#Toftis10 – alpacas galore!

The family and I had a fantastic day out on Saturday. We went to Toft Alpaca stud in Dunchurch, Warwickshire for their birthday open day. It was a fair drive from Cardiff, about 130 miles each way. But we were blessed with good weather, clear roads and good tempered children which made the whole experience more enjoyable! 

It was such a lovely, friendly atmosphere. There were lots of activities to take part in or, if you preferred, you could just relax on one of the outdoor sofas and people/alpaca watch! I feel as if we had a chilled out day, although we did manage to do quite a lot. As soon as we got there we got tickets to walk an alpaca. Our alpaca was called Agamemnon and he was fabulous! 


Erin had the first ‘go’ at walking him (once I had established that he wasn’t about to take off, trailing her behind him!). She acted as if she had been walking alpacas all her life, very calm and collected and totally took it in her stride!

Here’s the obligatory alpaca selfie of Agamemnon and I – he was just adorable! I was so glad I got him when I saw another alpaca called Lord Sutch who dug his feet in and refused to move, and another called Felix who was towing an unfortunate little boy around with fine disregard of where the boy chose to walk!

Here are three crias or baby alpacas. I think they were about two months old. And so nosy! On the farm tour we were taken into the field with them and their mothers, and they walked right up to us to have a good look!

While we were walking Agamemnon  (really, such an awesome name!) my husband took lots of pictures. He was captivated by the cloud formations and got this beautiful picture.

The kids all enjoyed their day out, although both of my boys seemed to need little naps at intervals. But then I’d fuel them with a bit more cake  and they’d be good to go for a bit longer!

And to finish off, a few more alpacas! Because you can never have too many!!

Cue very excited squealing and bouncing around!

I had a phone call yesterday morning which left me almost speechless (those who know me also know that it takes an awful lot to render me actually devoid of speech), shaking, slightly panicky but also hugely excited.

I’ve been trying to become more organised recently with my business (thankfully, as you will shortly understand). Although I’m still only working part time, given that children need to be taken to school, collected, fed, watered etc, I’ve been attempting to have some sort of structure to my working hours and plan what happens when, rather than waking up and seeing what I feel like doing that day. So, being organised, I have recently put in a large (for me) yarn order, made sure that this financial year’s paperwork was filed properly, made a plan for the yarn festival I will be vending at in the summer and made gentle plans towards preparing for that, bit by bit.

Then, yesterday morning I had a phone call. Chrissie from Wonderwool phoned to tell me that they had had a cancellation and to ask if I was still interested in having a stall! My mind went blank, there was a sort of mad humming in my ears and I asked if I could look at my stock levels and let her know later in the day.

OF COURSE I wanted a stall! It has only been my woolly ambition for the last several years (effectively since that very first yarn dyeing class I took) to exhibit at Wonderwool Wales! But what if I made a really poor showing? I certainly don’t have the stock right now to make a decent stall even at a tabletop event (maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you see how I was thinking, right?), could I make enough items to vend at Wonderwool in three and a half weeks?

(Three and a half weeks! THREE AND A HALF WEEKS!! 24 DAYS!!!)

So I phoned my better half Rob. Then I phoned my yarny voices of reason Zoe and Ellie. Who calmed me down, bolstered me up and told me that I could totally do this, why had I not accepted Chrissie’s offer, email her immediately! So I did. Then I pinned and sewed and interfaced fabric for project bags like a mad woman all day, made lists, planned plans, bribed my two older children (aged almost 15 and 12) to take over some of the housework and cooking for the school holidays, mildly hyperventilated from time to time and tried to convince myself that Ellie and Zoe were right. I won’t cock it up, I have 24 days to prepare (23 now, but who’s counting?!), I have many, many skeins of undyed yarn and a huge box of undyed fibre to make a start on dyeing. More undyed yarn is only 24 hours away if I need it. I’ve already been preparing methods of display, so I don’t need to worry too much about that. I have hand knits I can show. I have lots of fabric and tonnes of charms to make into plenteous project bags and stitch markers.

And breathe.

