A White Christmas?

It's really more than a little cold when seeing to the Alpacas at the moment and a few mornings Burwash Manor has been rendered into a sparkly festive scene with thick frost. It's definitely the time of year to indulge in warm knits, hot chocolate and all things white. Or more specifically, Ivory.

Here at Purl Alpaca, we have always produced a woollen spun yarn, which in simple terms means the fibres are carded before being spun to spread out the fibres and make a yarn of even thickness along its' thread. This is part of what contributes to that delicious softness we've become associated with. By woollen spinning our carefully selected fibre we can produce a yarn that is light, fluffy and full of air so it has a wonderful ability to insulate.

However, our ivory yarn listed here is a little bit different. This was an experiment with a worsted spun process where fibres are part carded before pin drafting aligns the fibres and the whole fibre is then spun. This makes for a much denser, smoother yarn. While we loved the results, our hearts are truly with the lofty woollen produced yarn and so this yarn is now a limited edition- once it sells out, there won't be any more!

Chunky knit accessories are still dominating the shops and catwalks and we couldn't think of a quicker on trend accessory to make than a chunky hat or cowl! We have some chunky yarn in Ivory that we think would work wonderfully with these winter wonderland knits:

The Alfie hat- a popular unisex slouchy hat that's perfect for beginners knitters to get to grips with circular knitting.

The Darcy Snood- Another chunky hand knit that's perfect for snuggling down to knit in this cold weather.

The Glacier Cardigan a seriously warm winter jacket made especially for our Chunky yarn. It is much easier to make than it looks and with thick yarn and big needles – it’ll grow quickly and be ready to wear faster than you’d think. 

Our Chunky white yarn is selling fast (it must be the cold!) and is available in store. Available in 100g balls of 81 yards (74 meters). Remember, none of our yarn is dyed, just the soft natural colours of the Alpaca fleece and gorgeously soft hand knits!

~Kari-Helen and Tracy


2015 Workshop Dates!

As the deadlines for Christmas posting loom ever closer, we've noticed a flurry of activity around the workshops too. Have you discovered our Alpaca experience days yet? They would be the perfect unusual Christmas gift for crafters in your life as well as those who really strive for more ethical gifts. At Purl Alpaca we are passionate about enabling everyone to enjoy our products and offer knitting workshops with a twist. Discover how our field to fashion company works and pet some Alpacas at the same time!

All of the workshops take place at Burwash Manor where Tracy keeps ‘the girls’. Burwash Manor is a beautiful location with idyllic views and we think our location adds a really peaceful backdrop to the whole experience. 

So what can you expect from our workshops? 

1. An opportunity to try on samples and making sure you’re happy with how they look before you make your own
2. A choice of any of our kits and the first 5 balls of yarn
3. A treat of locally sourced produce for a super, scrumptious lunch (we do cater for special diets)
constant tea/coffee (plus biscuits in the morning and cake in the afternoon)
4. Plenty of opportunity for individual tuition with Kari-Helene and Tracy
5. A chance to meet the alpacas and feed them an apple (if you want to)
6. Any extra purchases that you wish to make can be made at a discounted price

We take great pride in these special days and work hard to cater for all levels of ability. Groups are small too (max. 6 places per workshop), meaning lots of time can be spent chatting and learning new skills and details about your favourite hobby. 

“I love these days, particularly sharing the alpacas with new people and seeing the delight on their faces as they meet our 'silent partners'. I could wax lyrical about seeing how well people get on together, how we become friends with them and my delight in seeing them wear the garments they started at our workshops, but I don’t want to gush!

It's true that we've made firm friends and many of those who attended workshops last year are returning again which is the best compliment to one of the highlights of our Purl Alpaca calendar!

"I love having the opportunity to get to know everyone attending the workshop, helping them to get going and then eventually seeing the finished garment. It's a fantastic journey!"

So many attendees have kept in touch, sharing their first, second and third project that they've made since and it's always a real pleasure to know that we're providing so much inspiration and helping people increase their skills in the comfortable setting of an experience day with other fibre enthusiasts!

