There's a reason wool from the alpaca was originally dubbed the "Fiber of the Gods" - it's warm, soft, lightweight, lustrous & comes in a lovely palette of soft natural hues. And with no annoying itchiness associated with those bulky wool sweaters that your mom or grandma forced you to wear in your misspent youth.
As Kerry Lord learned, growing up on the Toft Alpaca Stud farm. "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," she notes about the fateful garment from Ulysses. "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?' Five years on, 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 alpaca's had time to feel the sun warming their freshly exposed unmentionables."
Not only does the Toft Alpaca Shop source all their fibers from local producers, but they "manufacture" locally as well, employing a team of UK knitters living in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire & Oxfordshire to create their handmade collection of socks, hats, bags & other snuggly goodies. They also feature a collection made by experienced knitters in Peru - where alpaca garments and items have been produced for centuries - and ensure that the workers are paid fairly and their work conditions suitable.
...& since you're probably still wondering, National Wool Week runs from October 11-17, 2012.
- Lesley Scott