Roadtrip Recap: TOFT Alpaca Farm Studio

Not to be outdone by Rachel who has already written an alpaca-filled blog post about our weekend adventure, I decided it was high time that I stopped teasing you all with empty promises of showing off my daytrip adventures and actually post some pictures with a proper recap. WARNING: Picture-heavy post ahead! 

Last weekend Rachel picked me up bright and early (she's so good to me!) and we headed off towards Warwickshire, home of the TOFT Alpaca Farm for a day-long class learning all about hand-dyeing yarn.

This way to the TOFT Studio. Are we ready to dye some yarn or what? 

This way to the TOFT Studio. Are we ready to dye some yarn or what? 

I've always loved the raw, natural beauty of the TOFT brand's aesthetic. The way it all works together, an honouring of the past but not afraid of modern influence, is stunning - it's definitely my jam. It was a delight to see that their studio and shop was was no exception:

The many yarns of TOFT Alpacas 

The many yarns of TOFT Alpacas 

Vintage bobbins with the signature TOFT all-natural colour palette 

Vintage bobbins with the signature TOFT all-natural colour palette 

 A clever use for old printing trays - art created from scraps of yarn wrapped on tiny sewing bobbins

 A clever use for old printing trays - art created from scraps of yarn wrapped on tiny sewing bobbins

 Some of the many TOFT designs on display

 Some of the many TOFT designs on display

  Inspiration in the old and new is everywhere at TOFT

  Inspiration in the old and new is everywhere at TOFT

We were welcomed by TOFT staffer, Harriet, who had coffee ready, along with some comfy chairs after our short, two hour drive:

Our wonderful hostess for the day, Harriet 

Our wonderful hostess for the day, Harriet 

 Who needs a leather club chair when you can have one slipcovered in alpaca?!

 Who needs a leather club chair when you can have one slipcovered in alpaca?!

The workshop was led by Debbie Tomkies of DT Crafts who had us jump right in with procion dyes. We started off dyeing some samples with different strengths of the same dye, for making some shade cards to take home:

  Lots of dyeing fun, the procion dyes, and Debbie at the helm

  Lots of dyeing fun, the procion dyes, and Debbie at the helm

 Little sample skeins all nestled in their dye baths

 Little sample skeins all nestled in their dye baths

After that, we each picked two colours with a partner and mixed them in different ways to see how they would turn out. And then, it was time for a walk with Harriet to see the alpacas and who told us all about the farm and the work they do at TOFT:

 Glad we brought our wellies! 

 Glad we brought our wellies! 

 Clouds rolling in - but look! Alpacas on the horizon!

 Clouds rolling in - but look! Alpacas on the horizon!

 Curious creatures, but cautious. The mommies were quick to surround the baby cria.

 Curious creatures, but cautious. The mommies were quick to surround the baby cria.

Pretty cria posing for her picture 

Pretty cria posing for her picture 

 The beautiful countryside around TOFT Manor

 The beautiful countryside around TOFT Manor

After our walk it was back to the workshop to dye learn more about the different ways to dye and try our hand at a mini skein of lace weight: 

 Clockwise from top left: my inspiration for the colours, assembling the cups in a bucket for easier dyeing, my finished yarn, dyeing the skein

 Clockwise from top left: my inspiration for the colours, assembling the cups in a bucket for easier dyeing, my finished yarn, dyeing the skein

As you can see, my blacks went a little more blue, but it was all part of the learning process and I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. 

Following a quick break for lunch, we were back at it with our full skeins. I chose a gorgeous, sheep-y smelling aran weight skein of Jacob British Wool and decided to try my hand at making a colour changing yarn - similar to some Freia Handpaints I saw on holiday in Canada. 

First I wound the wet, prepared yarn into a cake with a ball winder (Rachel was my willing swift - thank you Rach!), and then pulled it apart from the centre out into three sections. After that I dyed each section following the methods we'd already learned in the workshop: 

 Counter-clockwise starting at the top: the colour experiment from the morning was my inspiration, each portion of the skein being dyed it's own colour, the finished skein wound back into a yarn cake

 Counter-clockwise starting at the top: the colour experiment from the morning was my inspiration, each portion of the skein being dyed it's own colour, the finished skein wound back into a yarn cake

All too soon the day was at an end and it was time for our drive back to the city, our brains bursting with the creative energy leftover from a session of intense inspiration. 

This is the second dye workshop I've had the privilege of attending and have to say that a full day was the way to go over the two hours that I'd done previously. I'm still not about to start dyeing my own yarn though, but I do appreciate learning and knowing more about the process. Understanding the mechanics behind our materials as fibre artists can be just as important as the materials and creating with them is. I've always loved hand-dyed yarns and definitely have even more of an appreciation now for the amount of work that goes into each individual skein.

As for my lovely little bulls-eye skein? I think it is destined to be a toasty toque for wearing at the ice rink this winter while Mr. H is at hockey practice. I'm thinking about Buzzba (can you just SEE that pointy top in the lime green??) but would love to hear your suggestions too!