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Design Focus – Duchess Cardigan

Have you ever looked for that perfect cardigan that you can just put on over anything? Look no further. The Duchess Cardigan provides amazing versatility and ease of wear whilst still looking really stylish. This week we will be looking in closer detail at how it is constructed, the stitches involved in knitting it and the most common modification.

duchess cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs

The construction of Duchess is slightly different to your standard cardigan. The draped front pieces have a rectangular shape creating the waterfall effect and are knitted sideways. The back is knitted in the more normal bottom up way. This means that when doing the side seams you will have to join stitches from the front to rows from the back.

The front pieces have a section of basket weave along the lower edge. Basket weave is created using a mixture of knit and purl stitches in small squares. When the knit and purl squares are alternated on top of each other a woven effect appears. It’s a very decorative stitch pattern and fairly easy to get the hang of!

Duchess cardigan flat lay - designed by Kari-Helene Rane for Purl Alpaca Designs

The collar is knitted at the same time as working the fronts and is an extension of the garter stitch edge around the basket weave. By doing the increases not at the very edge of the knitting, but at the inside of the border, a smoother edge is achieved.

The back of this garment is knitted from the bottom up. The pleated effect is created by quickly decreasing stitches in small areas as well as creating a natural cinched effect from the cables. The most common alteration on this design is making the back longer. Because of the way the garment is constructed, this is slightly challenging. By adding rows to the back of the garment you need to add stitches to the front. The ratio is approximately 6 rows to 5 sts. I would recommend adding 5 sts (about 1 inch) at the time to keep the basket weave pattern intact. Here is a link to one of the projects on Ravelry that has very successfully used this method. Check out all Ravelry projects here.

Cabling is a technique that for many can seem a mystery. Cabling is really only a small number of stitches swapping places. When creating a 3/3 CF cable, f.ex, you start by moving 3 sts onto a cable needle, holding the to the front (CF=cable front) of your work, knitting the next 3 sts, and then working the 3 stitches from the cable needle. All you have really done is knitting the latter 3 before you knit the first! Cabling demystified.

duchess cardigan cable detail - design by Purl Alpaca Designs

The Duchess Cardigan was part of our Seashore Collection and photographed at the beach near Southend-on-sea. It was photographed on a very windy day which made the drape of the front of the cardigan behave beautifully in the pictures. We photographed a few pieces of menswear on the same day and even did some “couple” photos!

duchess cardigan by Purl Alpaca Designs with Geronimo Jumper also by Purl Alpaca Designs

Duchess is knitted in our Alpaca Fine yarn and the original garment was made from the colour Alpaca Light. We love the idea of wearing this cardigan over a wedding dress not only in ivory but also in the colour Alpaca Mist like Irene did on her big day! You can see more photos of Irene wearing Duchess on her wedding day here.

I&J (26 of 29)

The picture of Irene and Jakob is ©Wegar Berg Gundersen

Have you knitted the Duchess Cardigan? We would love to hear from you. Send us some photos of you wearing the cardigan and you are in with a chance of winning next months customer gallery price. Last month Jeanne won with her pictures of the Allegro Shawl. The winner of this months competition will win two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show as well as a free pdf pattern of choice! Ready, steady, go!

Do you feel inspired to knit your own? Here is a link to where you can buy the knitting kit in the colour of your choice. I look forward to hearing from you! Happy knitting!

Kari-Helene xxx



Fleece shearing and yarn stories

It’s that time of year when all local alpacas have been sheared and I have been out buying, sorting and preparing fleece, making it ready to send to the mill for processing into yarn.

Tracy Birch sorting alpaca fleeces for Purl Alpaca Design's yarn

My own herd were sheared on the 12th June and as the fibre was wet, I had to lay them all out in a friend’s barn to dry.  After this, I had many a happy hour skirting the fleece which basically means carefully selecting the right quality of fibre to make our yarn, removing the coarser edges, picking out the debris, removing second cuts and giving it a darn good shake to remove as much dirt and dust as possible before bagging ready for the mill.   We’re lucky with The Natural Fibre Company as they attend many of the same wool festivals as us and we swap our raw fibre with the finished and processed yarn. At Woolfest, we swapped my fibre to make Champagne (all from my herd, which is very exciting) and picked up our latest batch of Rain.  We’re really please with a new processing method which seems to compliment the alpaca fibre beautifully.