Total price of the day is £95.00 per person and we are now taking bookings. If you are looking for a taster of what a full day might be like, we do also have a shopping experience that runs one evening in April that is priced at £10. Please visit our workshop listings in the shop for further details. 

Hopefully see you in the New Year?


New Yarn Arrives

On these dark winter nights, what better than to feel the comforting slide of our fabulous alpaca yarn slipping through your fingers?  Your mind is focused, you feel a meditative state come over you as you create another fantastic garment.  The big decision is do you keep it or give it away?

Black as night, our natural, undyed black yarn has arrived from the mill; beautifully sleek, it has a subtle glossiness that reflects the light beautifully.

Random Thoughts: Did you know that 'black as night' was coined as a phrase in John Milton's 'Paradise Lost' ?

"What has this to do with knitting?" we hear you exclaim.  

Night Yarn

Well, in his poem Comus, a Mask, Milton foretold of circular knitting whilst listening to music:

Come, knit hands, and beat the ground
In a light fantastic round.

Obviously he didn't foresee us or he could have added:

Black as Night Balboa stands
A monument to skill in a knitter's hands

and Balboa

As you can see, Balboa is a black alpaca (we promise, absolutely no photoshop involved) and this means we can create our lovely black yarn without using any dye at all! In fact all the Purl Alpaca Designs' colours are 100% natural and undyed. There will definitely be no colour running in the wash here!

You can order our exquisitely soft alpaca yarn in 'night' either by itself or in a kit in time for Christmas knitting and indulging (or even gifting). Last posting dates are rapidly approaching- 12th December for international customers and 22nd December for UK orders.

We may have misinterpreted Milton so feel free to comment!

Kari-Helene & Tracy xx


Customer projects from Harrrogate

At the end of November we went to Harrogate and had a fabulous time as always. We really enjoyed our new stand in the Textile Gallery and hope to be there again next year.

What was absolutely amazing this year was that we had so many of you come to show us your favourite finished garments. It is always such a pleasure to see what you have made since the last time we where in Harrogate and how you chose to style it!

Here is the Harrogate round up!

First up is Sue with her first of three garments! We were looking forward to seeing Sue every morning as she came past our stand with a new outfit. First garment is her Duchess Cardigan knitted in Alpaca Light.

Next is Venita wearing her Happy Wristwarmers made in the colour Alpaca Dew. Happy Wristwarmers are knitted in our Medium yarn. They looked fabulous worn with her colourful cardigan.Venita bought yarn to complete the matching hat. We hope we'll get to see it next year!

You might remember this lady from a recent post on Facebook? Elena came by on the stand to show us her Icon dress in person. She has done a brilliant job with it and we loved her choice in natural horn buttons. 

This stylish lady is Margaret. She bought the Persephone knitting kit last year and stopped by wearing the finished result. She has chosen to go for one button instead of the three in the pattern photo. It's fabulous to see how you make the garments your own! She has knitted Persephone in the colour Alpaca Storm. 

Here are the other two outfits Sue wore. On the left she is wearing the Balboa Waistcoat knitted in the colour Alpaca Earth. She was very proud of this one and understandably so. The picture on the right is of Sue wearing the Allegro Shawl in the colour Alpaca Light. She looked so fab we instantly sold a kit to another customer on the stand whilst she was there! 

Apparently Rachel is getting used to fame, always having to stop for photos when wearing her knitted garments. She didn't knit this Fantasia Cowl in Alpaca Light herself; the lucky girl had it knitted for her by a very good friend. Finally, you might recognise this lady? Kari-Helene was so proud of the Isis Tailcoat she knitted we had to show it on the blog. She started it at Alexandra Palace and finished it for the opening of Harrogate. You can come try it on at the next show we are at as it stays on the road as sample.

Harrogate was the last show of 2014 for us. Thank you so much to everyone who came to see us at all the shows, it has been so much fun as always. We are looking forward to seeing you again next year! You can keep an eye on our scheduled shows on the news and events page on the website.


How long is a piece of yarn?

This week we have focused a lot on our patterns over on Facebook and Twitter and to round it off we are running a 10% discount on all Ravelry downloads from today until the end Of Monday the 1st of December. Just use discount code ALPACA to claim your 10% off!

