Alpaca Blog by Samantha Holmes
5 Reasons to Wear Alpaca20th March 2017
Here at Samantha Holmes we have been supplying exclusive alpaca clothing and knitted accessories for 14 years. When asked why we think people should choose Alpaca, we can assure you of the following benefits:
1. Alpaca hair has a flat staple which means it doesn’t pill and bobble like other fibres. Wool and cheaper cashmeres have shorter staples which make the fabric less abrasion resistant.
2. Allergic to wool? Allergic to lanolin? Our signature yarn is a beautiful blend of alpaca and bamboo. It’s silky smooth and has no lanolin content and as such is hypoallergenic. It’s also a great choice for babies - my two daughters have grown up with alpaca!
3. Better still, alpaca washes beautifully, especially with the bamboo content. On our labels we do recommend hand wash, but I machine wash all my knitwear on our 30 degree handwash machine cycle in a pillow case, and lay it flat to dry. As lustrous as new each time!
4. Fantastic warmth to weight ratio. You need very little alpaca to stay warm. Textile scientists advise that alpaca is 3 times warmer than the same weight of sheep’s wool. I like chunky knits, but it’s also a relief not to have to wear too much bulk and still be warm.
5. Alpaca squashes to nothing so it’s great in a suitcase. Just rolled it up tightly and it springs back to life!
Top Drawer Autumn 201616th September 2016
Our stand in action at Top Drawer Autumn in London this week, showcasing our Winter collections. Winning lines include our alpaca fur trimmed capes, alpaca fur pom pom scarves, matching fur trim gloves and cuffs. The alpaca fur story is a strong one as the fur we use is sourced only from alpaca which have died of natural causes, basically herd wastage in the harsh andean winters. Alpacas can live for 20 years, promising a lifetime of shearing potential of far greater value than a single pelt. https://www.samanthaholmes.com/browse/all/47/0/0/Autumn-Winter-Fashion/
Alpaca vs Cashmere17th March 2014
I am often asked by our customers why they should choose alpaca fibre over something like cashmere...a good question!
Cashmere has the lead in the market by far; it is a better known yarn and is renowned for being luxurious, super-soft and high-quality. Of course, any person will tell you that there are grades of quality and that there is cheap, poor-standard cashmere and the cream of the crop cashmere and that usually, you get what you pay for. The same can be said for alpaca on the quality scale; Baby Alpaca, the only type of Alpaca that Samantha Holmes uses, is generally considered to be the best standard (except for Royal Alpaca at 18 microns approx) and usually has a grade of around 21 microns. Therefore the softness or 'prickle factor' is very close. Certainly wearing one of our Jersey Knit Travel Shawls feels just as luxurious to any Cashmere Travel Shawl – obviously we’re a little biased but we’ve been told frequently by our customers that they are in full agreement – wrapping yourself up on a long-haul flight with one of our Alpaca Travel Shawls will have you feeling draped in luxury and cosy warm instantly.
Now things get interesting:
China mass produces nearly ¾ of all cashmere products. There was even an article posted on the BBC website a month ago which said that rat fur (among other things) was found to be in garments claiming to be Cashmere – Italian authorities seized over 1 million items in this case! Sadly these examples are on the increase. Alpaca is mostly sourced from Peru where alpacas originate – Samantha Holmes only sources alpaca from Peru and has most products hand-produced by small artisan groups there supporting fair trade.
Alpaca fibres are hollow with an insulating core making it the warmest option but also breathable. It contains no lanolin and is hypoallergenic; an excellent choice of material for a baby garment. Our Alpaca Travel Shawl also makes a fantastic ‘new mum’ gift as it makes a fantastic breast-feeding blanket and mum can rest easy knowing that her baby’s sensitive skin is safe.
Lastly, there are many perks of alpaca over cashmere but the biggest is probably price! A good-quality Cashmere Travel Shawl/Wrap will usually set you back between £200-£300 where as our Alpaca Travel Shawl/Wrap retails at £99.
Cashmere has a long-standing reputation for quality and softness. Due to it being the more well-known yarn it is often trusted and nearly always more pricey. A savvy shopper can do a few researches to gather their own opinions but if the quality is like for like then I propose that the benefits and price of Alpaca means it wins this contest hands down!
Hypoallergenic Baby Alpaca and Bamboo Clothing3rd March 2014
There is a lot of talk about bamboo just now and because my signature yarn now includes bamboo, I thought it worthy of some discussion here. A lot of our customers have eczema, sensitive skins and skin allergies (including Gemma and me!) and the combination of Alpaca and Bamboo seems to work wonders!
Since 2003, I concentrated on 100% Baby Alpaca (not to be confused with ordinary Alpaca, sometimes known as Superfine Alpaca which is courser and less soft). Baby Alpaca is a beautiful soft buttery fine micron yarn, hard wearing, with a high warmth to weight ratio, little prickle factor and very “pilling” resistant. It is also available in a wealth of earthy natural colours.
