Substituition time - how to use our yarn for other projects!

We are frequently asked how our yarn compares to others and how they will knit up using other patterns. There isn't really a straight forward answer to this one, but we will try give you some guidelines to make it easier to decide what yarn to go for!

Our yarn come in Fine and Medium in ten colours and, in ivory, we also have a Chunky version.
The Fine yarn compares roughly to an American Sports weight which is in between a 4 ply and a DK. Our Medium is more like a Worsted weight and is between a DK and Aran.

Let's go into a little more detail!

How to get the right tension

It is always important to knit a tension square, but it is absolutely crucial to do your tension square when knitting a pattern with a different yarn than what it was designed for. So when you are using our yarn for a different pattern (or a different yarn for one of our patterns) do make sure you knit a tension square. If you end up with too many stitches or too many rows, it means your tension is too tight and you need to increase your needle size accordingly, and should you end up with too few, you will have to reduce your needle size!

On our yarn labels we have a standard tension for our Medium and our Fine yarn. Medium knits up to 17 sts and 24 rows on 5 mm needles and Fine knits up to 20 sts and 29 rows on 4 mm needles.

How long is a piece of yarn?

When comparing yarn it is important to consider weight vs length. On a yarn label you will often see the length per 50 or 100g ball. Our yarn is 116m per 50 g for the Fine yarn and 77 m per 50 g for our Medium yarn. You can have very different lengths on a 50 g ball depending on how thin the yarn is but also how heavy the fibre is!  If the thickness looks the same and the tension knits up the same but the length of the ball of yarn is much shorter it will be because the yarn is heavier. This means the end result will have a different drape. This might not be a bad thing, but something to keep in mind. You would also have to buy more yarn as one ball would not go as far as one ball of our yarn!

What fibre does your yarn contain?

Purl Alpaca Designs' yarn comes from British alpacas, some from Tracy's own animals. We also visit some of the other farms ourselves, meet the animals and select the fleeces that will make our yarn. All our yarn is made from only British alpaca fleeces and are spun into our yarn at the Natural Fibre Company's mill in Devon. We are very proud of the fact that our yarn is made right here in Great Britain and we will strive to keep it that way. Our yarn will be a little pricier than some of our imported competitors, but like us, we know you value knowing the source of your product and the ethical standards the alpaca owners have.  We're sure you appreciate that this comes at a premium!

When substituting alpaca yarn for any other fibre it is important to know that alpaca has a fabulous drape and stunning lustre. We spin our yarn using the woollen method, which creates a lofty and lightweight end result whilst still maintaining the drape.

This is by no means a final word on this topic, there are so many things to think about and so many individual things to take into consideration we could probably write a Phd on the subject! But we hope this will give you a good starting point and hopefully a bit more confidence when substituting yarn in the future!

Happy knitting!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx


Getting ready for the snuggly season - alpaca yarn in autumn shades!

We're thinking woolly blankets, hot chocolate, a roaring fireplace, autumn leaves, shiny, wet tarmac, rain storms and of course; knitting! All the things you need for a cosy and relaxed evening in. Those evenings aren't quite here yet, thank goodness for that, but we have started preparing for them! 

A new batch of scrumptious yarn is back from the mill and we are delighted with the colours! Well, Kari-Helene is delighted and Tracy is coming round to them. The colours weren't quite what Tracy had in mind when she mixed the fibres, so she was a bit surprised when she first saw them. 

If you would like to order any of these new batches make sure to enter code AUTUMN15 in the comments box when placing your order so we know to select just the right yarn for you!

The two new deliveries are of Alpaca Copper and Alpaca Storm (Grey) and both have come out a bit darker than our usual colours. They are perfect for that cosy jumper, like Geronimo or Niobe.  For a chilly walk in the woods, set against the backdrop of yellow and red leaves, we'd recommend snuggling into a long and warm scarf like Medley

Stunning dark grey alpaca yarn in Medium thickness

Fabulous British alpaca yarn in Fine thickness

The Alpaca Storm (Grey) yarn is available in both Medium and Fine and is one of the darkest greys we have ever produced. A fantastically soft yarn, it lends itself beautifully to scarves and hats you wear next to the skin. The colour is almost a bit blue, nearly like the colour of the Dusty Snood!

Lovely and soft British alpaca yarn in the Fine thickness

This new batch of Alpaca Copper (a rich medium-brown) is a darker than previous batches and is only available in FINE! However, it has a wonderfully rich, almost rust red tone unlike any yarn we have ever made and it is truly stunning! It is also so soft to touch, it's just begging to become a much loved garment for a keen knitter!

If you would like to order the new batches of yarn make sure you type AUTUMN15 in the comments box when placing your order and we will carefully select the right shades for you!

You can order the Alpaca Storm yarn here and the Alpaca Copper yarn here.

