16.4.15

Natural alpaca colours perfect for the summer season!



http://www.purlalpacadesigns.com/product/alpaca-sand-beige/


http://www.purlalpacadesigns.com/product/alpaca-dew-light-grey/


Sandy beaches, round pebbles underneath your feet, wispy clouds across a light blue sky; our most popular colours for summer are back! They are called Alpaca Champagne and Alpaca Dew and are fantastic colours to match with your summer wardrobe. Very versatile, very subtle and very, very soft!

We're just looking through last weeks post to decide which design to go for!

Tracy and Kari-Helene xxx

13.4.15

A beginning - how it started with 3 alpacas and turned into a business!

 You might have heard us talk about how Purl Alpaca Designs started, but whilst pondering this weeks 'Love Your Blog' theme 'beginnings' we realised it is not something we often share in writing!
So here it is, the story of how 3 alpacas, some hand knitting skills and a whole lot of patience turned into a business!



A Playful Day


In 2007 Tracy was resurfacing from going through a tough time in her life. One morning she woke up with the word 'alpaca' in her head and saw it as a sign. Not knowing a lot about alpacas she researched a little online before heading to a nearby alpaca farm, Dry Drayton. At the end of the visit she walked away owning 3! To this day she is not quite sure how that happened! Tracy lives in a small flat in Cambridge city centre without much of a garden, and owning alpacas was definitely going to be a challenge. The alpacas stayed on the farm for a while and have since on a few different farms in Cambridgeshire. At the moment they are living at Burwash Manor.


Duchess with her first cria, Fantasia

Tracy continued to research the alpaca industry and quickly came to realise that not many alpaca owners utilized their fleeces. Being an entrepreneur at hart, Tracy saw this as a business opportunity. She googled 'alpaca knitwear designer' and one of the first hits was Kari-Helene's entry to the Knitted Textile Student Awards in 2005. Tracy thought the dress looked fantastic and decided to send Kari-Helene an email.


Hand knitted alpaca dress by Kari-Helene Rane

At the other end, Kari-Helene graduated from university in 2005 and for nearly 2 years she had been working with London based design house Modernist. She had gained good knowledge in knitwear design through her degree and learning from knitwear designer Andrew Jones. She learned to knit as a little girl from her mother and grandmother in Norway, but her passion for knitwear design started at university. When she received the email from Tracy, she was open for new adventures and although she had never thought she'd ever be a business owner, this seemed like an exciting opportunity.

Tracy traveled to London one morning in the autumn of 2007 and met Kari-Helene in a pub in King's Cross. They ended up staying there, chatting, exchanging ideas and getting very inspired! After several hours they both walked away owning half a company each! The following year was full of learning. Tracy had to learn about alpacas, fleece procuring and yarn manufacturing whilst Kari-Helene researched knitting patterns and how to best utilize their product. They decided to go down the knitting kit route and in October 2008 they launched the business at the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching Show.


You've got to get stuck in!

The company was launched with 5 different patterns and 5 yarn colours. The stand was 2x3 meters and the display was basic. There was no blog, no social media, no newsletter, no online community, and we also did not take many photos. It is incredible to look back at how this little business, run alongside two full time jobs have turned into a business now supporting both Kari-Helene and Tracy full time. Our advice to anyone thinking of going down this route is to stay calm, don't attempt to do too much too soon. Focus on what you know how to do and try be the best at it!
Small beginnings can lead to great adventures!


Every day is a new beginning and who knows where it will take us!
We're excited about the future!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

9.4.15

Our top 5 choices for spring knitting!

The sun warming on your skin. Wearing thin soled shoes. Leaving the jacket at home. Spring is here! There is no better feeling than leaving winter hibernation behind and heading outside to enjoy the warmer spring weather! As an alpaca knitting company winter is definitely our high season; but did you know that alpaca is also excellent spring and summer clothing as well?

Alpaca fibres are very lightweight and because of the way we spin our yarn we provide a lofty and lightweight 100% alpaca yarn. Alpaca regulates heat very well and will keep you warm in winter, yet in summer won't feel too clammy or hot.

Here are our top 5 knits for spring and summer:

1. Allegro 

http://www.purlalpacadesigns.com/product/allegro-shawl-knitting-kit-4/

Allegro is a clever hybrid between a shawl and a wrap top. With a wrap around the shoulder shawl attached to a waistband this is a clever piece of knitwear to pull over your summer dress on a chilly evening. Allegro is one of our easier knitting kits and would suit even  fairly novice knitter.

2. Devon

Devon Top by Purl Alpaca Designs

From our newest collection comes Devon Top, a romantic and open knit, ideal for the warmer months. The cable knit is set off by dropping stitches either side to create the open and lacey look. Devon is also ideal for party wear; black slim fit jeans and heels creates an instantly glamorous evening look!

3. Lillian

Lillian Top by Purl Alpaca Designs

Lillian is one of our most versatile garments. It can be worn as an off the shoulder top, a boob tube dress, fishtail skirt and a cowl neck poncho! The intricate stitch patterns grows organically with the shape of the garment and creates a botanical inspired knit. Very unique and individual this garment is bound to get you lots of "where did you get that?".