I work closely with the professional yarn manufacturers in Peru, and keep up to date with new yarns in development and was very impressed when, a few years ago, they handed me a swatch of 70% Baby Alpaca, 30% Bamboo viscose. I was considering moving to Baby Alpaca and Silk at the time, which is one of the smoothest most luxurious alpaca yarns on the market, but this was something different. The handle was the same as Baby Alpaca and Silk – beautiful, silky heavy drape, lustrous sheen, no prickle factor – but with a whole new story.
I prepared samples in both Baby Alpaca & Bamboo and Baby Alpaca & Silk and presented them for comparison by a focus group. No one could detect the difference and all agreed that the Bamboo added a contemporary, ecological story to my product. I also presented 100% Baby Alpaca samples alongside for comment. The feedback was very much in favour of the new Bamboo yarn which lended a new, less hairy, less bulky quality to the scarves, cardigans, sweaters, gloves, socks and throws. The opinion was that the items draped better, had a stunning lustre to them, were silkier and more supple, but most interestingly, much gentler and softer on the skin.
After a few hours of wear, one lady who had an allergy to wool and who previously found that 100% Baby Alpaca caused a mild irritation in the skin around her neck, had no allergic reaction at all to the new Baby Alpaca and Bamboo scarf. I have also had a number of ladies who lost their hair after chemotherapy and whose skins have become allergic to ordinary sheep’s wool, find my hats very kind on their skin. It seems that more and more people are having to be careful what they wear next to their skin these days. I’m glad to be producing a product which any skin type can wear!
First Order from Poland!24th February 2014
Aha! Russia, Finland and now Poland. Orders have come in from all over Europe this Winter. How splendid! I had to go to Poland for a Winter wedding in the Tatras mountains a couple of years ago and this brings back fond memories! Zakopane was a hidden gem - a small traditional alpine town with a little skiing resort and great hospitality. Just wished I'd had an alpaca blanket for the night time sleigh ride - I think we got something made of horse hair which made me sneeze the whole way! A couple of alpaca fur rugs would have gone down well in our log cabin too! It was minus 16 while we were there.
Happy Valentine's OR Love Yourself Day!13th February 2014
So, I'm not quite sure what camp I fall into when thinking about Valentine's Day. I love the soppy idea of sending romantic gifts to loved ones - I received the nicest card from my sister yesterday which completely made my day!
Why not use a commercial day to make someone in your life feel extra special? Yeah OK why should we require a specified day to be nice...but it can't hurt, right? What about the couples who have been married for years? Even after 25 years of marriage my romantic Dad has a stunning bouquet delivered to my Mum every year without fail. They go out for a meal or my Mum cooks something special and they have a night to themselves - how could I begrudge anyone that? It's nice to be nice - end of!
As fateful luck would have it I personally seem to be single most Valentine's Days, now that I'm in my mid-twenties this kind of remark is heard more frequently: "have you not found a man yet?", "any news on your love-life?" and "perhaps you should smile more often" - cheers pals! It's comments like these that make it increasingly easy to start "hating" Valentine's Day. It can make any person feel pressured when the dreaded February 14th approaches - suddenly those men/ladies you avoid at all costs seem a lot more appealing - quick, find someone else to pair with! Otherwise you stand to admit to yourself that you're a failure in the romance department and this one little day will make you feel exceptionally lonely - oh great! Especially when you were quite happy being single until this day crept up.
I have therefore come up with my new method - turn a doomed-to-be-a-singleton Valentine's Day into a romantic day for (who better?) myself. My original plan was to try and sleep through it but that's simply not practical. Therefore my last few Valentine's Days have been spent with only the best of friends, wine, Disney movies and (fantastic) food - it helps that my best friend is a chef. Love and laughter all round. This year I'm going to spend the day engrossed in a bit of retail therapy - I've not been shopping since before Christmas and I've been saving the pennies. So what if I don't have someone to buy me the perfect choccies, flowers...or Alpaca Fur Slipper Boots to keep me warm at night - they're so cushioned it's almost as good as a foot rub! I have a bank card don't I? Plus I know the perfect items to make me happy - someone else would only get the wrong colour or size! Plus I think I'm great! I deserve it - Happy Love Yourself Day to ME!!
With that in mind here's a coupon to get £10 off any order on our website of £35 or more - 'VAL10'. Happy Valentine's OR Love-Yourself Day Everyone!!
It's beginning to feel a lot like....13th November 2013
"Tis the season", "deck the halls", "jingle jingle", "Merry what-nots"...Yes we all know it's round the corner and everyone seems to be in one of two camps;
In the first camp we have the 'Bah Humbugs'; brimming with frosty "I cannot be bothereds", going on about Christmas being too expensive; a clever con brought about by retailers and department stores desperate to get the unwilling victims to part with their hard earned buck.
