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Small Business Saturday came to Cambridge!

As a small business it can sometimes be tough to find your place in the vast sea of chain stores and big brands. This is why it is so important and so wonderful that there are brilliant initiatives such as Small Business Saturday! The program pledges to help independent businesses in the UK to gain publicity through social media and other happenings around the country. It all culminates in Small Business Saturday on the 3rd of December where we all join in the request for more people to shop small and local this Christmas.

Last week the Small Business Saturday bus tour came to Cambridge and Tracy went along with needles and yarn to help teach some knitting. It was a wet and grey day but this didn’t dampen the mood on the bus. Alongside other small Cambridge based businesses we got the chance to chat and share experiences as well as making useful business links and meet the mayor!

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Tracy met the lovely people behind Cambridge based gift shop Podarok, the tempting Cambridge Cake Boutique and the fabulous Dance Matters.

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Picture from @SmallBizSatUK Twitter profile.

With Small Business Saturday coming up on the 3rd of December we hope you will all take the opportunity to support the small business around you; be it the local butchers, the independent pub on the corner, or your favourite small alpaca yarn provider!

Shop small this December!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

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Knitting Event Calendar November & December 2016

Autumn is always a busy time for us with lots of different knitting events, and October flew by with the new collection launch, the Knitting and Stitching Show and a fully booked knitting workshop! We have had so much fun with it all and loved every minute.  Today has definitely felt a bit colder, but we don’t mind, out comes the knitwear and we curl up on the sofa with our choice of hot drinks. Kari-Helene is all about the coffee whilst Tracy can’t be without her favourite cup of tea!

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This image is from the lovely site Unsplash – a free image downloading site!

Coming up over the next two months we have a few very exciting knitting events and we are looking forward to seeing you at one of these!

1. Yarnporium – 5th and 6th of November

This brand new knitting show takes place at King’s College on the Strand in London. We are very excited to be included in a stunning looking line up of vendors.  The venue is small and Alison and Rachel from Yarn in the City have chosen a lovely group of makers and designers to display their goods at the show. You can still get tickets online by clicking here!

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2. Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show – 24th – 27th of November

This is one of our favourite knitting events of the year. It is starting to feel festive with fairy lights in the streets and possibly some snow in the air. The lovely people of Harrogate are coming to do their Christmas shopping at the Knitting and Stitching Show. Get your tickets online here! We will be in the Textile Gallery again which is just in from the main entrance to hall A on stand TG628. We will be bringing our new collection to the stand. Take a look here to preview which one you will be knitting this winter!

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3. Our online advent calendar!

Every day in December we will be sending out an email to our newsletter subscribers. The email will provide you with a small surprise for that specific day. We hope you will take part in our Christmas count down by making sure you are signed up to and receiving our newsletters. You can sign up by entering your email right here in the middle of the home page or via Facebook by clicking here.

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4. Christmas market, Manor Farm – 10th of December

The fabulous Manor Farm in Bourn has become our new workshop venue. We love the look and feel of this place. With their newly opened cafe serving delicious grub and great coffee and their old, charming barn this place is definitely worth a visit. The Christmas market takes place on Saturday the 10th of December and we hope to see you there!

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5. Knitting Workshop – 11th of December

Our last workshop of 2016 takes place on Sunday the 11th of December. Kari-Helene will be bringing some Scandinavian Christmas cookies, and the menu might be a touch more festive than normal. Tracy might even entertain us with some carol singing!? One thing is certain, there will be lots of time for knitting! The alpacas will be looking forward to seeing you too. Book your place by clicking here.

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We are both very excited about everything happening over the next few months and look forward to catching up with you at one of these events! Let us know which one you will be attending!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

 

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Foraging in September – Elderberry vinegar for salads!

I know it is not September anymore, and I miss the warming sunshine already, although wrapping up in warm knitwear, cosy cups of tea and coffee and knitting on the sofa wrapped up in blankets has its charm too! I have been rather busy in September and October with the launch of our Terrarium Collection and the annual Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace, but I did manage to squeeze in a tiny bit of foraging too. The time when the hedgerows are abundant with berries is so precious and I aim to make the most of it every year, but sometimes have to admit defeat.

