Your Garment Stories
HT1CTW – The Story of your Alpaca Hat
This is the story of your alpaca hat from Where Does It Come From? and. For our first foray in to British made woollen hats we have partnered with Ted and Bessie who share our passion for traceable, ethical and sustainable goods. If they prove popular then we will use their yarn to create our own designs next year – exciting!
H – Alpaca Hats
Alpacas … wonderful alpacas
Ted and Bessie own the herd where it all begins – a flock of sixteen alpacas happily living on a farm near Milton Keynes – looked after by the amazing Catherine or “the mad alpaca lady” as she is affectionately known locally. Catherine has always had a passion for Alpacas and when she decided to put her fashion degree to use it had to be garments made of alpaca fleece. Ted and Bessie was born and the first four alpacas purchased – Luke, pictured here with Jo, founder of Where Does It Come From?, being one of the four.
We visited Catherine and the alpacas at their home – click on the video below to find out about the alpaca herd and how they are looked after.
All the alpacas are born in Britain and are purchased from experienced alpaca breeders. All the alpacas owned by Catherine weren’t quite of ‘show’ standard (though we think they are gorgeous). They live on a farm in Milton Keynes where they have access to good food, space to roam, shelter from the elements and lots of love. As Catherine explained “It is all about the alpacas – all the money we make is used for their care”
Once a year, typically in June, the shearers visit the farm and shear the alpacas. This is done with great care to minimise any stress to the alpacas – something of great importance to Catherine. The fleece is then checked and any vegetation removed and only the blanket or saddle fleece, the area around the alpaca’s back, is used in the garments. This is the best part of the fleece and ensures that the end garment is of the best quality. The fleeces are then packed up and sent to the spinners for the next stage in the process of making the hats.
Suri and Huacaya
Ted and Bessie have two kinds of alpaca in their herd – Suri, which produce a longer and silkier yarn and Huacaya which have which produce a lighter and bouncier fleece. Luke, pictured earlier with Jo, is a great example of a Huacaya and here is a closeup of a Suri – you can see the difference in the fleece.
T1 – Spinning into Yarn
The wool is sent off to thein Cornwall, where it is spun into yarn for your alpaca hat.
They create three colours of yarn – black and white from the natural colours of the alpacas, and grey using a blend. No dyes are used (pretty awesome!). It is also here that the Huacaya and Suri wools are blended to give the perfect texture.
C – Knitting your Alpaca Hat
Once spun, the yarn is sent off to the Highland 2000 knitting factory in Nottingham to be turned into hats.
The factory kindly allowed Where Does It Come From? to visit them in November 2017 and find out exactly how the magic happens.
Highland 2000 is a family run firm with one factory and a small number of employees, including various family members. They source their yarn from a variety of providers – sheep and alpaca – and the bulk of the work is done on automated knitting machines.
The knitted pieces are steam pressed, then “made up” on a linking machine. The items then go to “hand finishing” where the hat is hand sewn. After that the labels are sewn in and each item is examined for quality control purposes prior to packing. After packing is metal detection, to make sure no needles (or broken bits thereof) are left in. Finally they are boxed up and sent out.
Highland 2000 have already been certified as a Traceable British Wool provider by the British Wool Marketing Board, following a rigorous process which examined their business processes, supply chain and operations.
We are very grateful to Highland 2000 for inviting us to visit their factory and be part of this story.
T – Ted and Bessie
Once completed the hats are then sent back to Ted and Bessie who dispatch them as part of their British knitwear range. We were so impressed with Ted and Bessie, their lovely alpacas and their products that we wanted to collaborate with them to offer our traceable hats. They have lots of other lovely woollen goodies on their website so do take a look!
W – Where Does It Come From?
Hi I’m Jo, the founder of Where Does It Come From? – the clothing business that brings you ethical and traceable clothes.
Currently based in Ipswich, Suffolk (UK) we work closely with socially focussed production partners. Together we create and develop the designs and produce beautiful clothes that harness the skills of the local artisans. We work as ethically and sustainably as possible to create beautiful basics that you will want to wear again and again. We hope that finding out about how your clothes were made and the people who made them will make you love them just a little bit more…..
From idea to business launch took two years, with launch happening in June 2014. You can read more in our News & Blog section, including newspaper and radio coverage. It’s been wonderful to be acknowledged for our work – 2016 named us as runner up in the ‘Greenest Product’ category at the Suffolk Green Awards as well as being selected as a Green 100 business – the top 100 ethical businesses in East Anglia. More recently we were delighted and honoured when Joanna Lumley wore one of our scarves on her TV documentary ‘Joanna Lumley’s India’.
Thank you so much for buying from us – the more we sell the more difference we can make. We have lots of plans for new designs, new partners and new projects so stick with us and together we can change the world!
If you like your new alpaca hat then please leave a review on the Alpaca Hat product page – it really does help other people with their shopping choices.