I think I might be able to pull this off. Due to my propensity to both hoard things and to buy well in advance, I think I’ll have the stall fittings and a reasonable amount of stock to (hopefully!) sell. My to-do list is growing by the minute, but I definitely feel calmer today. My Voices of Reason and Calm TM (aka Ellie and Zoe) will be coming to my house sometime soon to help me organise my brain and make more lists. I so want to make a good impression, I don’t want to be a disappointment. I just need to stick to what I know, work hard, and resist the urge to panic. It would waste time! Oh, and programme the boys to keep the cups of tea flowing in my direction!

Wish me luck. Please! And if you are coming to Wonderwool, drop by my stall (eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!) and say hello!

Bristol Wool Fair

Today we went to Bristol and visited the wool fair. Husband and kids came with me as well which was lovely. I wanted them to see what a yarn festival looks like. Having been to a few now (and as I’m hoping to start exhibiting soon myself), I wanted them to experience one and be able to offer informed advice to me when I’m planning my own stall. I had a good look at the website before we went and I saw that they were offering things that would entertain my whole family. There would be more than just wool there! In the event my kids enjoyed themselves. They saw a Viking village and a battle reenactment as well as falconry and a sheep dog display which was lovely. In the sheepdog display there were three or four different dogs who each herded the ducks on the course and through a tunnel before returning them to their pen. Erin got very excited during the Viking battle to the point of choosing which of the warriors she thought should die next!

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There were also plenty of food vendors. We had packed a picnic but I think my husband regretted this decision when he saw a pie seller, not to mention the pulled pork and pulled BBQ beef on offer. He did sample a small glass of local cider though! Before we left we all treated ourselves to an ice cream from Shepherd’s Dairy. I think this was the first time I had tried sheep’s milk ice cream and it was really tasty.

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Can you see the ice cream on the end of her nose?

Inside the barns, the stalls were all a wool lover could ask for. I was determined to be restrained today as I bought so much at Wonderwool Wales that I’m still working through the fibre. However, when you visit a nice place it is totally acceptable to bring back souvenirs! And when you’re at a wool festival what better souvenir to buy than fibre to spin and yarn to knit. My resolve held; probably helped by the fact that I had my husband with me to monitor my purchases! In the end I treated myself to some fibre from Sara’s Texture Crafts and a set of mini skeins from Rosie’s Moments (which will be added into my sock yarn blanket at some point). I seem to have been in a pink mood today, what do you think?

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Ben had a chance to have a go at something new today as well. At the Ashford stall he was invited to try out a blending board and made me a couple of loose rolags. He did pretty well – maybe I should get him one for Christmas and invite him to join the company!

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I plan on finding a complementary colour and then spinning this up onto one bobbin and plying it with a solid. It should be a riot of colour in a single skein!

Finally the animals. We saw two beautiful alpacas. One of them was called Caesar, but I don’t remember what the other one was called. Erin really wanted to climb in the pen with them and cuddle them!

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As well as these, we met an angora rabbit named Arthur.

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We will also fortunate enough to see 2 Valais Blacknose sheep. They looked so cute and cuddly just like teddy bears!

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All in all a good time was had by everyone, and I look forward to seeing what the organizers have planned for the third Bristol wool fair next year!

Knitters in the wild

We had a lovely impromptu excursion this afternoon. Having visited a relative near Caerphilly, I suggested that we could have lunch out as a treat, and then go somewhere new (to us) for a walk. So after a yummy and very filling lunch, we headed off to Fforest Fawr, which is a large section of woodland located just north of Cardiff.

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Luckily, I’d left wellies in the car, so Erin could enjoy splodging through the mud. However, she has apparently become averse to dirt since the last walk like this we did, because she turned her nose up at the (very) muddy puddles we found for her to splash in (à la Peppa Pig) and requested some with clean water in!

The route we chose took us past lots of interesting wood sculptures, as well as a couple of swings that the boys really enjoyed. Ben, of course, climbed everything that it was possible to climb, while Erin was looking for “tracks” and “dens”.

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I was saddened the other day to hear of another knitter being mocked for knitting in public. Dan from the Bakery Bears podcast in a recent episode spoke of how he had put up a picture on Facebook of himself knitting in York, and received a comment something along the lines of “if I’d seen you doing that I’d have slapped it out of your hands”! What an awful thing to say!

