing alpacas spread out over farms and smallholdings from the tip of Scotland right down to Cornwall. Each year these animals are all sheared, leaving many individuals with a difficult decision about what to do with the alpaca fleece. At TOFT we manufacture the fibre into alpaca wool yarns and knitwear alongside our 100% luxury wool range.
Alpaca can be characterised as:
Luxurious – Soft and Silky to the touch, with no 'itch factor'
Lightweight – Hollow core to the fibre means alpaca is light to wear
Warm – Hollow core makes alpaca a fantastic insulator
Durable – less inclined to 'pill' due to long staple length
Washable – alpaca can be handwashed and then dried flat
Colourful – natural alpaca comes a wide range natural colours from cream through to black, but if brighter colours are required it also absorbs dye incredibly well to give radiant colours.
Toft Alpacas is the prize-winning alpaca herd and stud established in 1997 which is based in the hamlet of Toft near the village of Dunchurch, in North East Warwickshire. The Toft Alpaca herd now comprises of around two hundred alpacas, and is an active pedigree alpaca stud.
Toft Alpacas offers quality fleece growers as pet alpacas for those with smallholdings looking to to enhance their paddocks with these charming grass-eaters.
Toft Alpacas has been very active in the British alpaca industry over the last ten years, importing and exporting alpacas in its commitment to breeding improved quality fleeces. Although the textile brand 'Toft' takes its name from the original herd, we now purchase fleeces from breeders across the UK. If anyone would like to get in touch with regards to animal purchase or training then contact Shirley Bettinson on 01788 810626.
See TOFT ALPACA STUD