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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.

Mayan

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.

http://www.purlalpacadesigns.com/product/icon-dress-knitting-kit/

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.

download-1

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!

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