And in camp number two we have the Pine tree loving, mulled wine brewing, present wrapping, turkey basting, chestnut roasting, cash blowing believers. Those who never tire of leaving a carrot out for Rudolph and maybe even a mince pie out for the big guy.
Now if you are unfortunate enough to be nearer to camp one then you have to endure the sickly sweet attitudes of the rest of us but, trust me, this is the one time where "if you can't beat em, join em" really does pay off!
Who doesn't love a roaring fire on a cold winters night, someone to snuggle up to (in my case it's the smelly dog rather than a handsome someone but he's fluffy at least!), hanging the stockings and making an old auntie's day by sending a card? If you're not the biggest fan of this time of year there are plenty of things you can do to try and get with the festive spirit, who knows by the end of it you may just forget you were ever in camp "bah humbug".
Cheesy movies. That's right, "It's a Wonderful Life", "Love Actually", "The Holiday", "The Santa Clause", "Elf" and "All I Want For Christmas" are just a few examples of some of the good 'uns. There is no better way to get yourself submerged in the cheer.
It's all about the kids! Even if you don't love Christmas with every fibre of your being those little ones do and it really is fun jumping on the band wagon. Write letter's to Santa with them, read 'T'was The Night Before Christmas', make mince pies and whenever they start acting up the simple phrase "sack of coal" seems to work like a charm!
He's making a list. And so should you! There's nothing worse than the guilty feeling in the pit of your stomach when you forget a special someone from your Christmas gift list so start nice and early! Maybe even get a couple of extra generic gifts (i.e. The Bodyshop Giftsets or a foodie hamper) just incase you get an unexpected gift from an over-generous someone you weren't expecting anything from. This way you won't get caught out and gift-giving makes you feel good - stuff the expense!
Get crafty! Ok, so you're not into sewing and maybe you're a little old for paper chains but maybe cooking's your thing so get a few mates over for mulled wine, mince pies, beers and a cocktail or two. Impress your neighbours with a beautiful handmade wreath - there are loads of how-tos online and you'll get so much more satisfaction than if you bought one. Simply stick some holly branches in vases or perhaps go for a real tree this year and make some decorations - they don't need to look like you made them yourself (again some excellent how-tos online) and if you've got kids this could be something they really get some pride from. There's something so satisfying about seeing your house decked out and glittering. Once you've made all that effort, finished, put the kettle on and taken a minute to admire your handiwork you'll (probably) agree. And for Pete's sake, Ok, yes, big deal, the tree drops needles (you own a hoover don't you!?) but the awesome smell that engulfs your home is priceless, bite the bullet, nothing beats a real tree!
The joy of helping others. Yeah, yeah so it's corny and we're all busy and have our own lives and blah blah blah but would it really kill us, all of us, to do just one nice little thing? Good will to all men and all that? It doesn't have to be big or involve a long-term commitment, help out at a shelter or soup-kitchen one evening, visit your neighbour in hospital, bring a hot dinner to the wee old lady down the road, take a couple of mince pies to the guy at your local club who lost his wife this year, raise some money within the workplace for a good cause or, if you really are so short on time that none of the above could be squeezed in, donate some money to a charity. After all, isn't this what Christmas is really all about?
Happy Families. Now I know that people say that family arguments are common at Christmas, kids hyped up on sugar, in-laws outstaying their welcome, certain someone's not pulling their weight and come the big day everyone's exhausted! So yeah emotions are running high and you could just think of somewhere else you'd love to shove that turkey baster but...(and it's a big but)...this is your family, they're the only family you've got. You didn't choose them and you can't change them so wouldn't it be nice if, for one day, and one day only, you simply all got along? In my house Christmas is the one day of the year where everyone is nice to each other and we all get along, no exceptions; everyone's more helpful, more polite and remembers that crucial point that is when to shut up and say nothing at all rather than that snide remark. It's simply nice to remember just once a year how lucky we are to have each other, lets face it, we could do worse, right?!
What a Feast! If you love only one thing about this time of year it has to be the food. You can't help it, your body simply craves comfort at this chilly season and what better way to tell yourself "I love you" than with a glass of Mulled Wine...no? Turkey Dinner with all the trimmings; Roast Potatoes and Stuffing? Christmas Pudding? Roast Duck? Cinnamon Latte? Mince Pie? Tin of Quality Street? Chestnuts?...oh lets face it, there's something for everyone and it's no wonder we all end up a little...errr jollier, than we were in the summer. Don't worry, you'll soon work off those extra pounds with your shiny new gym membership in January but for now sit back, relax, and enjoy, YUM!!