Tracy Birch demonstrating the beauty of alpaca fleece at a Purl Alpaca Designs knitting workshop

Fibre is measured in microns, one micron is 1,000th of a millimetre – microscopic in fact.  We don’t use fibre if it is over 25 microns and this is why our yarn has such softness.  This week I’ve been working on the raw materials to make our next batch of Copper yarn.

The beauty of an alpaca fleece is in how fine yet dense the fibre is

Lautumne (in the picture below), Havana, Dusty and Iago’s fleece (in the picture above) goes into this colour and Lucky’s fleece I’ve held back because it is so good, I want to show it.  I’ve increased the yield by adding fibre from the herds of Dawn French and Julie Frankland.

Beautiful Lautumne, one of the alpacas from Tracy's herd going into making yarn for Purl Alpaca Designs

Once at the mill, our yarn will be spun into our Fine and Medium yarn.  It’s a long process and takes many weeks to complete.  We’re hoping that this latest batch of Copper will be ready for Alexandra Palace in October, but it is a tight schedule.

Stunning yarn from Purl Alpaca Designs in the shade Copper

For the first time ever the fleece yield from my own alpacas was big enough to warrant making a batch of yarn using their fleece only! The yarn will be champagne coloured and as the fleeces from my animals are so soft (must be all the love and hand fed apples!) it is going to be absolutely exquisite yarn. There will be special labels and as you may have worked out limited stock only as we have to wait until next year before we can make more! Are you excited about this? Do you like to know exactly where your fibre comes from? Let me know in the comments section below!

Lots of love from Tracy and the alpacas xxx




Customer Gallery – Allegro Shawl

Thank you so much for the wonderful photos featuring our Allegro Shawl. We have our winner and it is Jeanne Rayment! She has sent us these fabulous photos of her wearing her shawl and this is what she said in her email:

“Here are a few pictures of my allegro shawl. I really love my shawl as it is so versatile, going equally well with jeans or a dress, and an extra layer in the winter.”

Allegro Shawl by Purl Alpaca Designs - knitted and modeled by Jeanne Rayment Allegro Shawl by Purl Alpaca Designs - knitted and modeled by Jeanne Rayment Allegro Shawl by Purl Alpaca Designs - knitted and modeled by Jeanne Rayment

The light in these photos is really good, the pictures have clean backgrounds and the knitwear is clearly the focus. We really think you have done a great job with your photos, Jeanne, and hope we get to see many more photos of you in our knitwear!

Jeanne wins two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show in London in October and a pattern pdf of her choice.

If you would like a chance to win too, make sure to join up to our newsletter for next month competition! You can sign up by entering your email address in the empty box on our home page or by filling in this form on Facebook.

We look forward to next month already!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

What we’re up to – events and workshops August – October 2016

August is here and with it comes the start of the official knitting season. It may not feel like it yet, but the evenings are getting shorter and although we may have some amazing summer days ahead still the autumnal days are drawing closer. Now, we don’t think that is such a bad thing. We love those cosy evenings in front of the fire (or telly) with a cup of hot chocolate (or wine) and most importantly, with the knitting!

Now is also a good time to start preparing! We’re looking forward to autumn walks wearing our new hand knits. Nothing better than warm hands and bodies from chunky knitwear and rosy, cold cheeks from the fresh air.


We’re getting ready for our next photoshoot at the beginning of September and it’s launch and we thought we should let you know where you can find us over the next few months!

1. Knitting workshop – 27th of August

We still have a few spots left on our knitting workshop in August. Held in the cute village hall in Barton, Cambridgeshire, with easy access to the alpacas in the green fields of Burwash Manor, you will get to meet the new additions to the herd this year! Take a look at Claire’s blog post from the workshop she attended if you need further convincing!

