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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






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!


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.


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



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.



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



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.



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.



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.



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




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.


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.

moved-3 moved-5

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!


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

Love Save




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!


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


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!


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!

blackberry-foraging-secret-pathway blackberry-foraging-summer-2016 blackberry-foraging-abundant-crop

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



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.

I&J (26 of 29)

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.


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!

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!

NOTHS teaching knitting

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!


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!


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!

NOTHS - group learning knitting

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

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx











Design Focus – Allegro Shawl

Although looking through my window today you could easily think it was mid November, we have had some amazing summer days and I expect we will have more to come so I thought we should take a quick look at one of our most popular summer knits; Allegro Shawl.

Allegro laceknit shawl purl alpaca designs

This design came about one day when I was working in a very cold furniture shop wearing a pashmina shawl over my shoulders. It kept falling off every time I was trying to demonstrate something to a customer and to keep it in place I wrapped a belt around it. I looked in the mirror and thought, now wouldn’t it be nice if the shawl was attached to the belt and it stayed where I wanted it to? The idea of Allegro was born.

Allegro knitted lace shawl purl alpaca

The Allegro Shawl is just that, a shawl with a waistband attached. It wraps around your shoulders to keep you nice and warm, stays in place with an elastic, ribbed waistband and is still open and airy, perfect for those warm summer evenings. It’s great over a nice dress, perfect with jeans and a T-shirt and if you love it so much you’d rather not put it away for winter, it’s also amazing over a jumper or shirt. If you are wearing Allegro under a coat, bring the shawl section up around your neck and it’s an instant scarf! Talk about versatile!

Beautiful alpaca yarn from Purl Alpaca Designs

Allegro is knitted using our Medium yarn which is a worsted weight and is worked on 4 mm needles for the waistband and 7 mm needles for the shawl section. Once you are done with the rib part, it is amazing how quickly the rest of it grows! In addition to being worked on big needles the shawl is knitted using a double loop technique creating stitches that are twice as long as normal, hence creating the lacey and open look. On the shawl I have intentionally called what would traditionally be seen as the wrong side of the knitting the right side. This is because the purl ridges created makes a nice stripe pattern and provides texture and interest to an otherwise simple knit. If you would prefer to knit Allegro using a different yarn you can purchase the pattern on its own on Ravelry or on our website. On Ravelry you can also see what yarn substitutions other people have made when knitting Allegro.

Allegro stitch close up

The shawl section has an edge stitch that is more or less a reverse stitch of the central stitches. This is to slightly counter act the rolled up edge the stitch pattern naturally creates. This edge is not crucial to the construction of the knit, and if you find it troublesome there is nothing stopping you from working the whole section just using the elongated stitch method.

Once you have completed the knitting the next step is to sew it together. Although the design only has one seam, getting this seam in the right place can prove a bit of a mind game. There is a diagram on the pattern showing the flat structure of the garment, but my recommendation is to wear it! Put the waistband on, wrap the shawl around your shoulders and using safety pins, pin the shawl section back onto the waistband in the correct position. This way, when you take it back off, it is easy to see where you should be sewing it up!

Allegro is a really quick knit! Sophie attended a knitting workshop on Saturday and rocked up to the Knitting and Stitching show at Olympia 5 days later wearing it!


If you have knitted Allegro, we would love to see your end result, and if you send us a picture before Sunday 7th of August 2016 you will be in with a chance of being featured on next weeks customer gallery and also winning a free pdf pattern and two tickets to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace! Last month Rosemarie sent us this lovely photo of her daughter Rachel wearing the Balboa Waistcoat and Rosemarie chose the Allegro Shawl as her prize! We would like to see the person wearing the shawl in the picture, and do consider things such as background and lighting for the best possible photo. We look forward to seeing what you come up with!

Happy knitting,

Kari-Helene xxx

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.


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