So, you have the pattern, now you want to knit it! But what yarn to use?
Alpaca is a lovely yarn to work with and we take care in selecting only the finest fibre to go in the mix. Did you know that wool is a sheep specific term and should not be used when talking of alpaca, cashmere and other fibres? This is why we use the word yarn when talking about our lovely product!

All our patterns are designed specifically with our yarn in mind, but this doesn't mean you can't use other yarn. There are just a few things to keep in mind when choosing your substitute yarn.

The dreaded tension square is your best friend. We know it can be a pain, but trust us, it is so important to make sure your end result will be fabulous! By tension we mean how many stitches and how many rows fits into a 10x10 cm square.

Looking at the length of the yarn to how many meters in a ball can tell you a lot about the qualities of the yarn. If there are 200 meters in a 50 g ball you know it is going to be a fine yarn. If you only get 50 meters in a 50 g ball it is probably a thicker yarn. One thing to take into consideration here is the weight of the fibre. Is the yarn composed of silk fibres it is likely to be a heavy yarn and hence have fewer meters per g, as opposed to alpaca which is a lightweight fibre.

When talking of the weight of fibre it is also important to consider drape. By drape we mean how the finished knit will hang and move once worn. A heavy fibre will have a heavy drape and might weigh a piece of knitwear down. When substituting alpaca yarn with other fibres, it is important to choose a yarn that isn't too heavy.

So - the conclusion is, check how many meters you get per 50 g. If it is in the proximity of the yarn you are substituting, check the tension. Does it come out similar to your requirements? Does the fibres used in the yarn have similar qualitites to the yarn you are substituting? If the answers to these questions are yes, go for it!

Purl Alpaca Designs Fine Yarn 
Our fine yarn is an American Sportsweight and lies somewhere on the scale between 4-ply and DK and can be substituted with a lot of finer DK yarns.  Check the tension on 4 mm needles.  It should be close to our tension which is 20 sts and 29 rows to 10 cm square over Stocking Stitch.  One ball of Fine weighs 50g per ball and has 126 yards/116 metres of yarn.

Purl Alpaca Designs Medium Yarn
Our Medium yarn is slightly thicker and is comparable to a worsted weight, which is between DK and Aran yarn.  The tension on 5 mm needles comes up as 17 sts and 24 rows to 10 cm square over Stocking Stitch.  One ball of Medium weighs 50g and has 84 yards/77 metres of yarn.

Our Chunky yarn is available in Ecru, the natural white colour.  It is thicker than our other two and knits to the tension of 12sts and 16 rows on 7 mm needles.  This is ideal for your bulky knit projects and will knit up very fast.  One ball of Chunky weighs 100g and has 81 yards/74 metres of yarn.

Need some inspiration as to what yarn to use? Pop over to Ravelry where you can find all our patterns and other people's projects. Click on the project you would like to make, then click on the tab called yarn ideas, and voila, there are all the yarns other people have used to make this design!
P.S. This is also where you can get the 10% discount!

If you would like to know more about how we make our top quality alpaca yarn, you can see our blog posts on fleece selection: fleece-harvestfashionable ladies at work and dirty pleasures.  For more information on processing, The Natural Fibre Company has many interesting fact sheets such as greasy fleece to finished productsspecifications and gauges and the different descriptive names used within the manufacturing industry such as YSW.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Tracy and Kari-Helene


Purl Alpaca Designs- Where to Find Us

Here at Purl Alpaca Designs, we are committed to sharing high quality products that really does take you from field to fashion. What does that mean? For us it means working with local breeders to help produce the highest grade Alpaca fibre possible, then developing yarn with the mills, through to knitting this into an item that makes best use of the yarns properties. We want your knitted item to reflect our commitment to high quality and that means exclusive designs that are fashionable but importantly wearable and enjoyable to make. 

From her training in Fashion Design, Kari-Helene Rane develops our knitwear collections with attention to all the details that make pieces really shine and we thought it was time that we show you all the places that you can pick up one of our designs. Here is an up to date list of where to buy knitting patterns that are perfect for Alpaca yarn (All pattern images include links to Ravelry, just click the caption link for more details) 

Melody Leggings
We've just added Purl Alpaca Designs to this growing range of knitting patterns and feel very lucky to be part of the great line up of designers. 