It annoys me so much when people put down any crafting, be it knitting, crochet, cross stitch or anything. What is wrong with being a creative person? What is wrong with choosing to spend your leisure moments in making something unique and beautiful? Why is it that no one would pass comment if I sat on a park bench, or in a café, playing a game on my phone, and yet bringing my knitting out in public is something to remark upon (and not always with kindness)?

So in defiance of the side-lookers and nay-sayers I brought my knitting out with me today (not that that was anything out of the ordinary, but there we are!) and didn’t get bored whilst waiting for my dinner to arrive, and found a few minutes to work on Erin’s school cardigan while the kids enjoyed riding the dragon.

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I think that knitting in public and in company isn’t antisocial, so long as you don’t pick an intricate pattern that requires undivided attention! And for me, I find it calms my mind if I’m getting to feel anxious, just the passing of yarn through my fingers and the rhythmical movements of the needles are very soothing to me. Quite apart from which, I’m using my time productively, and it’s amazing how knitting can grow when you harness just those short amounts of time!

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Here’s Erin’s school cardigan so far; as you can see I’m all but finished. Just the button band to go, ends to weave in and buttons to sew on. Hopefully this will get finished tomorrow.

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Tintern Abbey

Last week my husband had time off work. On the whole,  we had a relaxing week and didn’t go out very much. But we did do one day trip, and went to Tintern Abbey. It’s not too far from us in Cardiff, but I’ve only ever seen the outside before. It’s a beautiful place, and its  beauty was only enhanced by the gorgeous sky and sunshine.

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The scale of the building was so impressive to us, especially given the time in which it was built. Just imagining the physical effort and skill that the construction must have taken was awe inspiring.

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The children all enjoyed exploring, and we also all enjoyed a picnic lunch in the grounds of the abbey, given that it was such a beautiful day!

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After exploring all the ruins, we took a wander up through the village to the Abbey Mill craft centre. We had a look in the little shops and had a couple of pots of tea and some giant toasted teacakes which were the size of dinner plates!

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On the walk back to the Abbey (where we had left the car), Erin was drooping more and more, but still clinging on firmly to Bonbon Bunny, which I had finished the night before and given to her that morning. Finally she had a cuddle with her daddy and a lift back to the car park.

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But it had all been a bit much, and so a nap in the car on the way home was needed – brothers do make the cosiest pillows!

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Wonderwool 2015!

Last Saturday was the day of our annual trip to Wonderwool Wales up in Builth Wells. I’ve been looking forward to it for months (well, since last year really!) and it didn’t disappoint! I usually completely forget to take pictures, so I did a little bit better, although I was to excited to remember all the time!

There were a few stalls that had brought livestock with them. I didn’t get a photo of the angora bunnies, but here are some alpacas…

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…and a Pickwick Cotswold ewe and her lamb.

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A pair of suri alpacas.

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My first stall stop was with Sara’s Texture Crafts as I’d seen some fibre on her instagram feed that was calling my name! I was able to introduce myself, what a lovely person she is!

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And here are the three fibre purchases plus the book I got from her.

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My next stop was at the John Arbon stall, and as ever, with those barrels of gorgeous fibre, it was very busy. However, I managed to get a good haul of lovelies, including some undyed fibre to try out for the shop.

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My John Arbon purchases…

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I visited lots of other stalls – Spin City is a shop that I’ve admired on Etsy.com before, and I was able to get some fibre that had been on my wish list!

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P&M Woolcraft had their usual mountain of fluffy temptations, and Wingham Wool Work sucked me in with their gorgeous range of colourways (although I did manage to resist the carders and other equipment that they were selling!).

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And finally, Hilltop Cloud had so much to choose from, it was really hard to narrow it down! I don’t think I did much, actually, but who could hold back with such gorgeous items available?!

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The exhibition pieces were great, but I only got pictures of two; the cardigan for Cardigan and the knitted gingerbread house in aid of the Welsh Air Ambulance.

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It was a brilliant day, and I’m looking forward to next year already! One of these years I’ll have a stall there myself, that’s my ambition!