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Hand made knitwear from our Customers

I’m always so pleased to see our customers modelling their knitwear and the lovely comments they have about my scrumptious yarn!  So here are the latest endeavours from people who have emailed images:

Nora from Bergen in Norway sent this beautiful photo from her wedding day in the Faroe Islands. She made the Maddie Dress herself in our Champagne yarn and it looks absolutely stunning!

Nora in Maddie

 

Laura (aka Purl About Town in The Knitter Magazine) brought her mother to one of our workshops and, as she has recently had her long hair cut off, finds she gets cold ears.  Also, being short of time, it seemed only sensible to make a headband and Laura chose Lucky in the colour Storm.  Laura not only started this project on the day, she finished it too and was very happy to wear Lucky home!

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Amy too came to one of our workshops and although she didn’t finish Cyrene on the day, she did finish it within a week (as well as working full time).  I think this could be a record…  Glad she’s finished it in time for the change of weather, Amy is enjoying the many positive comments she is receiving and well deserved they are too.

 

Amy Cyrene

 

Doris bought the Venus coat kit at Olympia (2015); then, because she lost a lot of weight, decided to wait and make it this year. Not only is she very pleased with the outcome, she’s loving her new look and has extra yarn to play with because she could make a smaller size.

 

Doris in Venus cropped

 

Jill LOVES making the Louisianna Jacket having made enough to wear a different one everyday for a fortnight!  She also loves making things for charity and recently embarked on the Cate Egg Cosies.  Hers look much happier than mine, maybe it’s because they’re in a herd?

Jill Owens Egg Cosies

 

All these designs and many more are waiting for you to buy them, make them and wear them – all you have to do start!

 

Poorly alpacas

Helene walked through a black thorn bush and her daughter, Monroe, followed her. They both ended up with thorns in their feet (which are just pads). The vet has been and had to use forceps to get the darn things out. Now their wounds are dressed and they’re much more comfortable. Just means that I’m the nurse for the rest of the week, changing the dressings and making sure there isn’t an infection.  Today their sporting green, tomorrow I may try the pink!

Just after this happened, Havana tore part of her ear off – more gore – oh the joys of alpaca ownership!

Helene Monroe in bandages cropped

 

New knitting workshop dates

Our new knitting workshop dates for 2017 are:

30th September 2017

21st October 2017

18th November 2017

9th December 2017

We’ve found that having a maximum of 6 people per workshop works best for the space and facilities so as well as a warm welcome, our new format workshops are more intimate and give you plenty of time and space for learning a new technique, relaxing in the countryside and enjoying a knit and natter day with new friends.

BOOK NOW as spaces are so limited!

Aitzie_knitting-workshop

 

Being so close to the alpacas really brings the field to fashion concept to life

Being so close to the alpacas really brings the field to fashion concept to life

 

New Shop Opening on Tuesday 22nd August 2017

I like the idea of our business name being made of balls of our yarn showing off the natural colours

I like the idea of our business name being made of balls of our yarn showing off the natural colours

Monroe just happened to glance at me whilst I stood back to admire my display - perfect timing and she looks like she's giving her approval!

Monroe just happened to glance at me whilst I stood back to admire my display – perfect timing and she looks like she’s giving her approval!

Being so close to the alpacas really brings the field to fashion concept to life

Being so close to the alpacas really brings the field to fashion concept to life

End of line yarn protected with lavender and Dusty is just peeking through the window.

End of line yarn protected with lavender and Dusty is just peeking through the window.

Really proud of how I laid this floor, luckily the table covers the dodgy bits!

Really proud of how I laid this floor, luckily the table covers the dodgy bits!

Not the best photo in the world, but a great way to display bits of left over yarn!

Not the best photo in the world, but a great way to display bits of left over yarn and our Christmas decorations!

I have actually unpacked the yarn now!

I have actually unpacked the yarn now!

Like I say, I really like the new Purl Alpaca Designs look.

Like I say, I really like the new Purl Alpaca Designs look.

Workshop Dates Published

Hurray, I can at last publish our workshop dates because the shop will be finished!  I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be writing this!

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All our future workshops will take place at the alpaca farm in our own bespoke space.  As we now have premises, the price of the workshops will come down to £50.00 for the day and you can buy whichever kit you would like to make at a 10% discount.  So whether you want to make a small headband or a large coat you can, if you want to bring a Purl Alpaca Design you’ve already bought but want help with, you can do that too.  How about sewing up?  Would you like individual tuition to do that?  All these possibilities…

The first set of dates are all Saturdays and are:

June       24th

July        8th & 22nd

Aug        5th & 19th

To book a place, please click here and I look forward to seeing you soon.

