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Introducing Malachi

Whenever we are at shows, a lovely young lady called Ella looks after my alpacas.  I had a day off on Sunday to drive to Southend on Sea for my niece’s BBQ.  It was a lovely afternoon and I just had time to arrive, have a few hugs and chat to some people before a text came from Ella saying she had good news; Dusty had given birth and the baby looked fine.

When a new baby is born, I have to spray the umbilical cord so that it is sealed against flies or parasites and the birthing kit was in the back of our van, Bessie.  With a hasty goodbye, I drove back to the farm and met a beautiful baby boy who I’m going to call Malachi (Mala-kye).  Bearing in mind, his father is George (light fawn) and Dusty is light brown, Malachi’s colour is such a surprise as it’s a beautiful rich dark brown with a hint of red.  So here he is, a week early and what a sweetie!

Malachi & Dusty

Mother and baby are doing really well and Malachi’s a real cutie!

Malachi 2

That’s the latest update from the alpaca field. We have quite a few babies on the way this year, so there will be plenty more cute photos over the next months. Stay tuned!

Lots of love, Tracy and the alpacas xxx

Alpacas are fluffier than ever!

I don’t know if you remember, but there was a mini heat wave a few weeks back.  My alpacas are in full fleece and were looking uncomfortable in the heat.  Their water buckets were always muddy because the water had been paddled in and so I decided to get them a paddling pool.  Knowing flimsy plastic wouldn’t last long, I had the idea of creating one where there is a natural dip in the land.  I built up the walls (using alpaca poo), lined it with a tarpaulin and put bricks round the edge.  It started to rain, just as I was finishing, hasn’t stopped for long ever since and my lovely paddling pool hasn’t been used!

Happy and Lima are looking so fluffy and lovely at the moment! Here they are sharing a little love!

L'Autumne cropped

L’Automne is the smallest alpaca of the herd and her fleece is looking spectacular. It is as if it could blow away in the wind at any moment!

Lorelle has the cutest face with a super heavy fringe! Sometimes we wonder how she can see, but then we see her happily bouncing across the fields and we are certain that she has no problems knowing where to place her little legs!

Here’s Happy and Havana enjoying their dinner. Havana is a great mum!

So all is looking good in the field at the moment, the annual haircut is on the 12th June and the lovely fluffies are definitely lovely and very fluffy.

Love from Tracy and the Alpacas xx

What we’re up to June – August 2016

Summer is finally here, weather is warming up a little and the alpacas are fluffier than ever! It’s nearly time for them to have their annual haircut and we’re planning what to do with their fleeces!

Even though it’s summer, it doesn’t mean we’re taking it easy! We have lots of shows, workshops and other happenings coming up over the next few months.

1. Ickworth Wool Festival – 4th and 5th June

For the first time we will be attending the Ickworth Wool Festival. Held in beautiful surroundings, we are pretty sure we will feel right at home! We’ll be bringing our yarn and patterns along and hope to meet lots of lovely new knitters!

2. Town & Country Show – 11th and 12th June

Purl Alpaca Designs display at a knitting show

This will be our 3rd year at the Cambridge Town & Country Show; held on Parker’s Piece it’s a festival of food, crafts and entertainment.  We’ll be selling many of our samples here as well as our gorgeous knitting kits.

3. Woolfest – 24th and 25th June

Purl Alpaca Designs attending Woolfest, Cumbria

Woolfest is held in stunning Cockermoouth and for the second time, we will be staying in the same stunning cottage in Allonby by the sea. Being by the seaside is good for the soul and makes this show one of our absolute favourites! We love the selection of stalls at this show and are looking forward to catching up with our friends in Cumbria!

4. Knitting Workshops – 16th July

Small workshop 2

Our popular workshops are filling up early this year and our July edition has been fully booked for a few months already. But worry not, we have released dates up until December and there are still spaces left! You can reserve your space by clicking on this link!

5. Knitting Workshop – 27th August

Small Workshop 13

Here is your chance to meet Dusty and our other wonderful alpacas! We are not quite sure just how many alpacas we will have at this point, but we can promise there will be a few alpaca babies running around! They are so cute bouncing across the green fields and we are confident you will fall in love with them just like us!