One of the staples I serve at our popular knitting workshops is a tomato and pomegranate salad drenched in a home made elderberry vinegar, and since I ran out of this luscious liquid at the workshop we held in August I needed to make more! The elderberry season has been rather rubbish in my neck of the woods this year and I rummaged high and low in all my usual spots with not much luck. I suspect some eager hedgerow trimming by the council is to blame…

Hedgerow foraging for blackberries and elderberries

I did manage to find some though, and with the addition of the late seasons blackberries I got enough to make a batch! I use this recipe I found on Galloway Wild Food blog who in turn quite Miles Irving’s Forager’s Handbook as their source.

The vinegar is easy to make; leave your fruit to steep for a few days, strain and boil the liquid with added sugar and bottle! I use mine as a delicious salad dressing on most types of salads, but it is indeed delicious on Yottam Ottoleghi’s tomato and pomegranate salad!

I’m loving this time of year, I just wish I had more time to do both all the knitting and make the most of the hedgerows! I’ve made a nice Pin-able image for you below so you can make sure you remember the elderberries come next September!

Enjoy autumn, I sure do!

Kari-Helene xxx

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Office is closed! 4th – 10th of October

Just thought we would let you know that the office is closed until Tuesday 11th October as we are at The Knitting & Stitching Show, Alexandra Palace for the rest of this week. All orders placed this week will be packed and shipped once we are back next week (after maybe having a day off). Thank you for understanding!

Hope to see you there, if not, maybe we can catch up at Harrogate next month?

Lots of love, Kari-Helene, Tracy and the alpacas

Introducing The Terrarium Collection – a capsule knitwear collection

Yes it’s that time of year again when we introduce you to our new collection.

With the Terrarium collection our in house designer, Kari-Helene Rane is moving in a new and fresh direction. We know that a hand knitting a garment is a labour of love and believe it deserves a prominent place in the modern capsule wardrobe.
The current trends are moving towards a minimalist approach to fashion with consumers making considered choices both when purchasing finished garments and when they decide what to knit themselves.

Going for a more streamlined look, Kari-Helene has created an imagined capsule wardrobe where the knitted pieces form important garments to combine with jeans, party dresses or office looks. We chose a stunning indoor setting with white fixtures and green plants as the backdrop for The Terrarium Collection in Clapton Tram, a gorgeous East London oasis. Our photographer Tiffany Mumford has as always captured the look perfectly, and the fabulous Tahira did a wonderful job with hair and make up. We hope you love the new look as much as we do!

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Malachi, the gorgeous vest top with fairisle detail, made in our medium yarn and named after our first cria born this year. Malachi is the same beautiful deep brown colour as the waistcoat is knitted in.

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Mayan is next, this beautiful cable knit jumper is made in our fine yarn and named after our smallest alpaca baby born this year.

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We think the Miko Dress is one of the show stoppers for this season.  A stunning cable knit dress with exquisite detail including cabling down the sleeves, side panels, swirly skirt and pockets.  Now Miko, the alpaca is terribly shy, but we think she’ll love her namesake.

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We just love the casual practicality of the Muna Fisherman’s Rib Jumper; it just seems to exude an effortless chic and Muna the alpaca is such a friendly little soul

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Then we have the L’Automne Cowl, our only accessory in this collection, but what a great way to use up all those left over pieces of yarn!  Not only a fun garment to knit, but you’ll wish for a cold windy day so you can wear it.  L’Automne the alpaca was a surprise autumn birth last year, she’s adorable.

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Our penultimate piece is the Masika Skirt, this fabulous skirt utilises the cable designs to such great effect and the bedraggled little fella was born in a thunderstorm.

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Finally, we introduce you to the other show stopper, Mdina Cardigan, originally designed by Kari-Helene as part of her wedding outfit, we just love the shape and sophistication of this stylish box cardigan.  Mdina the alpaca is a honey, in every sense of the word.

