Interview by Anna Langer
Alpaca is a very soft, lightweight and warm fibre which is extremely versatile and so works well in both delicate and chunky knits. For me the natural colour range that alpacas grow on their backs is something to shout about as there are ten clear shades without having to use dye.
You could say I am somewhat of a born-again-crafter. As a child I was borderline obsessed with making and drawing things, not so much textiles but certainly all the classic childhood crafts. I only picked up my first set of knitting needles once I had established that if I was going to sell alpaca knitwear I had better get a grasp of the basics. I went to a proper knitting teacher for a couple of days to master my knit from my purl. It was only last year that I learned to crochet- using YouTube of course!
I had no idea that I wanted to do what I'm doing. I returned from university to my parent's rapidly expanding alpaca farm and as a favour was asked to research finding a buyer for their fleece. That was seven years ago and now I purchase fleece from breeders right the way across the UK.
Knitting has made a comeback over the last few years and crochet is certainly on an upward curve back into general consciousness. I made a New Year's resolution to learn to knit lace, but unfortunately it's not really happening... I have however gone to town with crochet and have just taken on a very secret but high profile giant crochet project.
For me it's all about getting results quickly. I have plenty of ideas but not quite enough time to realise them all. I'm a big fan of chunky knits that you can wear the day after you cast on.
The very first Toft product that I knitted myself was our beginner necklace. It's a great pattern for total beginners as you knit small beads separately and then see them up at the end. They are so small that it's not intimidating to make as you do it in bite sized chunks (and if you make a mistake on one there's no harm in 'losing' one somewhere!).
I run a team of knitters that you can 'rent' when you want to purchase a Toft product ready made rather than as a knitting kit. Although I am the idea factory for all the new designs I don't knit the items myself that go on sale, I am more of a starter than a finisher so it's probably better that way!
For style advise on wearing wool, I'm a big fan of wool and leather combi to avoid that 'hairy' look that you get with some fabrics that seem to attract all manner of fibres. Because I work with wool everyday, have two dogs and am not terribly enthusiastic about cleaning out the car this is a look that can be achieved very easily with any black 'staticky' fabrics!
My son Ed's currently 6 months and already fascinated by what his mum is doing with her hands all the time. I'm pretty sure he'll want to have a go from a pretty early age. And I'll obviously teach him!