As before, the day will include:

Trying on samples and making sure you’re happy with how they look before you make your own

A fresh, delicious, homemade lunch created from locally sourced ingredients (we do cater for special diets)

Constant refreshments

Individual tuition with a knitting guru and Tracy

Meeting the alpacas and feeding them an apple (if you want to)

All levels of ability catered for

A maximum of 10 places per workshop

Any of our fabulous designs at a 10% discount

Tracy and the alpacas look forward to seeing you soon.

xx

 

The Tension Square

Too Small

 

When running the knitting workshops, we often encounter groans when asked to do a tension square. The lovely 93 year old Flo Boswell shared this delightful poem with us which I now share with you and calmly I rest my case!

I had a sudden brainwave on how to earn a packet,
I sat down with pen & paper and designed a lovely jacket.
I started with a tension square, the first seemed short and fat,
My second one was long and thin, so I’d had enough of that!

I decided not to bother with a tension square at all,
I carried on regardless, throwing caution to the wall.
Now my creation’s finished, but I don’t know what to do…
Because I’m looking for a customer five stone & eight foot two.

So let this be a warning, have patience and take care
When you’re in the creative mood, remember the tension square!

Too Big

 

Thanks to the LoveKnitting Blog for these images.

Our new workshop dates will be published as soon as our new shop is finished.  Things are progressing well and I’m buying the flooring today!

Knitting and Mental Health

This is Mental Awareness Week; a time when focus is turned on the well being of us ordinary folk!

knitting.jpg2

I’ve often heard it bandied about that knitting is good for mental health and so started researching what actual studies have been conducted to not only assert such a thing, but to prove it too.  Well there are many and various across the globe.  From an online survey of 3,500 frequent knitters, The British Journal of Occupational Therapy showed the more people knitted the more calmer and happier they felt. I looked at The University of British Columbia and The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, but found this comprehensive survey from the Craft Yarn Council in the US a reason to feel good about being a member of such a global community.

 

knitting 4

The primary reasons why knitting is good for you are:

1.  Controls mental anguish such as anxiety, fear, depression

How?  The craft’s two-handed, repetitive movements paired with its tactile, visual and emotional stimulation are among the aspects that make it especially effective. Knitting also offers a rare sense of control, in part because knitters can easily undo any mistakes and use that same yarn to try again.  The sense of accomplishment achieved after hand-crafting something special has also been shown to reward pleasure pathways in the brain.  The fact that it’s mobile and social is just a bonus!

knitting 3

2.  Controls physical pain

The Pain Clinic at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, runs a weekly knitting group and has done so since 2006.  Dr Mike Osborn, the clinical psychologist is quoted as saying “Knitting can help patients where nothing else does.  The gentle meditative repetitive action is ultimately soothing for patients whose bodies are often grossly distorted by pain.”

knitting 7

3.  Helps us age gracefully!

By preventing the onset of dementia and Alzheimers and who doesn’t need help with that!  (Apparently it’s the maths).

knitting 5

So why does the press often report knitting stories in a derogatory fashion?  I’ve read the website: stitchlinks.com which is owned and run by Betsan Corkhill, a former physiotherapist who has pioneered therapeutic knitting for the NHS.  She has often run up against prejudice and preconceptions when talking about knitting for therapy and she has changed her language.  She calls it “a bilateral, rhythmic, psychosocial intervention which has the power to transform people’s lives.”

knitting 6

Classic!

(Some of these images are found on pinterest and I’ve tried to credit them all, but if I’ve missed someone, please come back to me – Tracy).

 

 

 

 

Our new shop… coming soon!

With such dramatic changes happening to Purl Alpaca Designs, I thought I would change direction too and so I’m opening a shop for all our lovely products at the alpaca farm in Bourn, Cambridgeshire.

Once upon a time, there was a barn

Front of Barn

Front of Barn

which was so full of ‘stuff’ you couldn’t get into it.  This was emptied and

Nearly cleared...

Nearly cleared…

we noticed that the floor had three different levels.  This has been rectified ready for the next stage.

Looking good guys

Looking good guys

The stud work, insulation and electrics

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rural Location? Of course I need insulation!

Followed by the plasterboard

Starting to take shape

Starting to take shape

Whilst keeping the lovely beams and ceiling height.

Vaulted ceiling and electrics

Vaulted ceiling and electrics

The old window was closed off and two large windows made and put in.