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This collection is being launched at The Knitting & Stitching Show next week and will be available for purchase from the 5th of October with all parcels going out the week following Alexandra Palace. We hop eyou have enjoyed this little preview and introduction, more images and details will follow over the next few weeks!

Love from Kari-Helene, Tracy and the alpacas

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The Alpacas Have Moved – new grazing and knitting workshop location

There’s been a big change for the alpacas recently! If you have made the journey to Burwash Manor lately you may have noticed that the fields where the alpacas used to be are now empty. This is because they have moved! We have found new grazing in the lovely and picturesque village of Bourn only a short drive away. The grass is green and long and lush and the fences are wooden and permanent, saving me a lot of work moving the electric fence around!

The moving day started bright and early as we hoped to be finished by 1.00 p.m.  As I was out of action with broken ribs, Kari-Helene, my friend, Jane and her daughter Sophie, completed the set of Fabulous Four.

I called the alpacas into their enclosure with the promise of apples.

Once all were shut in (munching happily), Jane carefully maneuvered  the trailer into position by the gate.  We separated the ten mums and babies to go first and took them to their new home. Then we came back for the rest.  All went really well and although Havana pulled her leg and was limping for a couple of hours, she soon recovered enough to charge around the new fields. The alpacas are all loving the space and the green, green grass.

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There are 26 acres to choose from here and over the past two weeks, a new tack room and feed store has been created next to the alpaca feeding area, all of which is under cover with lights for those darker evenings.

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Because of the change of location, our next workshops are being held in the Malthouse at Manor Farm which is only a short drive from these lovely fields. We had our first workshop there on the 10th of September and it was a huge success. Some of our participants were returning for their second workshop and agreed the new location was really, really lovely!

The picture below was taken by Addy, one of the participants on the day and she has also written this wonderful post on her visit!

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If you would like to come visit us and the alpacas in our new location we still have spaces left on our workshop on Sunday the 11th of December! We’d love to see you there!

Love from Tracy and the alpacas xxx

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Customer Gallery – Duchess Cardigan

Huge thank you to everyone who entered the last customer gallery competition! Our focus this time was on the Duchess Cardigan, a popular and versatile knitting pattern. This design was a part of our Seashore collection in 2009 and has been a best seller every year since! It might help it is one of Kari-Helene’s favourites and she wears it a lot!

So, drum roll please! The winner of this months customer gallery competition is Norma! She knitted the Duchess cardigan for her daughter Sarah and took this atmospheric photo. Congratulations, Norma, you win two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching Show and a pdf of your choice!

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Please keep an eye out for next months competition, we will be running these on a regular basis from now on and hope to get lots of you involved!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

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Foraging in August – Blackberry picking!

Life has been getting a little bit hectic this summer with collection work, ultimate frisbee tournaments, lots of workshops and events as well as deciding to add a new member to my family. My husband and I (we got married in May!) decided it was a good time to get a puppy and Frank the Spanish Water Dog moved in around two weeks ago. He’s a fluffy bundle of joy, but I do not think we were quite prepared for just how much work is involved in entertaining, feeding and looking after a 9 week old puppy!

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To escape the madness occasionally I indulge in one of my favourite hobbies; a spot of hedgerow foraging. I have been in my new house for just over two years and this is my third summer rummaging in the bushes of Portslade. I have started to work out where the best spots are and this year the blackberry harvest has been absolutely amazing! So far I have only managed one trip, but I have high hopes for another one this week to top up my jam jars before it is too late!

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At last months workshop I tried out a new twist on my favourite desert. Over the winter I have used frozen blackberries to create a lovely boozy sauce, but in August Nigella’s famous chocolate cake got a side order of blackberry cream. I whipped cream until it formed soft peaks and then carefully blended in a jar of my home made jam. It tasted absolutely delicious and I will most certainly be doing it again for the next workshop. Our October date is now fully booked but we do still have spaces left for our December date! Come join in!

Let me know if you are doing any foraging and what you are making! I would love to hear!

Kari-Helene (and the little helper, Frank) xxx

 

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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.

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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! Email us your photo before the end of September 4th to be in with a chance of winning!

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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx