The Toft Alpacas

Toft is a small company on a working Alpaca farm. They rose to prominence in 2013 when Kerry Lord, their founder, started designing crocheted animals and wrote a book called Edward’s Menagerie. And if you mention the word Toft to many a yarn aficionado, they will instantly start to drool. Toft produces high end super soft wool that’s very hard to resist. It’s only a few miles from the canal, so when Jo suggested we went on a visit, I leapt at the chance. Edward’s Menagerie has grown in numbers and there are now over 200 furry friends who regularly make an appearance at yarn festivals and craft shows. I knew that I was in for treat.Toft is situated in a purpose built barn studio and welcomes visitors with a hot drink. Everything at Toft is beautifully presented, including the coffee, and we indulged in a piece of spicy pumpkin cake as well. Then we were set to shop. Deciding what we could bear to leave behind or more to the point, how much we could afford to bring home. Jo is going to crochet some presents and I bought a gift for Heather. Heather has already made several of the Menagerie so Leanne the Chameleon will be an addition to her family. There’s a walking trail around the farm where we were able to see the alpaca.Although Heather and I both think that this is a llama not an Alpaca.

 

 

A week away

Having left Eric safely moored in Newark, or so I thought, I caught the train back to Suffolk so I could enjoy some precious mum and daughter time. Heather and I had booked our annual outing to indulge our creative souls. We were going to Fibre East; a 2 day extravaganza and shopping paradise for yarnies like us. We have a thriving and exciting independant fibre industry in this country and although it might not be going to make many millionaires, it makes a lot of people very happy. Sadly commercial sheep farmers have a hard time making money out of selling fleece due to the cost of shearing etc, and a lot of the yarn we see in shops is imported acrylic. Which I hasten to add has it’s place in the knitters world, it’s cheap cheerful and accessible. But if you are prepared to pay a bit more, you can get soft easycare woollen blends. But still being commercially dyed the colours are precise neat and tidy. The past 20 years and the advent of online sales has seen small independent companies, often kitchen table affairs grow, preparing, spinning and dying fleece and fibres in an array of colours way beyond the rainbow. And as knitting is now a hobby craft done for primarily for pleasure not just to keep the family warm and clothed, using exquisite quality materials just adds to the pleasure. And yarnies are sociable people, we ply our craft in small social groups, where we “knit and natter,” we join guilds to learn and help teach our skills to others and we recognise that we are healthier, happier and more content when we are immersed in fabulous fibre. Both Heather and I dye spin knit crochet and play with felt. Heather also weaves. And for us acquiring “stash” is an important part of the enjoyment. We’ll often buy a skein purely because the colour shouts buy me buy me. And because handproduced yarns and fibres aren’t cheap we rarely buy enough for a big garment so they sit in a colour candy box waiting for just the right pattern. And this weekend lived up to our expectations. Not only did we meet friends from around the country, including Martina from narrowboat Burnt Oak, and several sellers who work from their narrowboats. Heather also met friends who combine their hobbies, who are glass lamp workers as well, like she is.We were very restrained this weekend knowing that storage on a narrowboat is limited and I am trying to work on a one in one out principle, and that Heather was on course to have enough fibre to add a layer of insulation in the house. We both came home happy.

Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Eric. Our perfect mooring, beneath the castle, within easy walk of all the essentials, turned out to be too tempting for the local hooligans. And as we’d had to moor against the wall the roof of the boat was parralel with the towpath, it was just too much of an invitation to the thoughtless, that they found it amusing to jump onto Firecrest and run along at 1am in the morning. Other boaters had their ropes untied. The police were called and the flashing lights scared the villians off. Eric was equally scared and along with the other boaters moved to what they thought was a safer mooring. Only to have more trouble the next night, and again after another relocation for a third night running. We have repairable damage to the boat, but the damage done to our confidence has been huge. Boaters will always be more vulnerable than those inside bricks and mortar, and what seems to be petty intimidation to the hooligans, potentially has serious consequences to the boaters. We weren’t impressed with the police support. The culprits ran and hid, which seemed part of the game and certainly no deterrent not to do the same again to the next lot of boaters. On a positive note, we spoke to other boaters who had never had any trouble in Newark and likewise we have been moored where the doomsayers had warned us about areas that we felt safe in. We won’t let 3 nights trouble spoil the many many that have been idyllic and perfect.Eric eventually found safe harbour a couple of miles upstream. Close enough for him to be easily cruise back into Newark to collect me when I returned from my jaunt.