Boxed office area and windowns

Boxed office area and windowns

These overlook where the alpacas are fed

Imagine knitting and watching the alpacas...

Imagine knitting and watching the alpacas…

What I hadn’t thought of was the alpacas’ reactions to seeing their reflections for the first time.

You lookin' at me?

You lookin’ at me?

They were very funny

Do I know you?

Do I know you?

Have a look here for videos of alpaca reflections and reactions,

More updates to follow next week.

Love from Tracy and the alpacas xx

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Time for new adventures – Kari-Helene bows out

It is with mixed emotions I have decided it is time for a change in my life. It seems like life is throwing changes at me left right and centre at the moment anyways, so why not go with the flow?
I have decided it is time for a career move and from the end of April, I will be leaving Purl Alpaca Designs in Tracy’s capable hands and setting of on my very own adventure.

The adventure will start with a new life. For the last 7 months I have been carrying a child and I am looking forward to spending a few weeks preparing for baby’s arrival and then some time getting to know them. We don’t know if we are having a boy or a girl yet, we’ll find out when baby arrives in mid June. When I emerge from the haze of baby madness I will go back to designing. This time in a freelance capacity. I am looking forward to new challenges but will surely miss the amazing community we have built over the nearly 10 years of Purl! Don’t be a stranger, do say hi!

Lots of love from Kari-Helene, bump and Frank xxx

Kari-Helene knitting and Frank

 

Celebrities and knitting – early careers

The other day we stumbled across some amazing photos of none other than James Bond himself modelling knitwear! That is, one of the Bond’s at least; Roger Moore!

Doesn’t he just look so handsome?

Roger+Moore

The stunning garment in the picture appears to be a vintage Sirdar pattern and the colour is just perfect for Easter!

There are a few other celebrities that started their careers as knitwear models too, such as Kate Moss and Eddie Redmayne for Rowan.

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Here she is, the famous Kate, wearing fabulous knitwear in Rowan Magazine. Then there is Eddie. A young and fresh faced mr Redmayne modelling fab jumpers in yet another issue of Rowan magazine. They might just have a knack for spotting the talent early?

Eddie-Red2

But – hands down our favourite find whilst searching the internet for celebs in knitwear has got to be this post from Messy Nessy with images from a book featuring British actors modelling knitwear. This is something rather spectacular folks! You can thank us for the laughs later….

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Food from our knitting workshops

After Saturday’s successful knitting workshop we had a few questions for recipes for our food. I do adapt things to suit the seasons and my taste a little, but a lot of what I make have their starting point in brilliant recipes I find online. I would love to share a few of them with you!

An excellent basic recipe for a tasty tart can be found here. It’s an onion and cheese recipe and I have adjusted this to have mushrooms, roasted tomatoes and basil or leeks as its main ingredient and they have all been very tasty! I make my own pastry and this basic recipe has proven brilliant. Make sure not to over work the pastry and to chill it sufficiently between each stage.

Small Purl Alpaca Designs - food served at workshop

Another staple at our lunch table is the quinoa salad. Here is a great version for spring if you are trying to stay seasonal. I might also add some asparagus. As all the food we provide is vegetarian I leave the bacon out, but otherwise this is a great spring salad. For autumn I have tried this one, and it is super tasty! It reminds me in many ways of Waldorf Salad, only a much more healthy version!

For my green leaf salads I don’t usually use recipes, but I try and stick to Yottam Ottolenghi’s “3 ingredient” rule. A favourite combination is beetroot, orange and feta, another is roast butternut squash, sunflower seeds and celery. A staple for my green leaf salads is a good home made dressing and every year I forage for elderberries to make a delicious vinegar. This lovely liquid makes any salad sing and here is the recipe.

I also love Yottam’s tomato and pommegranat salad. Not only does it look amazing it tastes fantastic too! And like on of our workshop attendees pointed out, it’s like eating a rainbow!

Ottolenghi's tomato and pommegranat salad

I always make my own bread to go with lunch and the best recipe I have found is this one from the Fabulous Baker Brothers. Always make sure to put some good time and effort into the kneading, it will pay off in a lovely and elastic dough to work with. At least ten minutes at the first kneading stage! I sometimes add some wholemeal flour and seeds to my loaves to make them a bit healthier and more interesting, but that is up to you!

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Now, there would be no workshop without a few sweet treats! I love my American style, chewy cookies and this recipe never fails. Again, it is very important to chill your dough before baking them. Sometimes I even make the dough the day before and leave it in the fridge overnight to chill.

