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!
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:
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)
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.
The Tension Square
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.”
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).
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.”
(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
which was so full of ‘stuff’ you couldn’t get into it. This was emptied and
we noticed that the floor had three different levels. This has been rectified ready for the next stage.
The stud work, insulation and electrics
Followed by the plasterboard
Whilst keeping the lovely beams and ceiling height.
The old window was closed off and two large windows made and put in.
These overlook where the alpacas are fed
What I hadn’t thought of was the alpacas’ reactions to seeing their reflections for the first time.
They were very funny
Have a look here for videos of alpaca reflections and reactions,
More updates to follow next week.
Love from Tracy and the alpacas xx
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
300 g oats
35 g decicated coconut
35 g flaked almonds
15 g flaxseed
60 g dried cranberries or other dried fruit
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Celebrating alpaca yarn with champagne!
It’s no secret really that we are crazy about alpacas over here at Purl Alpaca Designs. We love the animals with their sweet and funny nature. We love the fibre they produce and the stunning yarn we can make with it. We love the garments we can knit from an alpacas’ proud product. However, we also love all the stunning natural colours the alpacas produce! That’s right, natural colours! All the different shades of yarn we sell are totally natural and completely undyed! Amazing, right?
We think this is worth celebrating! And what better way of doing this than with champagne?
Now, we might not be talking about the real thing here, but Champagne coloured yarn is celebration enough for us! The perfect colour for the spring and summer season, we think designs like the Olivia Coat, Sherri Shrug, Linatra Bolero and Allegro Shawl would make perfect summer items when knitted in a light and fabulous colour such as champagne!
The champagne coloured yarn is created by carefully selecting top grade white fleece, most of it from Tracy’s own alpacas, and mixing it with equally soft fawn fleece. It’s a process almost like mixing paint and Tracy has developed her own formulas for getting the colours just right. The individual fibres of the alpaca fleece we use are so fine you can’t really tell the different coloured strands apart and they all blend beautifully to create an even shade. However, our yarn will never be dull! There are subtle differences in the yarn making it interesting and unique, a beautiful result of using natural coloured fleece.
If you would like to use our Medium yarn to knit another pattern, that’s no problem! The most important thing to keep an eye on is your tension. We cannot stress enough how important this is, especially when you are not using the intended yarn for the intended pattern.
Our Medium weight is a Worsted weight, this means it lies somewhere between DK and Aran weights on the yarn scale. However, yarn weights are not always very specific and a tension square will help you work out how well a yarn will fit a pattern. Kari-Helene has written this helpful blog post on how to work out if yarn and pattern will go nicely together.
We spotted Erika’s Flaum Cardigan on Ravelry when browsing projects knitted with our yarn and we absolutely love it! It is a fabulous example of excellent use of our yarn with a different pattern and we love Erika’s photos too!
“I find that I very rarely use the yarn suggested by the pattern designer, instead I go by the weight of the yarn and then swatch, so the Purl Alpaca yarn I spotted at Unravel was exactly right for this pattern: the weight, the softness, the colour – it had everything I was looking for!” Erika
We would love to see your projects using our yarn. Have you made a successful substitution? Send us your photos or share them with us on our Facebook page!
Tracy, Kari-Helene and the alpacas!
5 perfect knitting kits for warmer weather!
As we have just returned from the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show we have come to think of knitwear for warmer weather. Although it still feels rather chilly out there most days it is never too early to cast on a new project! Did you know alpaca yarn is brilliant for warmer weather as well as the cold? Because the fibres are hollow it regulates temperature much better than wool and won’t feel as heavy as a wool jumper might. Many of Kari-Helene’s designs are intentionally knitted on larger needles than you might expect for the thickness of yarn and this also contributes to a light feel to the finished garments.
You could make many fun variations of this design as the pattern comes with the option of long sleeves and a princess collar. The pattern is graded for 5 sizes from X-Small to X- Large. You can buy the knitting kit from £69 and the knitting pattern for £4 (pattern is for both jumper and top).
2. Bjelle Top
A vintage inspired design with striking sleeve details and a close fitting bodice. This design is perfect for spring weather and we can’t wait to wear it with a printed skirt and flat shoes! The pattern is graded for 5 sizes from X-Small to X- Large. You can buy the knitting kit from £50.50 and the knitting pattern for £4.
A cardigan is always useful regardless of season. Wear it as a layer in winter and as a light jacket once the weather gets warmer. The pattern is very simple and can easily be adapted for a novice knitter by eliminating the colour work. The pattern is graded for 5 sizes from X-Small to X- Large. You can buy the knitting kit from £87.50 and the knitting pattern for £4.
4. Masika Skirt
A knitted skirt is a different idea for spring weather. Easy to style with short sleeved tops and light weigh shirts. Wear it with thick tights and chunky boots on the colder days or barely there nude ones and plimsolls on warmer days. The pattern is graded for 5 sizes from X-Small to X- Large. You can buy the knitting kit from £41.25 and the knitting pattern for £5.5.
5. Breeze Top
This stunning design includes a fitted, ribbed waistband in contrast to the oversized and draped body. The cable running up the sleeve openings add interest and breaks up the bulk of the stocking stitch knitting. The pattern is graded for 5 sizes from X-Small to X- Large. You can buy the knitting kit from £59.75 and the knitting pattern for £3.
We hope that gives you some inspiration for lovely warmer weather knits and look forward to seeing your photos of how you were your Purl Alpaca Designs’ in the spring! Check out the photos other people have sent us on the customer gallery over on Pinterest!
Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx
5 crafty ways to treat you mum for Mother’s Day!