Dancing Queen. How many parties have you been invited to this year? Or maybe you're throwing one yourself? Who doesn't love an excuse to surround themselves with friends and loved ones and dress up? Yes ok there might be the obligatory work's night out but oh come on, what the heck, it's only once a year, and who knows, that nice guy from the department downstairs might be at the office party...don't forget your mistletoe.
Forgiveness. So maybe the reason why you're not feeling so festive is that you've not had the greatest of years. It's coming to the end of another 365 days and you're beginning to reflect; perhaps you've lost touch with someone you miss, had a falling out with a friend or separated from family or spouse. Whether you want to try and fix the horrible (possibly painful) mess or you would simply like to smooth things over so they're not so uncomfortable in the future you happen to be approaching the one time of year where you can make amends for most things. If you can't make peace at Christmas then when can you?
If, after all my ramblings, you still are left feeling high and dry, I have one last suggestion to get you in the mood. Christmas Fairs are thee most fantastic buzz for Christmas lovers. Whether you're looking for some Christmas decorations for your home, gift ideas or some foodie inspiration to make your Christmas dinner table truly sparkle then these Fairs are your gold dust! Ticket prices vary depending on the size and scale of the fair so if you're looking for something small and local then maybe something in your town hall or church will suffice but if something bigger is your cup of tea then possibly one of the fairs below? Samantha Holmes will be attending both of these Christmas Fairs and I can safely say I cannot wait to start my Christmas buzz - incase you hadn't noticed - I'm a believer!
Hopetoun House, South Queensferry, Edinburgh, Scotland
15th - 17th November
Country Living, SECC, Glasgow, Scotland
21st - 24th November
Big delivery from Peru12th August 2013
It's always exciting when we get a big delivery from Peru - lots of new, shiny products. One of the lovely things about our collections is that no two handmade items are exactly the same, especially the furry products, so opening those boxes is always fun to do. Over 10 years in this business and it's still a little bit like Christmas!
So that's the first of our Peru stock deliveries to fulfil our Autumn/Winter Trade orders, plenty more things still to come but it's always exciting when the hype begins in July/August. All new products for this Autumn/Winter will be available to purchase from our website (www.samanthaholmes.com) shortly but in the mean time please make plenty of 'Ooooooo's' and 'Ahhhhhhh's' at our beautiful 'Fur Hot Water Bottle Cover' that we had exclusively made in Taupe for our Swedish distributer, Werannas...it's so gorgeous that we might just have to get some more in - I'm in love!
Shiny and New!8th August 2013
There's cause for much excitement today in the Samantha Holmes office - we're delighted to announce that yesterday evening our brand-new, shiny, all-singing-and-dancing website went live!
Some browsers may not have updated yet and may still be showing our old website. pressing the 'control (Ctrl)' button and 'F5' button together can fix this but not in every case.
The new website features many new bits and pieces such as links to all our social media pages and of course the blog which will be kept up-to-date from here on in!
The product pages now have a much larger selection of images which are able to be zoomed in on - this should make seeing the detail and type of knit incredibly simple.
The Trade side of the website (the side used for shops/businesses placing bulky orders) has been completely re-designed. This now looks very similar to the public side of the website. It's now easy to view collections/ ranges and all images (with zoom) are now available for them as well - well it's only fair!
Of course, like with all new websites, we are expecting there to be a couple of hiccups in the first few weeks after launch. We are currently still working on a number of known things but if you have any problems using this site we would really like to know about it.
Any thoughts and comments are always welcome!
A Facebook Post2nd March 2013
So Facebook announced earlier this week that they are no longer insisting that people do competitions through an official (and most often expensive) app. That now means that we can 'officially' do Facebook competitions on our pages - phew!
Facebook's changed a lot over most recent years and there's no doubt, it most certainly has made it a great deal more difficult and costly for businesses to promote their brand and products or services. Did you know that, even by 'liking' a Facebook Page, you will still only see a fraction of posts that page will publish? Facebook does this deliberately to try and encourage the page owner to 'Promote' or rather, pay for their post to be seen. But easing up on their rules about competitions should make it slightly less difficult to promote our brand!
Well in light of this we have launched our biggest competition to date: Guess Our Best Seller For Autumn/Winter 2013?!
Simply go onto the Samantha Holmes Facebook Page. 'Like' our page and then 'like' and 'Share' the competition (the one with this image). Once you have done this you can comment on the picture stating the letter of the product you think will be our best selling and why you think so. It's that simple! If you are correct you will be entered into a draw to win that product. The winner will be announced 10th January 2014. Well we won't know what's sold best over the Christmas period until then will we?
Samantha Holmes founded her label in Scotland in 2003 as a boutique lifestyle brand, now renowned for its exclusive, handcrafted clothing, accessories and home textiles made from luxuriously soft natural fibres such as Baby Alpaca and Bamboo, and alpaca fur.
Each product is designed in Scotland by Samantha and beautifully made by skilled artisans in Peru on a fair trade basis.