Photo by Claire of claireabellemakes.com

2. Knitting Workshop – 10th of September

Pretty much the same set up as the event above, we offer a fabulous day out for any knitter. Kari-Helene does all the cooking for the workshops and provides a gorgeous lunch with desert as well as sweet treats, teas and coffees throughout the day. We cater for any food allergies too. Check out the blog for some of her most popular recipes!

NOTHS teaching knitting

3. Yarndale, Skipton – 25-26th of September

The Yorkshire Dales are absolutely stunning this time of year and we are so looking forward to returning to Skiptong and Yarndale. This time we have even rented a cosy cottage in a nearby village so expect lots of cute instagram snaps!


4. The Knitting and Stitching Show, London – 5-9th of October

We will be very excited to launch our new collection at the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. Kari-Helene has been hard at work for months knitting the prototypes and our knitters have been busy test knitting samples. Come try them on and chose your colour yarn from our lovely, all British sourced and produced alpaca!


5. Knitting workshop – 29th of October

Now this one has been extremely popular and we have only 2 spots left on our October Workshops. Don’t hesitate to place your deposit by booking online!

NOTHS - group learning knitting

We are very much looking forward to seeing you at one of these events!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx











Design Focus – Allegro Shawl

Although looking through my window today you could easily think it was mid November, we have had some amazing summer days and I expect we will have more to come so I thought we should take a quick look at one of our most popular summer knits; Allegro Shawl.

Allegro laceknit shawl purl alpaca designs

This design came about one day when I was working in a very cold furniture shop wearing a pashmina shawl over my shoulders. It kept falling off every time I was trying to demonstrate something to a customer and to keep it in place I wrapped a belt around it. I looked in the mirror and thought, now wouldn’t it be nice if the shawl was attached to the belt and it stayed where I wanted it to? The idea of Allegro was born.

Allegro knitted lace shawl purl alpaca

The Allegro Shawl is just that, a shawl with a waistband attached. It wraps around your shoulders to keep you nice and warm, stays in place with an elastic, ribbed waistband and is still open and airy, perfect for those warm summer evenings. It’s great over a nice dress, perfect with jeans and a T-shirt and if you love it so much you’d rather not put it away for winter, it’s also amazing over a jumper or shirt. If you are wearing Allegro under a coat, bring the shawl section up around your neck and it’s an instant scarf! Talk about versatile!

Beautiful alpaca yarn from Purl Alpaca Designs

Allegro is knitted using our Medium yarn which is a worsted weight and is worked on 4 mm needles for the waistband and 7 mm needles for the shawl section. Once you are done with the rib part, it is amazing how quickly the rest of it grows! In addition to being worked on big needles the shawl is knitted using a double loop technique creating stitches that are twice as long as normal, hence creating the lacey and open look. On the shawl I have intentionally called what would traditionally be seen as the wrong side of the knitting the right side. This is because the purl ridges created makes a nice stripe pattern and provides texture and interest to an otherwise simple knit. If you would prefer to knit Allegro using a different yarn you can purchase the pattern on its own on Ravelry or on our website. On Ravelry you can also see what yarn substitutions other people have made when knitting Allegro.

Allegro stitch close up

The shawl section has an edge stitch that is more or less a reverse stitch of the central stitches. This is to slightly counter act the rolled up edge the stitch pattern naturally creates. This edge is not crucial to the construction of the knit, and if you find it troublesome there is nothing stopping you from working the whole section just using the elongated stitch method.

Once you have completed the knitting the next step is to sew it together. Although the design only has one seam, getting this seam in the right place can prove a bit of a mind game. There is a diagram on the pattern showing the flat structure of the garment, but my recommendation is to wear it! Put the waistband on, wrap the shawl around your shoulders and using safety pins, pin the shawl section back onto the waistband in the correct position. This way, when you take it back off, it is easy to see where you should be sewing it up!

Allegro is a really quick knit! Sophie attended a knitting workshop on Saturday and rocked up to the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia 5 days later wearing it!


If you have knitted Allegro, we would love to see your end result, and if you send us a picture before Sunday 7th of August 2016 you will be in with a chance of being featured on next weeks customer gallery and also winning a free pdf pattern and two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace! Last month Rosemarie sent us this lovely photo of her daughter Rachel wearing the Balboa Waistcoat and Rosemarie chose the Allegro Shawl as her prize! We would like to see the person wearing the shawl in the picture, and do consider things such as background and lighting for the best possible photo. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Happy knitting,

Kari-Helene xxx

Baby alpacas are the cutest things

I usually wait until a baby alpaca is born before thinking of a new name.  This year is M, so we’ve already introduced Malachi and Masika, the two boys, and we have been brain storming to think of lovely options for the new arrivals. I have now been lucky enough to have 4 girls and the herd is steadily growing!

Babies 2016 square

Inca was first to give birth a few hours after shearing and her cria was three weeks early.  She was very small and I had to give her a little top up milk so that she was strong enough to feed off her mum. Although very frail at the beginning, she is now fit and strong and she has the most beautiful fleece.  I’ve decided to call her Mayan after the ancient South American civilisation.


Duchess gave birth the following day to Mitzie.  Whereas Mayan was very small (about the size of a man’s shoe), Mitzie is the biggest cria I’ve ever seen!  She is the same size as Masika at a month old and slightly bigger than Malachi at 6 weeks.  Her size did cause complications for Duchess who is now a pet and our official mascot.

baby alpaca 2016

Adie was next to give birth and her little girl I’ve decided to call Miko (Japanese for beautiful child).  Miko is also white and has the softest downy fleece. Alpacas have such a strong sense of community with other females becoming aunties to the newborns, and what is really lovely is how Inca (Adie’s first cria) and Adie will share the baby sitting duties for their offspring.

Adie and Miko square

The latest baby was born to Hope and she is a lovely biscuit colour.  I’ve decided to call her Mdina as she’s a similar colour to the sun drenched, ancient city on Malta (and I think it’s a lovely word).  I was becoming concerned as Hope had been pregnant for over a year and after the problems with Duchess didn’t want another emergency needing a vet.  I needn’t have worried though, Mdina was born without problems and is already leading a merry dance with the others around the paddock. The photo below was taken by one of our workshop participant, Vivian, and we love it! It’s of Mdina and Lily, one of last year’s babies.

Mdina and Lily 2016

It seems to be a rule of thumb that if white, the cria is fathered by Bolly and if brown, fathered by George. Just need to find the right boy for Havana and Isis as they are George’s sisters and I want to breed more fawn, brown and eventually black.

Well, more babies are due over the next two months, so until then, adieu from the field…

Tracy and the alpacas xxx

Customer Gallery – Balboa Waistcoat

We asked you to send us your pictures of your finished Balboa Waistcoats and we have selected this fabulous photo of Rachel Ardise wearing the Balboa Waistcoat her mother Rosemarie knitted for her after they saw the knitted sample at the Vogue Live show in New York. We love the photo and the colour they have chosen. If you’re not using our natural shades, navy is always a good choice (Kari-Helene approves).

Rachel Ardise Wearing Balboa

Thanks for sending us the photo, Rosemarie!

You all know we love receiving pictures of you wearing your finished knitwear, but we also love reading about your experience making them!

We have dug through some of the brilliant blog posts and have found these two gems on their versions of the Balboa Waistcoat. Remember our Design Focus blog post last week?

Kristin of the K-Line blog knitted Balboa in a Lopi yarn and it really has worked so well! We love Kristin’s enthusiasm on the project and although we won’t repeat all the words on this well behaved blog, it’s safe to say she loves her finished garment!

Check out her lovely blog and photos here!

Next up is Georgina with her blog post on another black Balboa Waistcoat. Like she says, if you’re thinking of buying a knitted waistcoat – don’t! You can knit one too!

Check out her blog by clicking here.

We also get lots of lovely photos from you and of you turning up to events and shows wearing your knitwear and here are a selection of Balboas!

Christine in Balboa

Christine looking fabulous in her version made from our yarn in the colour Alpaca Light (ivory).

Customer gallery - Linda in Balboa

Linda loves her Balboa in our yarn in the colour Alpaca Night (natural black).

Balboa - Fiona at Unravel 2014

Fiona looks great in her version of Balboa knitted in our yarn in the colour Alpaca Dawn (light fawn).

