A visit from the WI

On a lovely evening in July the Mill Road WI came to visit us at Burwash Manor. The alpacas had been excited about the visit for weeks and Kari-Helene was nervous about serving home made cookies to the WI. The weather was stunning, sun was shining and temperatures soaring! The wedding marquee was laid out for a talk from Tracy and a private shopping evening followed by a visit to the alpaca field.

The lovely Claire of claireabellemakes  took some gorgeous photos on the night and has let us use them for our blog.

The evening was such as success we have decided to try a similar evening in September. If you would like to book your place on a private shopping evening with a talk about alpacas and the Purl Alpaca Designs business followed by a visit to the alpacas, please place your booking here. The evening lasts for 2 hours and there is a maximum of 24 places.

The ladies of the WI getting busy trying samples on!

Yarn and samples on display

'and then I had to shake my hands like this to make the nail polish dry...'

 Tracy showing how to feed the alpacas apples

The alpacas are friendly. We promise! 


Unwinding in the Brighton sunshine

A new yarn show has appeared and we love it when this happens! Brighton has finally got its very own knitting festival in the lovely Unwind.
Dani Sunshine has been doing a fabulous job with the organising and we were really looking forward to the show.

We had a set up slot for 10pm and were a bit worried this was going to leave us short of setting up time, but with no waiting time to get unloading and with two handsome fellas to help us carry it was done in no time at all.

The show was full of colourful yarn from companies we haven't seen everywhere else. It's great to see newcomers to the scene, and especially when they provide such a fabulous selection of goods. There was a wonderful vibe all weekend and the customers we spoke to thoroughly enjoyed their time at Unwind.

Can you spot us on the map?

We hope the show will make a reappearance next year and hope to see more of you there!


Adventures in Cumbria

We never have an uneventful stay in Cumbria for Woolfest. This year was no exception. With Tracy away at the moment, it was Kari-Helene and Karen who got behind the wheel of Bessie and drove to Keswick where we were staying in a rented apartment. The apartment turned into a little adventure as amongst other things we had to deal with two giant spiders in the bathrooms and a little mouse.
This year the weather was beautiful and we got to go for a wander around Keswick market and do a little sight seeing. Cumbria is a really beautiful place!

The Woolfest went without any issues, everything was lovely! Here are a few photos of the stall, and the happenings around the mart, including the sheep shearing demonstrations, our favourite sheep, Cluny showing us her fabulous Icon dress made from yarn from her own Shetland sheep and Louise, Karen and Kari-Helene at the stall.

Whilst packing up the stall at the end of the last day one of the rams broke free and went on a speedy trip past us. Most of us jumped and squealed a little (it was quite exciting), whilst Louise showed her true colours and without hesitation walked up to the runaway ram and grabbed him by the horn leading him back to his owners. We were all highly impressed. This might be everyday stuff amongst Cumbrians, but for us city folk, this was top stuff!
We left Cumbria in glorious morning sunshine, as lovely as it was when we arrived. We hope to return again next year!


The Mollie Makes Handmade Awards 2014

The Mollie Makes Magazine is in their 3rd year and has quickly become a firm favourite amongst crafters. This year they arranged the Handmade Awards with 5 nominees in 5 categories. Over 400 businesses entered and Purl Alpaca Designs was shortlisted for the Established Business Award. Although Tracy and Kari-Helene both find it hard to believe the business qualifies as established, we were honored and excited to be shortlisted.
The awards took place in London on the 11th of June on a hot and sunny day in the lovely Proud Archivist' cafe and library.
There was a fabulous gathering of crafty professionals and students alike, and we all had a great time getting to know each other and finding out what everyone's ideas and businesses were. We were also joking about how easy it was to spot one of us in a crowd - look out for the bold prints and bright colours!

Everyone got to talk in front of the panel of judges consisting of knowledgeable people from the creative industries, with entrepreneurial backgrounds, buyers and banking professionals. You can see the full list of judges here.
We were given very useful advice by the panel and loved every minute of it! They liked our product and were very enthusiastic about what we do. It was wonderful to get such precise and useful feedback and we left feeling excited and inspired! It was a lot more useful to us than meeting the Dragons! 

The winners were announced in a proper awards ceremony fashion, with bubbles, plaques, handshakes, photos and applause! It felt very special to be a part of it. Although Purl Alpaca Designs didn't win, we had a lovely day, met some great people and got invaluable advice from a knowledgeable panel of judges! Thanks for a fabulous day!