Are you tempted yet? We certainly are. Just have to decide which project to make now!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx


Where we are off to next - events in July, August and September 2015

July is already well underway and we have hardly noticed! We are busy with alpacas, babies and designing and time really flies! These summer months are the quieter of the year for us but we still have a few things happening that we thought we'd let you know about!

1. Knitting Workshop, 22nd of July.

There is only one spot left on our workshop next week, so if you'd like to come along, you'd better be quick! We are looking forward to a fun day getting to know some lovely knitters and introducing them to our 4 alpaca babies! Luna, Louisianna, Lucky Lady and Lily are all super excited to great their first workshop attendees!

2. European Ultimate Frisbee Championship

Say what? Well, this is a bit of shameless self promotion from Kari-Helene. She is off to play for Norway at the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships in Copenhagen at the end of July and if you would like to know more about what she gets up to when she is not knitting you can follow them on their Facebook page!

Photo by Ole Kristian Mosand

3. Knitting Workshop, 16th of September.

We are ready for another fantastic workshop. At the time of writing there are 3 spaces left on what will be this year's last workshop. We are hoping to make it a fantastic day and will most likely have another 2 babies and a whole lot of brand new collection to show off!

4. Yarndale - 26-27th of September.

We are really looking forward to heading north again and this time to Skipton. A lovely drive across the hills from our more familiar Harrogate lies this charming village full of lovely people and for this weekend in September it will also be full of knitters and other yarny types. We can't wait. We like yarny types.


Knitting for beginners - our 5 favourites for those just starting out!

So many times we hear stories of people learning to knit making a scarf and then giving up half way through. Kari-Helene is not a fan of teaching knitting by making scarves. It may appear like a good place to start. Big rectangle, no shaping, easy peasy. The issue here is that there's a lot of work for not much reward... There are limits to how exciting a garter stitch scarf with slightly uneven edges can be!

Summer is a great time to gear up towards knitting season, plan your projects and build motivation. If you are thinking of learning to knit this year; here is some inspiration for you! We've rounded up our 5 favourite knitting kits for the beginner knitter!

1. Misty Turban and Wristwarmers

Misy Turban and Wristwarmers - a great place to start!

 This is Kari-Helene's go-to when teaching anyone to knit. The wrist warmers are a great place to start. No shaping, easy garter stitch and only one seam. It's also a great practice for a new knitter in reading a basic pattern as well as understanding instructions on how to sew up the finished piece.

Some novices might find the second wrist warmer looks a lot nicer than the first and decide to do one again, but this is a great way to measure progress and gives a strong sense of achievement! The turban is a good next step, slightly bigger piece of knitting and slightly more complicated sewing up, but still more than manageable for a first project!

2. Charlie Pom-Pom Scarf

Charlie Scarf with cute pom-pom detail!

The next step up for a beginner knitter, would be to learn how to shape your knit. The Charlie scarf shows you how to do a basic increase and also a basic decrease to create the points either end of the scarf. This pattern also introduces holding of stitches and making pom poms. Again - this is a fun and fast project with a fab end result!

3. Iago Waistcoat

Iago Waistcoat - a quick and easy knit!

Making your first ever garment can seem like a daunting task. There are so many things to think of! How will the garment fit at the end? Will I be able to sew it up?There must be so much shaping to do? The answer to all these questions is in the Iago Waistcoat! This garment is the ideal first, big project for a new knitter with no shaping and only three short seams. The design uses only the basic knit and purl stitches and shows you how many different textures you can achieve knowing only these; a fantastic confidence builder!

4. Allegro Shawl

Allegro Shawl - a great project for a novice knitter!

Learning to knit in the round can be extremely useful when wanting to broaden your knitting repertoire. The Allegro Shawl will give you a good starting point for just this. The waistband is knitted in the round in a basic 2x2 rib whilst the main section of the shawl is worked straight.
Knitting in the round will instantly open up so many different designs to any new knitter without having to learn any new stitches!

5. Persephone Cardigan

Persephone cardigan - it looks more difficult than it is!

Eventually, any new knitter will want to tackle the big one - the cardigan! To make something with sleeves and fastening can be scary at first, but by starting with something easy like the Persephone Cardigan should get you going on a road to success! This design uses only the basic knit and purl stitches whilst introducing slightly more advanced techniques such as a knitted cast on. The conundrum in this design is the making up - it only involves one seam! To provide the perfect finish, a basic crochet edging is applied to the neckline providing the knitter the chance to add as many (or few) button holes as they want.

Finally we'd like to talk about materials. Too often we meet new knitters starting out with cheap yarn and needles and hating it. To make the experience as easy and pain free as possible we strongly recommend buying good quality needles as well as a nice yarn to work with.

We, of course, love alpaca, but we won't force you...

Lots of knitted love to you all!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx


It's a girl! A baby alpaca girl!

We've had another cria born - the 4th this year. The proud mother is Helene and she has given birth to a lovely little baby girl. Tracy has not decided on a name yet.