4. Sherri 

Sherri Shrug by Purl Alpaca Designs

A shrug is always handy. Sherri is one of those quick knits to give instant gratification! The lace pattern is straight forward and worked on large needles to make it a speedy garment to finish. Perfect for layering in winter, but also ideal to slip on if there is a cold breeze in the warmer months.

5. Grace 

Grace Shrug by Purl Alpaca Designs

Whilst on the topic of shrugs, we can't leave Grace out! Grace Shrug is also from our newest collection, Wonderland, and is an incredibly romantic and pretty garment. The concept is the same as with Sherri, a long tube with an opening in the middle, but with Grace Kari-Helene has eliminated all seams! Sleeves are worked in the round, an opening is left in the middle, and stitches are picked up to knit the collar in the round to finish off! Ideal for those who just can't stand sewing up!



So there you go, our 5 favourite knits for spring and summer! Which ones are yours?

Tracy and Kari-Helene xxx

6.4.15

What is a community for an online business?

A Playful Day



When A Playful Day launched her Love your blog challenge we got really enthusiastic. Then we ended up thinking about her choice of theme. "Community". There was still a long time until the 6th of April and we thought about it some more. What sort of interesting angel could we put on it? How could we make this blog post incredibly interesting? And then it was the 6th of April. We had been thinking about all sorts of angles for this post about community and didn't realise we have our very own community right here. We didn't have to do lots of research or look far and beyond for community inspiration for this blog. You are our community. All the inspiration we could possibly need. And even though you are right here, you are also far and beyond at the same time. And that is what is so awesome about the Purl Alpaca Designs' community.

We have never really made a definiteive list of all our mini communities, so without further ado;
here is our blog contribution.

The ultimate list of Purl Alpaca Designs online communities!

1. Twitter

Purl Alpaca Designs on Twitter

Twitter is our biggest online community. We love how instant Twitter is and we use it a lot when we are out traveling to post images of our journey, the inside of exhibition halls and most of all; the beautiful knitwear you all come to show us! If you would like instant updates on what we are doing, this is the place to be. This is also the quickest place to get a reply to your questions, whether they are knitting related or just general things you are wondering about.

2. Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/PurlAlpacaDesigns?ref=hl

Facebook is where we make sure we keep you up to date on all the important things we do! You'll get more in depth posts, more images and more info about competitions and happenings.
Facebook is also great for sharing your images of what you have made. Everyone on the Facebook group love seeing your photos and they always get lots of likes and comments. It is also a great place for keeping conversations, whether it is between us and you or between yourselves. It's a lovely community and definitely our fastest growing one!

3. Ravelry

Ravelry group for Purl Alpaca Designs

Our Ravelry group is small but thriving! It is lovely to see the fantastic projects everyone post on Ravelry. If you are new to Ravelry, it is an online community for knitters where you can share your own projects, look at other peoples work and browse for patterns for your next project. There are lots of different groups and we have one too! You can also share your blog posts when you write about the Purl Alpaca Designs' garment you have just completed.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest profile for Purl Alpaca Designs

Now for a purely visual community. Pinterest is Kari-Helene's favourite and she spends far too much time looking at images of knitted stuff and fashion and sometimes gets completely distracted and ends up just looking at images of food and flowers and kittens and.... Aaaanyway, if you feel like getting a bit distracted too, Pinterest is the place to do it. You can also have a look at what is inspiring Kari-Helene when working on the newest collections and see images from workshops and the alpaca fields.

5. Our mailing list! 

Purl Alpaca Designs Mailing list

Now, I know I said Twitter is the biggest online community, but I lied! Our mailing list is maybe not instantly thought of as a community, but whilst writing this blog post I realised that it really is! It is the biggest community group we have with over 2000 subscribers and it is such an active group as well. We might not always get direct replies to our mailouts, but we always notice how much you interact with the posts we send out and the links we put up. It is amazing to see you all enjoy what we send you and we love all the different ways you interact with us as a result! Would you like to join our mailing list and join the Purl Alpaca Designs community? We hope so! There is a box on our home page where you can enter your email and voila - you are a part of it all!


To sum this all up, we are so grateful for the wonderful community we have around us. You are an invaluable part of our business and we love sharing it with you!

Take care,

Tracy and Kari-Helene xxx

1.4.15

A unique chance to meet alpacas and get your knitting fix at the same time!

Here at Purl Alpaca Designs we are so passionate about what we do! We love looking after the alpacas, even though they can be troublesome tinkers at times (especially Juno when she pretends to be a gazelle and jumps the fence). We really enjoy making sure we only get the best fleece going into our production to ensure the yarn we get in return is super soft and lovely. We also adore every chance we get to meet all the lovely knitters out there to showcase our product and our designs. Now we have created a new way to meet even more of you!

Duchess the alpaca eating an apple
Duchess the alpaca meeting Aitzie

Welcome to the Purl Alpaca Designs Royal Alpaca Event!

Calling it royal might be stretching the truth a little, but when you have a Duchess from Cambridge in your midst, even though she is an alpaca, you can't help but feel you are in the presence of royalty. 
We trialled the event a couple of times last year, and it was a great success!