The winners were -

The Start Up AwardSarah-Jane Brand of Hejsan Goods
The Established Business Award - Jane Foster

The Social Enterprise Award - Emily Whitesmith of Weaversmith 

Creative Idea Award - Hannah Cox of Crafternoon Cabaret Club
The Youth Award - Carmen Jorissen of Crafty Queens  


Esme Children's Top errata

Correction to version 1.0 of the pattern:

Page 2, 2nd column, row after set up row:

Next row [WS]: [P1, k1] 4 [5, 3, 4] times, * k3 [3, 4, 4], k6, k3 [3, 4, 4], [k1, p1] 4 times, k1, rep from * twice more, k3 [3, 4, 4], p6, k3 [3, 4, 4], [k1, p1] 4 [5, 3, 4] times.

To be replaced by p6 to make a stocking stitch panel matching the other panels of the work.


Scrumptious Fibre

Yes it's that time of year again when all our alpacas have their annual hair cut.  Ben the shearer gave Tracy 24 hours notice before turning up so that she would have time to collect some helpers for the day.

After the beautiful weather, Tracy was sure everything would be okay, but then it rained, then it rained and became cold, then the wind picked up...!

Ben arrived with his helper and Tracy was assisted by Peter Garner (who recently retired from alpacas after selling Morden Hall Alpaca Farm).  Tracy doesn't like giving injections and so Peter took this task whilst Ben sheared and Tracy gathered the fibre.

Once neatly labelled and bagged, Tracy was upset to see our alpacas shivering.  She had 'one of her ideas'.  The problem is her ideas are always really great or really rubbish, but until she's tried them out, she doesn't know which is which!  Not wanting the herd to feel the cold, she took two bags of the 3rd grade fibre (which is usually sold for stuffing duvets) and made a warm bed for the alpacas in their field shelter.  Did we mention the wind?  The next day, 1/3rd of the field was festooned with bits of fluff - oops!

Well it's been a few weeks since shearing and the alpacas LOVE their new bed!  Even when the sun is shining, they're often found lazing about in the field shelter.  Most of the fluff has been collected by the local birds (who obviously know quality when they see it) and we can only hope that when it lines their nests, it keeps the babies warm and cosy.

Then last Sunday, Tracy trimmed their bonnets with the help of Alison.  10 were beautifully behaved but 4 were seriously unimpressed.  It turned into a bout of alpaca wrestling: Tracy - V - Duchess (The Screamer), Fabyanne (The Kicker), Fantasia (The Spitter) and Happy (The Crusher)!  Tracy won and all are now looking much prettier; Tracy has decided that she too now needs a hair cut!


Everything was great except the weather!

The first of our workshops took place this week in the Secret Garden Wedding Marquee and we limited the numbers so we could make sure everything was right.  We were delighted to be joined by Moira and Elena, Jenny and Kate.  Much excitement was enjoyed as everyone tried on samples before deciding which garment to make.

Moira chose Esme in Light (ivory), Elena chose Icon in Rain (taupe), Jenny chose Esme as a short-sleeved version in Storm (dark Grey) and Kate decided to make Allegro (also in Storm).  With tea, coffee and home made cookies, everyone settled down to knit, natter and get their projects under way. Kari-Helene was working on new ideas for our next collection and Tracy was making the sole of a knitted boot idea she's making (so her feet don't get so sore when we're at the Knitting and Stitching Shows!).

The downpour stopped about midday and so to take advantage of this, we trapsed across to the alpaca field.  Tracy had moved on ahead and penned the alpacas in, then, with the help of Adie, everyone was able to stoke an alpaca (although, to be fair, it was more like stroking wet velvet!).  After a bit of training, the alpacas were each fed an apple and Tracy talked a little bit about these fabulous business partners of ours.

We had a scrumptious lunch which was a wonderful onion and mushroom quiche, with                      salads and homemade bread rolls, served on retro 'Poppy' china and cut glasses filled with fruit juices from M&S.  Much chatter later, some serious knitting commenced and there were a few knitting techniques people wanted to learn.  Kari-Helene showed and tutored how to do picot hem, cabling, button holes and adapting a pattern to fit and Tracy showed the magic of splicing.

As usual, time ran away from us and too soon it was time to say "Good-bye".

Kate wrote to us and said:

"The tuition, advice and help were first rate and it was lovely to learn from others on the course too. I learnt a new method of casting on, two new stitches and how to cable.
It was wonderful to have my pattern made bespoke by the original designer!
Alpaca wool is fabulous to knit with, it just glides on the needles not catching at all.
The cookies and lunch were sublime, thank you Kari-Helene.
I cannot recommend the Purl Alpaca workshop highly enough and have been raving to all my friends about it.
I had a fabulous day and learnt so much about the yarn from hoof to needle!
Tracy and Kari-Helene and all the Alpaca ladies made my day enjoyable, informative and fun. Thank you
Kate xxx"