With Mother’s Day only a month away we thought we would give you some ideas for gifts you can easily knit up in time for the day, popular knitting kits to buy for your mum and lovely days out for you and her together!
This luxurious set of bamboo needles from Addi are interchangeable circular. This means the set comes with 3 cable lengths and all the needle sizes from 3.5mm to 8mm and that you can swap and change which needles you attach to the cables. Ones you have got this set you won’t be needing anything else in terms of knitting needles, unless you are knitting really fine or really chunky stuff! It’s the ideal luxury present for a dedicated knitter. Buy your mum a set of Addi needles by clicking here.
A knitting workshop from us is a great present for Mother’s Day. The day is ideal for you to come along with your mum or to send mum along to on her own. The day is tailored to individual skill sets, so even if your mum is a knitting guru and has knitted for many years, we will make sure she comes away from the day having had a fabulous day! You will pick the project you would like to make on the day and we have kits that suit beginner and experienced knitters alike. Read more about the day here.
This superb knitting kit works up really quickly and is definitely something you can finish in time for Mother’s Day next month. The design is worked in the round using a chart to explain the stitch pattern. The pretty leaf-like motif is created using a drop stitch method. The Cowl is worked using 5mm circular needles and our Fine yarn. If you have a ball of our Fine yarn lying around, why not pick up the pdf pattern here?
Is your mum a dedicated knitter? Why not treat her to a knitting kit from us? The pattern is printed on thick paper and contains beautiful images and clear instructions on how to make the chosen design. Each pattern includes instructions for 5 sizes from X-Small to X-Large. The kit includes our fabulous alpaca yarn, sourced and produced right here in England as well as a cute alpaca photo and story. The Olivia Coat is a popular design for women of all ages. Difficulty level is advanced beginner/intermediate.
5. Gift Voucher
Still not sure what would be the perfect present for your mum? Then fear not, we have the perfect solution! Purchase a gift voucher from us and your mum can choose her own present. The gift voucher can be redeemed on our website or she can bring it along to one of the many shows we attend. The voucher can be issued in any multiple of £5 or £10 and we will post out a nice printed voucher for you to present to her on the day. Get your gift voucher by clicking here.
We hope you found something useful here and that you will give your mum the perfect gift!
Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx
Design Focus – Lorelle Jumper knitting pattern and kit
Since we posted it on our Facebook page yesterday, so many of you have told us how much you love Susan’s Lorelle! Take a look at her blog post here if you didn’t spot it yesterday. Lorelle is a super useful jumper and a great knit for those who despise seams, and here is a little look at the pattern in closer detail.
The Lorelle Jumper is knitted completely in the round which means there are no side seams, no underarm seams and no shoulders to join up! The only stitches you will have to join once the knitting is complete are the tiny bit under the arms. That’s it! Ideal for those who just can’t stand the finishing part of their knitting.
Knitting in the round is done on 5mm circular needles or on DPN’s (double pointed needles). Usually circular needles are used for working larger amounts of stitches, such as on the body of Lorelle, and DPN’s are used on smaller amount of stitches, such as the sleeves. You can also use the Magic Loop technique to do smaller amounts of stitches, hence eliminating the need for DPN’s. Magic Loop can seem daunting at first, but here is a good video to show you how it works. If you are new to knitting on circular needles we have the perfect set of needles for you. The Addi click bamboo gives you all sizes from 3.5mm to 8mm and three different cable lengths. All you need to start knitting in the round!
The needle size is intentionally quite large for the yarn thickness (equivalent to a Sports weight) to create a lightweight and open textured fabric. This means you end up with a jumper that is warm but won’t feel heavy.
The edge of the Lorelle jumper is knitted in reverse stocking stitch. When knitting in the round this means you will be purling every round. The bulk of the jumper is knitted in plain stocking stitch and when knitting in the round this means you will be knitting every round.
The zig zag detail of Lorelle is created using a 2 stitch cable method. This means that by purling certain stitches, knitting other stitches and swapping some stitches over you can create this really pretty and effective detail really easily.
Once you have made both sleeves and body, you will join the three pieces to make the yoke of the jumper. This may seem fiddly at first, but stay with it, it will become easier. Having a longer cable on your circular needles and using the magic loop technique can also help as you can create more movement in the needles if needed.
In v.1 of the Lorelle jumper there was a misprint in round 2 of the yoke. Some of the numbers for the graded sizes were missing. Here is the correct round 2 for those working to v.1 of the pattern.
Round 2: Place stitch marker, k1, ssk, k38 [40, 43, 47, 51], k2tog, k1, place 2nd stitch marker, k1, ssk,
k56, [68, 75, 85, 91] , k2tog, k1, place 3rd stitch marker, k1, ssk, k38 [40, 43, 47, 51], k2tog, k1, place 4th stitch marker, k1, ssk, k56, [68, 75, 85, 91], k2tog, k1.
At this point you will be doing another set of zig zag patterns before you finish of the jumper working in reverse stocking stitch whilst making the decreases for the shoulder shaping. The neck on Lorelle is a boat neck, this means it cuts straight across both the front and back of the neckline.
We’ve seen some fabulous finished versions of Lorelle, such as Susan’s and also this fab version by Kate from Fabrickated as well as a few lovely ones over on Ravelry! If you are working on Lorelle, please share your project with us! We love to see what you’re up to!
If you feel inspired to cast on for your own Lorelle, the project takes between 5 and 8 50g balls of our Fine yarn. The price range is from £50.50 to £78.25 and there is free postage for all kits over £50! Should you wish to knit Lorelle but would like to use a different yarn, here is a link to the pattern only.