As you may be able to tell, we have a busy time ahead! We are really looking forward to seeing you at one of these events or workshops!

Tracy, Kari-Helene and the alpacas xxx

Design focus – Sherri Shrug

One of our all time favourite quick knits is the classic piece Sherri Shrug. Sherri was designed in 2011 as a part of our Country Garden collection and quickly became a popular piece. Knitted in Purl Alpaca Designs’ Medium yarn and mainly knitted on 8 mm needles this garment grows very quickly! Sherri makes a perfect garment for spring too. It’s so lightweight and easy to carry in your bag and if it gets a little chilly, pop it on over what you are wearing! Perfect with dresses, shirts and tops alike, it’s a really versatile garment.

Sherri Shrug worn over a shirt and waistcoat

This shrug is knitted on straight needles, back and forth. The stitches involved are fairly basic. The cuffs are created by a 2 x 2 rib. The lace work is a combination of yarn overs and a double decrease. The whole garment is knitted in one piece and the sleeves are sewn up at the end. If you leave a long tail when casting on and off you can use this as your thread to sew up with! This garment is suitable for an intermediate knitter or an improved beginner who might have an experienced knitter to hand if they need help.

Simple lace stitch creates a lovely, open texture

The Sherri Shrug has become popular and over on Ravelry you can check out a few of the finished pieces we have seen over the years. Have you knitted Sherri? Make sure you share your photos with us, either on Ravelry, Facebook or via email. We’d love to see what you have created!
If you have been inspired to knit your own Sherri Shrug you can purchase the complete kit here. If you would like to knit Sherri but would prefer to use a different yarn, maybe something from your stash, here is a link to the pattern only. If you prefer using Ravelry for your pattern purchases click here!

The lovely lace pattern shows beautifully across the back

If you would like to substitute our yarn for something different you should aim for a Worsted weight yarn. This is a thickness in between DK and Aran weights. You can use DK or Aran yarns too, but make sure your yarn is either on the heavy side of DK weight or on the light side of Aran. With Sherri the weight of yarn is not technically crucial as it is knitted in an open lace pattern and is a  lightweight design, so as long a you keep an eye on your measurements you can use lighter or heavier yarns too. The outcome will be different, if using a lighter yarn you will have a softer and more fluid end result, if using a thicker yarn, your shrug will be thicker and more rigid. Both could end up looking fantastic; it is up to you!

Sherri Shrug looks great in darker colours too! 

We hope we have left you feeling inspired to knit your very own Sherri Shrug. We have lots of colours in stock at the moment and are ready to post out your knitting kit!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Yarn Shop Day 2016 – celebrating our stockists!

Happy Yarn Shop Day everyone! We have decided to celebrate the day by taking a look at 3 fabulous stockists of our yarn!

Knit With Attitude – Stoke Newington, London, UK

Knit With Attitude in Stoke Newington, London

A gem of a shop in one of Kari-Helene’s favourite areas of London. The lovely May-Linn stocks a great selection of yarns with a heart. Organic, ethical and ecological yarns make up the bulk of her stock and we are honoured to be included!

Hos Jette, Norway

Hos Jette sells an amazing selection of luxurious yarn!

Online yarn store Hos Jette (translates to At Jette’s) is our Norwegian stockist. Kari-Helene went to Stavanger with Jette in November last year to launch our collaboration and we are very excited to follow Jette’s progress. She stocks a nice selection of English, Dutch and Swedish yarn and with her latest addition Amanda she donates 5 kroner per ball of yarn to the amazing Norwegian charity Amandaprosjektet. Amandaprosjektet provides clothes and blankets for premature children in hospitals in Norway.

Garnasinne, Sweden

Åsa Argeus of Garnasinne

Our very first international stockist was Garnasinne in Sweden. Run by the lovely Åsa Argeus it stocks a nice array of natural and luxurious yarns including her own undyed yarn. She focuses on ecological and fair trade yarn and we are proud to be included in her selection.

Remember to support you local, independent yarn shop this weekend, whether they are online or on the high street. Happy Yarn Shop Day 2016!

Lots of love,

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

We went to Wales and had a wonderful time! – Wonderwool 2016

Somehow we always manage to get lost on the way to Builth Wells and Wonderwool and this year was no exception. Our Sat Nav and phone map thinks that picturesque B-roads across the Welsh countryside is our preferred route, and although we may not agree it is the easiest option it is certainly the prettiest. This year we found a stunning little village called Martley atop a 17% hill. We’re only happy we were going down the hill and not up it!

Lush, green hills of Wales!

Once we arrived at the Royal Welsh Showground setting up the stand was quick and easy and we think it looked rather great! All those patterns on the back wall do make a stunning feature. We were running a special offer on our paper patterns; any 10 patterns for £35. As we feel that you all shouldn’t have to miss out just because you were not in Wales this weekend we have decided that you should also get a chance at this offer. Email us a list of your 10 pattern choices and we will get in touch to arrange payment of £35 + £1.50 p&p. Offer is valid until the end of the month (April 2016).

All set up and ready for action!

We love the atmosphere at Wonderwool. Every show we go to have a different feel to it, and Wonderwool is definitely the arty show. People have a wonderful creativity and individuality to their personal style and we love it! Making and creating something by hand lends itself to being an individual and we love seeing how you make our designs your own through colours, yarn and styling. Here are 3 of the fabulous outfits we saw over the two days in Wales:

Natalie bought the Devon Top knitting kit last year and came back wearing it! Perfect!

Jan looked fabulous in her version of the Isis Tailcoat. We love the layering of knit on knit!

Great to see some designs from The Journey Collection appearing. This is Linda wearing Louisianna.

One of our favourite things about Wonderwool is the food! They source an amazing array of vendors selling anything from burgers to millionaire shortbread tarts and we love them all. New this year was a pizza stall from Dusty Knuckle Pizza and it was absolutely brilliant. It made Kari-Helene want to buy a pizza oven. She tried their all day breakfast pizza and it was inspired!

Dusty Knuckle all day breakfast pizza

We also found some time to spend with our friends from the Natural Fibre Company. They have been spinning our yarn over the last year and we are enjoying working on how we can make our yarn even better with them. We had a really great meeting with them on yarn production followed by a rather fabulous meal combined with a tiny little “hen-night” for Kari-Helene. When we say hen-night it really only involved some pink fizz and good food (no crazy shenanigans) and it was perfect!

Wonderwool is a lovely show and we have enjoyed our stay again. We are already looking forward to next year! Until then Wales!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Customer Gallery – April 2016

We continue to receive so many stunning photos of you in your finished knitted garments and we love seeing them. Thank you to everyone sending us their pictures.

First up is Elizabeth who has knitted the Glacier Cardigan for her daughter-in-law. She has knitted Glacier using 2 strands of our Fine yarn held together in stead of the Chunky yarn as per the pattern. We think it has worked really well! Elizabeth used 10 balls of Fine yarn and knitted the Medium size.

Glacier cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs knitted by Elizabeth        

Next up we have a wonderful version of the Duchess Cardigan. Duchess has long been a favourite with both you and us alike and we can really see why from the marvelous photos you keep sending us! It seems to be a style that suits everyone! Take a look at Marina wearing hers; we think she looks amazing!

Marina looks stunning wearing her Duchess Cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs

Sabine from Austria has knitted the Icon dress in Wollmeise yarn and it has worked so well! We truly love Sabine’s photos and think she looks amazing in the dress! We love how happy she looks in the photos too, it makes us want to knit one too! You can see more of Sabine’s photos on her Ravelry project page.

Sabine modelling her finished Icon dress

We’ll round up the customer gallery for this time with a lovely Havana Cape knitted by Susan. Susan came to our workshop in January and started the project on the day. This was her first project knitting with circular needles and one of her first times doing cabling and we think the end result looks really accomplished and beautiful. Well done, Susan!

Havana Cape knitted by Susan

Keep sending us photos of your finished garments, preferably of you wearing them. We love hearing about how you got on with the knitting and seeing the end results. 

Lots of love, 

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Spring clean – dusting off Pinterest

I’ve always thought spring cleaning was a waste of time. Deep clean, washing windows, throwing away stuff all seems like boring and time consuming tasks, yet come April the last few years I find myself doing just that. Going through old clothes, throwing away bunches of superfluous paperwork, dusting and hoovering behind everything. This year my spring clean so far has consisted of stripping away floral wallpaper, repainting magnolia walls bright white, making windows possible to see through again and organising my work space.

My newly organised work space
Spring clean of the Purl Alpaca Designs’ Pinterest profile.

 Today the spring clean extended to Pinterest. Once a favourite, I have long been neglecting Pinterest in favour of the newer kid on the block, Instagram. However, after a review of where traffic to our website comes from, it was quickly made very clear to me that I should not be neglecting it any more! Pinterest is a lovely way of quickly sharing your favourite inspirational images with friends and other like minded people. It works as a virtual pinboard, hence the name. You pin your interests onto themed boards and create your own online scrapbook. It’s a great way to keep visual references and reminder of things you have liked whilst looking at different websites.

Purl Alpaca Designs’ profile on Pinterest

 I use Pinterest to share my fashion inspiration, cute and fluffy animals, beautiful knitwear and images of our designs and photoshoots. Do you use Pinterest? What do you enjoy pinning or sharing?

Come join us over on Pinterest!

Kari-Helene xxx

Foraging in April – preparations for a workshop

I always like to include an element of foraging in our workshop menus, but this proves harder in winter and spring than at other times of the year. The Downs are covered in gorse flowers this time of year but I had no idea you could use them to make edible things! I came across a foraging website mentioning gorse wine and this got me thinking! I searched for gorse cordial recipes and came across a few. I decided to use this recipe from Eatweeds as my starting point and headed out on the South Downs for some spring time foraging!

I am in love with the South Downs and they are only 10 minutes walk from my house!

Gorse flowers are really pretty but also REALLY prickly. Watch out for those sharp thorns!

The sun was so warm and lovely my alpaca headband quickly came off!

It was a beautiful day, really nice and warm. I’d of course dressed up in lots of knitwear, but my Inca Headband proved one step too far and had to come off. I may have even got a slight tan!

Picking the flowers proved to be a cumbersome and hazardous task. Who new they had such sharp thorns? Definitely not me… I quickly worked out to aim for the flowers furthest out on the branches and only pick the ones easily accessible, otherwise your hands end up like pincushions!

I’ll admit to getting bored quickly and not picking as much as I had planned to, but I did return with a little bag full. When I weighed them it added up to 110g.

What a fantastic colour!

I adapted the recipe a little and ended up with these quantities.

110 g gorse flowers
800 ml water
300 g sugar
zest of an orange
juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange

This is how I made my gorse flower syrup:

Make sure you have only picked flowers and no bugs or thorns.
Bring sugar and water to a rapid boil and boil for 10 min. 
Add zest of one orange, juice of an orange and a lemon and the gorse flowers to the sugar syrup and submerge in the sugar syrup. Leave to cool overnight.
On the next day strain the liquid through a cloth.
I ended up with 825 ml of finished syrup.

You can use the liquid right away but because I want to keep mine for a little while I went through one more step.

Sterilize bottles by pouring boiling water over them. Place the liquid back on the heat and bring to a boil. I left my liquid to boil for about 10 min and scraped off any foam forming on the surface. Fill your gorse syrup onto your hot bottles and seal. They should now keep well for at least a couple of months. As I have not tried making syrups and cordials with gorse flowers before I can’t say for sure, but my elderflower cordial kept for 4 months (and probably could have kept for longer had I not drunk it all…).

The end result is really lovely, in hindsight I should have maybe picked a few more flowers to get a stronger flavour, but the subtle hint of coconutty taste is really nice! It makes a really refreshing drink diluted with water and with a slice of orange and would probably be even nicer with lemonade or even as a mixer for a fruity gin and tonic!

I plan on serving this Gorse Flower Cordial at our April workshop and hope it will go down well. Our April workshop is already fully booked but if you would like to take part we have two more dates lined up for the summer. Maybe this year’s batch of Elderflower Cordial will be ready for then!

Kari-Helene xxx

Knitting for Easter – is it all eggs?

Did you know we have a knitting kit for an egg cosy? No? Well, Tracy made the pattern for the lovely Al Paca and afterwards thought she should make him a friend, and Cate the egg cosy was born (as in dupliCATE). This made us think about what other things you could knit for Easter, and boy, there are lots! Here’s our top 5!

1. A bunny in a carrot! 

A bunny in a carrot sleeping bag!

How about a bunny hiding in a carrot shaped sleeping bag?? This cute Easter decoration from Tatyana Korobkova’s Ravelry store is super cute! She does some incredibly cute amigurumi, we love the little dolls with the fox tails!

2. A super stylish and cuddly rabbit!

What a cutie from All Free Knitting.

This minimalist and stylish rabbit would make a beautiful decorations in any home or a nice little soft toys for a child. This pattern would work well for any left overs you might have of our Purl Alpaca Fine! 

3. Our very own Cate!

Please don’t eat me!

 Who wouldn’t want an alpaca egg cosy? If you are looking for that something special for the Easter table our alpaca egg cosy would certainly do the job. It’s not too early to plan your projects for next year!

4. An angry, diapered, bunny boy! 

How cute is that tail?

… that tail??? This might be the cutest thing we have ever seen. If only we did crochet. But for all you mulit-craftual people out there, this is a fantastic little gift idea and so amazingly cute by Darling Derriere Designs.

5. Two best friends – bunny and chick! 

best buddies

We’re pretty sure this is a viable friendship option in the wild. Just look how cute they are together? Loving the little beaded eyes! Great facial expressions too! Pattern can be found in Amanda Berry’s Ravelry store. Bunny would look very cute made in our Alpaca Dew yarn.

What’s on your needles this Easter? Tracy is working on a new pair of slippers and Kari-Helene is knitting away on a new design for the next collection! 

Happy Easter, everyone!

Tracy, Kari-Helene and the alpacas! xxx

A visit to Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

For the second time we were preparing for the journey to Edinburgh. We had such a lovely time there last year and were both looking forward to another trip to Scotland. We do end up spending a long time away from home for this two day show. Kari-Helene’s journey began on Tuesday evening joining Tracy in Cambridge. Wednesday morning we set off from Cambridge in our trusted old BT van, Bessie.
The Angel of the North welcomed us against a backdrop of grey cloud.

After a stop overnight in Berwick upon Tweed we arrived in Edinburgh Thursday morning. We went for a lovely breakfast in Urban Angel before squeezing in a spot of sightseeing. Tracy had never been to Edinburgh (last year we didn’t have time to go into the town itself) so we decided to be tourists for a couple of hours. We visited the National Gallery for a bit of culture, walked up to the castle for a bit of history and back through town for a spot of shopping. Great mix of activities! 

Edinburgh Castle

Tracy thought the foreign cadets outside the castle were very cute but wasn’t sure what language they were speaking. It turns out they were Scottish…

Thursday afternoon we set up our stand ready for the show in record time. We were so surprised we weren’t sure what to do with ourselves! An early evening was had with home made dinner, feet up and knitting. Perfect for re-charging the batteries before the show!

We spent two lovely days at the show. We met so many fabulous people from all over the world, USA, Germany, Spain and Scotland. We always hope to see some fabulous finished pieces of knitting as well and EYF did not disappoint! Here are the three wonderful knitters that showed up wearing our designs!

Katherine wearing her fabulous Isis Tailcoat

Diane has knitted the Misty Wrist Warmers in Alpaca Storm

Another fabulous version of the Isis Tailcoat, this time in two colours!

On the way home we decided to be proper tourists and visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It was Kari-Helene’s first time driving across a tidal causeway and it was really fabulous! The island itself was picturesque and tranquil, it would probably be a brilliant place to have a knitters retreat!

Our trusted van, Bessie, making the crossing from Lindisfarne.

The Lindisfarne Causeway

Lindisfarne Castle

Tracy visiting the lovely village on Lindisfarne

The rest of the journey home was smooth even though some of the Easter traffic was starting to build. We are having a little break for Easter, the office will be closed from tomorrow Thursday until Tuesday next week. We wish you all a wonderful Easter!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

We’re going north – Edinburgh Yarn Festival next stop!

We are so excited to be returning to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the second year running. We loved our visit last year, such a brilliant and vibrant atmosphere and so many fabulous and fun knitters. We will be in the same spot as last year, stand H3 right in the middle of the main hall.

We look forward to seeing you there Friday the 18th and Saturday 19th!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx