“DESIGNER JO STORIE HAS TAKEN OUR YARN IN A COMPLETELY NEW AND BEAUTIFUL DIRECTION”
“I made the decision early on not to dye the yarn,” says Kerry. “Alpaca fleeces have such a beautiful range of natural colours, from creamy whites to rich browns, that I wanted to create a natural product.”
Eight years on and Kerry’s entrepreneurial spirit has seen that first pile of fleeces grow into a cutting edge yarn company, producing a unique collection of wonderfully soft alpaca yarns and contemporary patterns to complement them, as well as a range made-to-order garments and crocheted toys.
“It’s been hard work but I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved,” says Kerry. “I was doing three people’s jobs until my son was born and I still work very long hours but I’m trying to find that balance between work and family life.”
SENSE OF HUMOUR ESSENTIAL Kerry’s dedication is evident. With shearing completed mid-morning, she’s straight onto the next task.
“Each fleece needs to be sorted by hand to check its quality and colour,” Kerry explains, as she places a fleece on a wooden table in the shearing shed and rubs the fibres between her fingers. “A good fleece should be soft and crimpy all over and the fibres must be at least 2 inches in length.” Any bits of fleece not up to standard are sold as stuffing for pillows and duvets so nothing is wasted.
Kerry checks the colours meticulously. It’s vital the yarns are sorted carefully as this is how she is able to create the 10 natural shades in the Toft range.
“It’s not an exact science but you learn with experience,” says Kerry. “It’s the one thing my parents and I disagree on,” she laughs. “Dad often does an initial sort but I like to do it myself. Getting the brown shades right is the trickiest.”
After two hours of grading, Kerry is covered in fluff and there are three more bags ready to go to the mill. In three month’s time these fleeces will be part of this year’s crop of Fudge and Chestnut DK.
“Everyone looks at me a bit funny when I go to pick up Edward from nursery like this,” Kerry jokes, as she brushes off as many of the fibres as she can.
NURTURING NEW TALENT Lunch in the café with her mum and dad is a chance to catch up on business rather than take a breather! Then, while this afternoon’s crochet workshop is set up in the studio (the team teach more than 80 people a week to knit and crochet), Kerry heads to her on-site office to talk to her suppliers and retailers. “I check on production daily,“says Kerry. lot of number crunching actually!”