The event starts at 6pm at the idyllic location of Burwash Manor with a visit to the alpaca field where you get to feed the alpacas an apple should you so wish. Tracy will tell you a little about the alpacas and introduce you to Duchess, Dusty, Diana and the rest of the group. Afterwards we will head to the Secret Garden marquee where we will serve you some light refreshments and sweet treats whilst explaining a bit more about the company and the process of making yarn and designing patterns. Afterwards you will get ample time to ask questions, try on samples and shop for yarn and patterns should you so wish.

Feeding alpacas apples
You will get to meet the alpacas and feed them an apple

Cute alpaca in field
The alpacas are waiting to meet you!

The first date of the year is approaching quickly, there are only weeks to go and we would love to see you there on the 21st of April. You can read more about the event and book your place here. The total cost of the event is £10 and this includes refreshments for you and an apple for the alpacas. 

We look forward to seeing you then!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx



26.3.15

Alpaca Rain - our best selling yarn is back in stock!


For a little while now we have been completely sold out of one of our most popular colours; Alpaca Rain. One of many reasons is that the Icon dress sample was knitted in this colour and ever since then it has been a best seller! If you have been waiting to order your Icon dress knitting kit in Alpaca Rain (taupe), now is the time to do it! 

Alpaca Rain (taupe); British made alpaca yarn
Alpaca Rain (taupe) in Medium; a beautifully soft yarn!

Alpaca Rain (taupe) in Fine; a 100% British made product
Alpaca Rain (taupe) in Fine; a gorgeous colour blend!

Our yarn is made from 100% British alpaca fibre. Tracy own 18 alpacas and keep them on a farm just outside Cambridge; Burwash Manor. This year we are expecting 4 crias (baby alpacas) and we are very excited! The babies are due in June and we have a workshop date and an evening event in July where we are hoping to show off the newly born cuties!
We use the fleece from our own alpacas as well as from a few selected local farms and try to be very hands on in selecting the fibre. This way we know only the very best fleeces go into making our yarn!


Medley scarf is amde from undyed, natural British Alpaca yarn
Medley Scarf is knitted in Alpaca Rain Medium

 Medley is one of the samples we have made using the Alpaca Rain colour. It is one of Kari-Helene's favourites, but because it is so popular it isn't always we have enough for her to play with. You guys, our lovely customers, always get first choice!

Medley Scarf, a fun and intersting knitting project from Purl Alpaca Designs
Medley Scarf is a fun knit, lots of different stitches!

The colour Alpaca Rain is not a colour we get straight off the alpacas' back. It is a blend of colours. Because we never dye any of our yarn and only produce a 100% naturally coloured yarn, we have to get creative with the fleeces we have. Alpaca Rain is a mix of fibre, some Rose Grey and some Red Fawn as well as a little bit White makes the stunning shade you see above. Medley is the closest alpaca we have seen to this colour! Isn't she a cutie?

Medley; a super cute, multi coloured baby alpaca.

So, there you go, Alpaca Rain is back in stock. We hope you will love it as much as we do!


Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx

19.3.15

A very busy March - Olympia Knitting and Stitching Show and Edinburgh Yarn Festival

The last few weeks have been incredibly hectic! Since we went to Unravel in Farnham at the end of February it feels like it's all been a bit non stop! First we had a huge yarn delivery - new stock of Taupe, Dew and Champagne is in and they are all up on the website in case you have been waiting to order. Next up we had to pack and get ready for Olympia.

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia, London has been getting better and better every year and we are starting to love the West London Show almost as much as its East London autumnal sister. As always, so many of you came to see us to show of your finished projects and here are the Olympia knitters for you!

Corrie wearing her Icon Dress

Heini and Tracy being silly! 

Hillary wearing her Esme Jumper

Kari-Helene wearing her beloved Duchess

Lynn wearing the Florence Cowl

Margaret wearing her Esme Jumper

Nice selection of accessories by Sheila and Gillian
Up next was our next knitting workshop. We had a lovely time with Rebecca, Nina and Wendy. The alpacas were on good behaviour (apart from Hope who had a tantrum because Duchess ate her apple) and the weather was not playing up like last time!

http://www.purlalpacadesigns.com/knitting-workshops/

And then, directly after that, we got into Bessie, our van and drove to Edinburgh! We attended the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and we had an absolutely lovely time. Jo, Mica and their team did a fabulous job in organising, entertaining and feeding us all over the course of the two day show. We loved meeting the friendly crowds (yes, Saturday was a bit crowded, but still lovely!) and we enjoyed Scotland very much although we didn't see the sun until we were back across the border to England!

Even though we have never visited Scotland with Purl Alpaca Designs before, some of our knitwear had made it to show anyways!

Claire wearing her coral Allegro Shawl

Louise wearing Isis Cardigan

Shelley wearing Chelsea Waistcoat
After all this we need a holiday! But there really is no rest for the wicked - alpacas must be looked after, end of year accounts coming up and new collection is on the cards!

Until next time,

Tracy and Kari-Helene xxx