Do you feel inspired to knit your own Balboa? You can get the complete knitting kit on the website by clicking here!

Do keep sending us your pictures, we love seeing them and maybe next time it will be you featured on the blog!

Happy knitting!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Yarn news – brand new batch of Alpaca Rain has arrived!

After being out of stock for a long time we are super happy to have a brand new batch of one of our favourite colours back in stock! The colour is called Alpaca Rain (Taupe) and is best known for being the original colour of the Icon Dress.


The colour got its name because it reminds us of the colour stones get after heavy rain. It picks up on tones of grey and brown and is a unique blend to us.


We mix fibres of different animals much like you would mix paint to get the right shades, and this time we think we have got it just right! We have been working closely with our mill, The Natural Fibre Company, to make sure we get our yarn the absolute best it can be and we are very happy with the outcome of this batch. We are testing a new spinning method where the fibres are washed after spinning instead of before and we think this method really works a treat! You can read more about our Field to Fashion approach on our website!

square Close up Fine taupe yarn

As this batch is the last of last year’s fleece it was a small batch we have only got a limited amount of each thickness. You can place an order for yarn on our website or should your prefer to see it for yourself first we have spaces on our August workshop or you can come see us at Yarndale! The first group that will get to see us is the lucky group of 10 attending the sold out workshop on the 16th of July. All our kits are now also available to order in the colour Alpaca Rain again!

Square Taupe yarn and knitting

We’re sure you will love both the colour and the feel of this yarn as much as we do! What do you plan to knit with it? We feel all inspired by our Design Focus post earlier this week and might try a Balboa Waistcoat…

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx


Design Focus – Balboa Waistcoat

What do you do when you have 4 days until your annual photo shoot, no styling ready and a developing tennis elbow from knitting too much? You start work on a new design, of course! This is exactly what I did in 2010 when finishing the Woodlands Collection. I had been working with short rows, and the idea of a completely circular waistcoat fell into my head one sunny day. 3 days later, the finished piece was ready to be photographed! The Balboa Waistcoat has become one of our most popular designs, knitted and loved by beginners and experienced knitters alike.

The Balboa Waistcoat Knitting Kit by Purl Alpaca Designs

The waistcoat is named after a stud male called Balboa and is a garment to be worn with pride. It gives a lovely warmth across the shoulders and neck area and is easy to put on over almost anything! The narrow back give freedom of movement whilst the curved front creates a feminine and flattering silhouette. The waistcoat is knitted using 7 mm needles and Purl Alpaca Designs Medium yarn and knits up very fast. Our Medium yarn is a Worsted weight which lies between DK and Aran on the yarn scale.

SMALL yarn grey MEdium

Although the Balboa Waistcoat is a circular garment it can actually be knitted on straight needles. The garment is knitted back and forth using the short row technique to create the circular shape. The pattern repeat is worked over 4 rows only, and on the 3rd row of your 4 row repeat you turn your work halfway through the row and work back again! This means that on one side of you knitting you are working twice as many rows and one edge will be twice as long as the other hence creating the circular shape!

The Balboa Waistcoat Knitting Kit by Purl Alpaca Designs

The textured border is created using Blackberry Stitch. This stitch is an old favourite and is known by many different names such as Trinity Stitch, Cluster Stitch and Raspberry Stitch. It is created by increasing by working three times into the same stitch and decreasing by working three stitches into one stitch at selected points in your knitting to create a small bobble.

The Balboa Waistcoat Knitting Kit by Purl Alpaca Designs

When you have finished knitting both your circular piece and your rectangular piece for the back you have to join the two together. By inserting the rectangle into the middle of the circle you instantly create to openings for your arms. The size of these openings relate directly to how you sew in your square. I usually start by attaching the rectangle to the circular shape using safety pins. This way I can join them up and try the garment on for size without wasting time sewing it up incorrectly. I join up the centre of the rectangle with the join in the circular piece, then find the centre point on the opposite side of the circle and join that to the opposite side of the rectangle. It is important that the direction of knit in your rectangle goes across the body hence creating an elastic back panel and making the rows match up nicely from one side of the circular piece, across the back panel and onto the other side of the circle.

