Tell us about your story behind Ted & Bessie and your adorable Alpacas?
When my grandparents passed away, they left me with enough money to maybe put a deposit down on a small house, buy a new car or even pay for a month long holiday in the Mediterranean!
I decided to go against the norm and purchase four alpacas, starting what is now known as Ted & Bessie. I wanted to start a company which made sustainable and ethical knitwear; return to the days my nana Bessie would make knitted hats and scarves, and Ted would wear them until they no longer represented items of clothing.
Simple, beautiful designs made from eco-friendly fibre was my goal, and this is what we’ve created; knitwear entirely produced and manufactured here on British soil. We ensure ethical processes in all stages of production and only use British manufacturers.
Why did you choose Alpacas and are they easy to look after?
Alpacas are great to keep as they do not damage land; they have soft feet and no hooves. They are excellent grazers, and as part of the camelid family, they never waste drinking water. You can keep five to an acre which means even the smallest of smallholdings can keep these curious and wonderful creatures. I couldn’t resist their adorable fluffy faces and have known for years I will eventually own a couple of them. Little did I know the herd would grow so fast. They are somewhat addictive!
Do you create the designs and choose the style of knitting?
A bit of both, the knitters have options for patterns and we adapt and deconstruct these patterns to work with the yarn that we have spun. Each item is tested before it goes into production and then sold online.
Talk us through the process of the wool from the start to the finished beanie hat?
Our alpacas are born in England and are all purchased from experienced alpaca breeders. We then look after them all year, feeding and caring for them every day.
We hire professional shearers for the day who travel to us. They remove the fleece from the alpaca. Great care is taken to ensure this is stress-free and kind. The boys are glad to remove all of that warm fibre when it starts to get hot in June.
We then sort through the fleeces and remove any vegetation the alpaca has collected. Only the blanket fleece (this is the area on the alpacas back) goes into production. This is the best part of the fleece so will ensure the quality of our products result.
This is the point in the making that gets a little more complicated. The fibre is scoured, and the Suri and Huacaya are blended together, removing more vegetation and any poor quality fibre.
Once the fleece has been carded, it is rolled into rovings. These look like long tubes of fibre that are coiled together ready for the spinning process.
The yarn is then spun onto cones, and a thicker yarn can be made when the yarn is twisted together. This makes chunkier yarn ready for the knitting process.
The yarn then arrives with us on cones ready for it to go for manufacturing into cosy knitwear. The yarn has not been treated with any chemicals or oils.
The yarn is then knitted on a machine with our bespoke design, creating a knitted product.
To finish our products, we sew on our logo patch, and hand make all of our super fluffy pom poms. After all of this, we package our products in beautiful branded boxes wrapped in tissue paper to protect the knitwear while it travels to you.
What makes Alpaca wool different from other wools?
Alpaca is strong, super soft and luxurious. Not only is it light and durable, but it also does not contain the natural oils found in wool. This means it’s great to wear even if you have incredibly sensitive skin.
The fibre is sustainable because an alpaca will grow a new fleece every year. This must be removed to stop it from becoming too heavy, causing the alpaca to fall ill. The fibre can be harvested for the whole life of an alpaca, which can be anything up to 15 years. Knitwear made from alpaca fibre can last a lifetime if it is cared for properly. Because this natural fibre does not contain the oils or lanolin it means it does not need to be treated or heavily washed to remove them. As such, alpacas produce one of the most environmentally friendly fibres on the planet.
Is Alpaca wool easy to look after?
Alpaca knitwear can last a lifetime if it is cared for well. It will hardly need washing as the natural fibres resist dirt. The best thing we suggest is washing in tepid water, by hand. Do not rub or soak for long periods as this could felt the fibre. Once clean do not wring out the water, this can stretch the garment. Instead, leave flat to dry. Do not tumble dry or dry clean and avoid washing in a machine. If these steps are followed your item will last you for years.
We love the fact you offer a visit to your farm with every purchase, what inspired you to do that and how does it work?
It is great to show people how transparent we are as a brand, all the way to the very beginning to where we source our materials. People can see for themselves how well cared for and loved our animals are, and this makes it all the more exciting knowing the hat you are wearing came from such beautiful animals who live an amazing life. We organise private visits with every purchase, and all of the information comes in the box alongside the newly purchased item.
Let’s talk about your chosen Nurture Collective Icons why did you choose them and which ones mean the most to you?
Made in UK– Ted & Bessie only use British craftsmen and suppliers striving to support local independent manufacturers. All processes support British manufacturing, from the fibre spun in Bournemouth to the products knitted in Nottingham or woven in Bristol.
Natural– Alpaca fibre is 100% natural. This means it is 100% biodegradable. No dyes or oils are used to produce the garments and no harsh chemicals are used to wash the fibre when it is removed from the alpaca.
Ethical– ALL of our products are made using the fibre from our own herd and trusted partners around the United Kingdom
What are the next steps for Ted & Bessie?
This year I have decided not only to use the fleece from my own herd of alpacas but also to use fleece from other breeders in the UK who are producing stunning alpacas with top quality fleece. I want to support the alpaca industry in the UK because there are many breeders who are producing incredible show-winning animals but not having the time to use the fibre to create the end product. For me the timing is perfect, still being a small company, as I can find enough fleece to make the products I need for my customers. My hope is that good quality alpacas can be bred in the same rate as the UK alpaca fibre industry can grow, however, I do love that it is still a niche market and producing with UK alpaca is still unique. As an ethical company, my main aim is to ensure consumers know our products come from happy and healthy alpacas and that my prices reflect this. I would love to see the UK alpaca industry continue to grow so that UK mills, weavers and knitters can thrive.
Favourite Inspirational Quote:
So many by Gandhi but one that sticks with me is-
You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.
What’s your Bestseller?
The grey colours sell very well, it is probably because the colour is easy to wear with any outfit and the colour is a natural mix of black and grey alpaca fleece.
Ted & Bessie children’s hats are available at Nurture Collective now and come in one size which makes it nice easy. We hope you enjoyed this month’s post let us know what you thought in the comment box below.
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