Here we are! Day 3 of #MeetTheMakerWeek, and it’s all about the making process that happens before any of our alpaca knitwear arrives in your welcoming hands. It may look effortless, but there’s actually quite a few steps that go into creating just a simple hat.
The first (and most important!) step is of course to look after our alpacas like babies. These boys are thoroughly spoilt because they need all of the right vitamins, minerals, love and attention to keep their insides healthy and their fleece lush and soft. Then, once a year, that fleece is removed by wonderful professional shearers who come to our farm and make the experience completely stress-free for the alpacas. By summer, it’s getting much too hot for them to be wearing all of that fibre, so they’re ecstatic afterwards!
The next part of the process is also done by us on the farm: sorting and grading, which means we know firsthand that only the best fibre is going into our products. Visually, we make sure there’s a shine and lustre to the fibre, and that there’s no tougher guard hair, or hay and other field debris mixed up in it. We also only use fibre that’s over 4-inches in length, and between 15 and 24 microns in diameter, which creates a high quality yarn.
The fleece is then bagged up and sent to our specialised alpaca fibre spinners based in Dorset. They do the tough but imperative job of preparing our yarn so it can be knitted; this is the part of the process that ensures our knitwear stays soft against your skin. First it’s machine-combed to remove smaller bits of fibre or leftover blades of grass and hay, and also to align all of the longer fibres parallel to one another. Following that, it’s drawn through a machine multiple times to ensure that all of the fibre is highly organised and evenly presented. It’s then spun to create the perfect soft yarn, ready for our knitters.
Our beautifully spun yarn now arrives in Nottingham, where it’s loaded into their top-of-the-range machines which can automatically knit to our design. Prior to the yarn ever reaching them, we spend a lot of time at their factory working in collaboration to achieve a product design that looks and feels exactly the way we want – so the machine can’t get it wrong! In the case of a hat, the knitted fronts and backs are then linked together, and the finished knitwear is sent to us to be hand-sewn with a Ted and Bessie label. As you can see, we never use any chemicals or dyes throughout any section of the process, so the final product is always completely natural and biodegradable.
Finally, we wait for our stunning alpacas to grow their fleece back over the winter!