The Balboa Waistcoat Knitting Kit by Purl Alpaca Designs

Once you have joined your three seams and fastened your yarn ends, you are done and Balboa is ready to wear! It doesn’t get much quicker than that! You can purchase the Balboa Waistcoat Knitting Kit complete with pattern in all sizes from X-Small to X-Large and all the luxurious alpaca yarn you will need or you can opt for the pattern only and choose a different yarn creating your own unique look. Check out our Ravelry pages to see what other people have knitted Balboa in.

Have you tried knitting the Balboa Waistcoat? Send us your photos of you wearing the finished garment and you might be chosen to feature in next week’s customer gallery post!

Happy knitting!

Kari-Helene xxx

Alpacas getting their annual haircut

You may have noticed that some of our alpacas have been looking rather fluffy lately? Here is Louisianna looking like a cute and cuddly teddy bear!


The weather was getting warmer and it was time for the annual hair cut. Our regular shearer, Mike, came with his crew to the fields one Sunday morning and we got to work.

shearing 2016 1

He’s got such a gentle way with the alpacas and causes minimal stress for them. The shearing is very fast and the alpacas are back on their feet, a few kilos lighter, within minutes!

Shearing 2016 3

We have had some absolutely stunning fleeces this year. Most of the fleece is still white, although we have a few light fawn and brown fleeces too.

Shearing 2016 4

The outside of the alpacas fleece gets a little bleached by the sun and it is only when you shear that you see the true colour of the fleece. This is Dusty’s fleece and it is a gorgeous copper shade, whereas her two sons (Iago and Malachi) are totally different colours.

Shearing 2016 5

Here is Iago after shearing with his little brother, Malachi. A few kilos lighter and much happier in the warm sunshine!

This year we are planning a very special project with the fleeces from my animals. Stay tuned!

Tracy and the alpacas xxx

Foraging in June – preparations for a workshop

I love making the most of what grows around me and being able to share it with you at our popular knitting workshops. June means there are flowers everywhere, and some of these are great for cordial making. Last week I went out hunting for elderflowers and luckily these are very easy to find. They grow happily in hedgerows near parks and football pitches and I did not have to go far to find what I needed.

Elderflower bush


Elderflowers in basket

I picked around 50 of the lovely white flowerheads, enough to make approximately 4 liters of cordial. I roughly followed the recipe from the River Cottage website. They have some great advice for foragers and people wanting to make the most of the produce around them.

Elderflowers in pot

I started by cutting of most of the stems and checking them for bugs. I then placed the flowers in two large pots as I was making double portion and haven’t got one big enough to accommodate everything in one go. I grated the zest of my lemons, put it in with the flowers and poured boiling water over. It is then recommended to leave the flowers covered overnight to extract the most flavour.

Elderflower cordial

The next day add the lemon juice and strain the liquid through a cloth to remove impurities. Add sugar and bring it to a boil. Boil for a few minutes before pouring into sterilised bottles. And voila! You have successfully bottled summer!

Elderflowers blue wall

I will be serving this cordial at our July workshop which is now sold out and also at the following workshops (disclaimer: only available as long as stock lasts). You can book onto a workshop by clicking here.

Let me know if you try making cordial too and how you get on with it!

Kari-Helene xxx

Introducing Masika – baby alpaca number 2 of 2016!

Born on on the stormy and wet morning of Wednesday the 8th of June, this little bundle of white alpaca fluff was born. He is the second cria of the year and is the son of Fantasia. His big sister is Louisianna and she is sniffing his head in the picture trying to work out who this little creature is! I’m sure they will be having loads of fun running round the fields together very soon!

I wasn’t quite sure what to name the little one, and after Kari-Helene posted his photo on Facebook, the suggestions kept coming in! There were so many wonderful names to choose from, and in the end I opted for Masika. It’s an Egyptian name meaning “born during rain” and it is very suited to this little fella!

Masika with Fantasia and Louisianna - Purl Alpaca Designs

This weekend is the annual shearing and seeing as we also have the Cambridge Town and Country Show we shall be very busy! We’ll be back with pictures of skinny alpacas next week!

Lots of love from Tracy and the alpacas xxx