For desert this amazing cake by Nigela Lawson has become a firm favourite. It never fails, is always lovely and moist and can be made both gluten and dairy free. This is incredibly handy when cooking for large groups where you can have multiple food allergies. I usually add some berries and cream of some combinations to the cake. I have used sloe gin, red wine and blackberries to make a boozy sauce and I have mixed fluffy whipped cream with blackberry jam to serve on the side. At the last workshop I made mini meringue kisses and added raspberries for freshness. Delicious and pretty!

IMG_20160723_142007

To finish off with I will give you my own recipe for flapjacks. I like my flapjacks with a bit of texture and add seeds and nuts. I also like them quite dark to allow the beautiful caramel flavours of butter and sugar to develop. I’ve realised I have not taken a proper photo of my flapjacks yet! i will make more and rectify asap!

There are so many versions of flapjacks, but here is how I make mine. Enjoy!

Flapjacks
300 g oats
35 g decicated coconut
35 g flaked almonds
15 g flaxseed
60 g dried cranberries or other dried fruit

180g butter
180 g golden syrup
180 g soft brown sugar

Melt butter then mix in sugar and syrup until sugar is dissolved and everything combined.

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl then pour melted ingredients over and combine. Spread evenly into a lined baking tin of approximately 20×30 cm.

Bake for 40 min  on 160 C/Fan oven 140.

Cool for 15 min. Turn over on a chopping board and cut into squares. Leave to cool completely.

 

Design Focus – Esme Jumper knitting pattern and kit

When we went to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show earlier this month one of your absolute favourite designs was our Esme Jumper. And no wonder, it is such a versatile pattern with options for a sleeveless version ideal for warmer weather. So, for this months Design Focus blog post I will take you through the design in further detail!

Esme Jumper

Cable knitting can often seem daunting, but honestly, once you have sorted out which finger holds which needle whilst knitting which stitch, it really isn’t that hard! The concept lies in stitches swapping places. See, plain and simple! You move some stitches onto a spare needle, work the following stitches before working the stitches from the spare needle. Simples.  Take a look at this informative video if you would like further advice on cable knitting.

The Esme Jumper have only one type of cable, a plait. To create the plait you will be using two types of cabling techniques, a right and a left slanting cable. In the pattern these are described as follows:

3/3 LC – Slip 3 sts to cable needle and hold at front of work. Knit next 3 sts, knit 3 sts from cable needle.
3/3 RC – Slip 3 sts to cable needle and hold at back of work. Knit next 3 sts, knit 3 sts from cable needle.

These two techniques, when worked alternately, will create a beautiful plait! If you would like to practice this technique on a smaller piece of knitting, our Diana Headband is the ideal starting point. Learning a new technique by making something small is a great confidence builder, and ripping out to fix mistakes gives you less of a heart ache when the row has 20 sts and not 200!

diana headband cable knitting

The Esme Jumper has a picot edge along the hem and this is maybe the trickiest part of the design. The hem is created by working a row of eyelet holes and then later on picking up your cast on edge to create a fold along the eyelet row. If you are finding the picking up of stitches tricky, the hem can be sewn up after the garment is finished.

The design has a beautiful peplum detail which is very flattering and the stitch pattern naturally progresses into the cable section of the body. The neckline is square, a very flattering shape for a lot of women, and the sleeves are nicely fitted. The sleeves have a cable running up them and the back has the same peplum and cables as the front. To me, the back of a garment is as important as the front, and often you will find little extra details at the back of my designs.

Esme Jumper Back

The pattern comes with instructions for both the jumper and a sleeveless top version. It also has details for the princess collar shown in the images of the brown jumper as well as a plain rib edging.  All the various options makes this a great pattern for creating your perfect garment! If you would like the kit for the sleevless top you can find it here!

Esme Sleeveless jumper

The jumper is knitted in our Fine yarn and uses mainly 4 mm needles. It never gets boring to knit though, as there are so much going on all the time with cables, shaping and design details. The body of the jumper is knitted flat so you can use straight or circular needles whilst we recommend circular needles for the neckline.

There are so many stunning finished garments over on Ravelry, take a look for yourself! One of our favourite versions is Susan Crowe’s jumper in ivory. She has done a great job of knitting it and it really suits her! Take a look at her blog for her review of the pattern and of the finished garment.

Susan in Esme

We hope you feel inspired to cast on your own Esme! If you do, the pattern can be found here, the knitting kit can be ordered here or you can head over to Ravelry and add it to your queue.

Happy knitting!

Kari-Helene xxx

 

 

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