Maddie Children's Dress
You can find all of our designs listed here from childrenswear, to menswear and womenswear designs. 

Dusty Snood
We're guessing most of you will know this but Ravelry is a pretty important resource for us and from the number of you finding us there, we think it must be for our knitters too!

Yes, everything you need from yarn to kits but also, just the patterns too!

Misty Turban
If you happen to be local to one of our fabulous stockists, you can also pick up patterns and have a squish of the yarn in person! 

So whether you're searching for the perfect pattern for your stashed Purl Alpaca or the inspiration (and good excuse!) for casting on something new, we hope that helps you get some Purl Alpaca into your crafting this week. Don't forget, you can come and tell us all about your knitting adventures in the Purl Alpaca group on Ravelry too!

~Kari-Helene and Tracy


Guardian Angel

The lovely people who attended our knitting evening on 22nd September, might remember Juno had let herself out the field and was casually grazing on the grass verge that adjoins the carpark at Burwash Manor.  Much amuzement followed when in trying to get her back in, Tracy let Happy out as well!  Kari-Helene and Tracy managed to get them both back in and received a round of applause.

Well Juno has a pechant for believing the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, so when some idiot thinks it's a good idea to dismantle the fence, she sees an opportunity to go exploring.  This time, she took her friend Isis.  Unfortunately the fence runs parallel to the road and a gateway that leads to a massive open space of over 200 acres.  Tucked away in the corner are the boys.

Tracy received a phone call to say that some alpacas were out and raced over to the farm, although only early evening, it was now dark.  In trying to coax the adventurous pair back to their own field, Tracy was dismayed to find that they kept getting spooked by the lights of cars driving past and whirling away to run off into the night.  After three attempts, plan B was put into action.  Alpacas put themselves to bed when it gets dark; they settle together in the cush position and face in different directions so they can keep watch for any preditors that might be a threat to their survival.  They are also a social herd animal and will stay with other alpacas (safety in numbers).  Although impossible to find them in the field, Tracy thought it probable they would go to where the boys live.  She let them be for about 30 minutes and loaded Bessie (the van) with electric fence paraphenalia.  She then drove round to where the boys are and sure enough, saw Juno and Isis settled down on the other side of their fence.  Whilst they were settled and using Bessie's headlights, Tracy built a fence around them so they were secure for the night.  Finishing late, in the rain, she came home and went to bed.

On waking the next morning, Tracy was horrified to see a voice message and text on her phone saying that two alpacas were out on the road.  The time showed 11.30 p.m.  It was now 5.30 a.m. and with frantic haste, Tracy drove to the farm imagining the worst.  She checked the boys' field first and Juno and Isis were missing; the new fence was on the floor.  Seriously stressed, she drove into the carpark at Burwash Manor.  On doing a cursory head count, she counted 13 females, stopping in her tracks she counted again...14.  There should be 14... Sure enough, there was Juno and Isis in with their mothers and the rest of the herd.  The fences were strong and all was as it should be.

Almost sobbing with relief, Tracy bought a bottle of wine from the wine merchant and sent a text to Mike and Sue Radford (the owners of Burwash Manor) saying thank you.  She then came home to start work on Purl Alpaca stuff.

On returning to the farm that afternoon, Sue told her that she and Mike had driven around the big field (called Bael's Acre - not sure who Bael is, some sort of giant?) but that they hadn't been able to find them.  She felt a bit guilty about taking the wine under false pretences as it wasn't them who had rescued Juno and Isis.

Tracy contacted the local paper's letter page and asked them to put in a letter of thanks.  The newsdesk phoned to say they would like to do a feature of the story.  This they did and here we are, a week later with still no idea of who the stranger is who rescued Tracy's alpacas and put them back in the right paddock.  They haven't answered any of the appeals and in our view, truely an ultruistic hero.  Having rebuilt fences, then built fences for the new paddock, our girls have moved and to see their reaction, a short clip is on YouTube.

Richard the photographer.