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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!

fluffyalpacacollage

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

Customer Gallery – Maddie Children’s Dress

If you were reading our blog last week, you’d have seen one of our best selling patterns; Maddie Dress. You may know we do adult knitting patterns, but did you know we also have children’s versions of some of our favourite designs?

Maddie kids dress front

One of the absolute stars of our children’s collection is the Maddie Dress available both as a knitting pattern and as a complete knitting kit. It has been featured on Love Knitting’s Facebook site, pictured in several magazines and doing really well on Ravelry. We love seeing your versions of our designs and the children’s wear is no exception.

Here are some of our favourite customer projects of our Maddie Children’s Dress.

Gina has knitted the dress in the original grey colour but using a different yarn. It looks lovely, and we really like Gina’s photos! Check out her Ravelry project page here.

Gina - Maddie Children's Dress

Hilary has knitted the Maddie Dress for a christening using a stunning mix of merino and bamboo. It looks like it drapes beautifully and the lovely blue colour lends itself beautifully to the leaf pattern. It reminds us of blue spring flowers! Check out the cute construction images too!

Hilary - Maddie Children's Dress

Florence has knitted this stunning dress for Valentina’s 3rd birthday. She looks pretty happy wearing it! Florence has knitted the dress using an Italian alpaca yarn and it looks as if it has knitted up beautifully. We’re thinking little sister will want one too! Here is a link to the Ravelry project page.

Florence - Maddie Children's Dress

Zuzu from Canada has made this beautiful version in pink for a cute little girl’s 4th birthday and the birthday girl does a sterling job modelling and cooking at the same time! Excellent multi tasking. Here is a link to Zuzu’s project page.

Zuzu - Maddie Children's Dress

We know that living far away from where you can easily get hold of our yarn can make it difficult to know what yarn to use. We hope that seeing successful substitutions such as these will make the choices easier. If you would like to try using some of our British alpaca yarn we do ship overseas for a £10 postage fee.

We love seeing your finished projects, do send us your photos of you modelling your finished garment. All photos are featured with permission.

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

Maddie Children's Dress collage

Design Focus – Maddie Dress

Our knitted dresses have become something Purl Alpaca Designs’ is known for. Our Icon dress has been a firm favourite since the launch in 2012. Following the success of the first dress design Kari-Helene started working on a way of using a classic leaf knitting pattern to create the full skirt shape of the Maddie Dress, one of 13 designs in the Manor Farm Collection of 2013.

Maddie Dress Fun

Through using various needle sizes Kari-Helene manipulates the pattern into creating a flared skirt without decreasing stitches as the skirt is worked from the bottom up. Casting on using needles that seem far too large for the thickness of yarn helps keep the dress lightweight in spite of the large number of stitches cast on. The dress is knitted using Purl Alpaca Fine yarn and uses needles from 7mm to 3.5mm. We recommend investing in a set of circular needles such as Kari-Helene’s favourites; Addi bamboo. Whilst knitting the skirt you will gradually use smaller and smaller needles before ending up with a firm fabric for the body of the dress.

Maddie Dress Back

The leaf pattern on the skirt is written out in full whilst the patterns on the sleeves and the back of the dress follows a chart. If you are worried about reading charts, fear not. By the time you reach the charts you will have knitted several repeats of the leaf pattern and by this point know the construction well. This makes reading the charts a lot easier! The stitches involved are mainly knits and purls, yarn overs to create the eyelets and a combination of increases and decreases to create the leaf shapes. It is useful to know the difference between left and right slanting decreases.

In the pictures Kari-Helene has styled the dress using a black petticoat from Vivien of Holloway. This helps show off the amazing fullness of the skirt and makes the dress flare out beautifully. It is by no means necessary though, and the dress looks stunning without too.

Maddie Dress

The Maddie Dress is an advanced knit. The fullness of the skirt means you cast on between 400 and 600 stitches. We recommend placing stitch markers to keep track! This is maybe not a project for knitting on the bus or in front of the TV (especially not one of the foreign, subtitled dramas) but it is definitely a project that will keep you on your toes and thoroughly entertained.

We hope to have tickled your interest in the Maddie dress, it really is a fascinating knit and we’re confident you will enjoy making it!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

 

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