She was born on the hottest day of the year so far and wasn't able to start feeding within the first couple of hours. Tracy thought it best to give her a helping hand so she wouldn't dehydrate and bottlefed her Colostrum, a nourishing substance they would usually get through their mothers first milk. After receiveing that, she was able to stand up and shortly started feeding of Helene. She is now progressing as normal and is looking strong! 

The other members of the herd are wishing her a warm welcome

Only a few hours old, chilling in the grass

Mother and cousin greeting the little one

It's amazing to see how much the other babies have grown already!

Feeding off mum all on her own! 

We're still expecting a couple more babies this year as it appears two others also are pregnant. They are not due until the end of August, so if you fancy meeting any of our little ones, the workshop on the 16th of September would be perfect!

Love from Tracy, Kari-Helene and the alpacas (now 22 of them!)


Wonderful time at Woolfest in Cumbria!

We have just returned from Cumbria where we have attended Woolfest for the 4th time. We love this show, it's well curated, well visited and every consideration is made to ensure stall holders and visitors have the best possible experience. Kari-Helene especially loved the coffee from The Orange Square this time.

We rented a holiday cottage in the lovely village of Allonby and absolutely loved it! The cottage was cute, clean and cosy and the village itself was picturesque and friendly. We had great weather and a fabulous beach nearby. How could it get any better!
The weather doesn't look great in these photos, but hey - it hardly rained and was only a little bit windy. In Cumbrian terms that is brilliant, isnt it?

Pretty Allonby!

Stunning beaches of Allonby!

Our lovely cottage, Roseacre. You can book it too!

Woolfest was as always a treat. The stallholders put such an effort into their displays. Kari-Helene loved Ananuca especially, and after the show learned they received the best in show price! Well deserved. The garden bench complimented the colours of their yarn perfectly!

Another highlight was seeing the Valais Blacknose Sheep! They are the cutest animals we have ever seen (after alpacas, of course!) and really stole the show. People were surrounding their stall to sneak a cuddle and a photo! Farmer Jamie was overwhelmed by the response as this was his first attendance at a wool show. We hope they will all be back!

Ananuca hand dyed yarn from Chile

Tracy in action on our stall!

The cutest sheep we have ever seen!

Sorry buddy, you're cute too!

As always it is such a treat to meet all the lovely people coming to Woolfest! This year we were visited by Lisa and Carole who had knitted one of our designs since last year! Lisa made Duchess in Champagne and Carole made Olivia in Black. they both looked so lovely! Thank you both so much for taking the time to show us!
Lisa wearing her Duchess Cardigan.

Carole in her Olivia Coat.

On the way home we made our obligatory stop at Mainsgill Farm shop. We arrived just as they were feeding their camels and alpacas!

And now we are back home to a pretty normal week. No travelling, no workshops, no events. Although these days that seems to be the exception! We will be catching up on emails, accounts and pattern writing and maybe even squeeze in some knitting! 

Lots of love, 

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx


Knight(s) in shining armour - alpacas on the run again!

Most people are so lovely, it helps you forget the nasty ones!

Tracy would like to say a massive thank you to:
Cambridgeshire Police
Jane Mead
Tim and Alan

The kindness of strangers will never cease to amaze us.

A couple of weeks ago, on the afternoon that Havana and Lucky Lady bonded, Tracy was feeling elated; it lasted less than an hour.  She had a call that two of her baby llamas were out on the road. Not owning llamas, it was a pretty accurate guess that they meant alpacas and she ran to the girls field where all were present and correct.  Then she saw Charlie's face over the hedge and drove round to the boys field to discover that someone had stolen the electric fence - battery, energiser, ground stake, posts, wire... the whole lot.  This meant that George and Charlie could adopt a more 'free-range lifestyle.


Tracy sorted everything out and things have been quiet until this week.  Early Thursday morning, the police called to say that there were alpacas on the road which would cause a problem during the rush hour.  It takes 30 minutes to get there, so Tracy lept into Bessie and drove to Barton in record time. The police had managed to herd the boys into Bael's Acre where they live and had put 'Police do not cross' tape across the entrance so they couldn't get out.  Tracy investigated and discovered that more of her fence had been removed.  Making their enclosure smaller and secure once again, she put the boys back into their newly designed paddock and left at 9.00 p.m.

Doing the accounts on Friday morning, another phone call at 10.30 a.m. alerted her to the boys being out again.  This time the perpetrators had cut the cable ties securing the barrier at one end of the field shelter and herded the boys onto the road. Luckily they had run into an opposite field that is full of wheat and poppies - unluckily for Tracy it is enormous.

Tracy drove the faithful Bessie down the farm track to the end where Jane Mead had advised her that there was a paddock at the bottom with a gate; it had cattle in the field.  The boys, recognising the van, ran over to meet her so getting food out of the back she tried to create a temporary fence around them whilst they ate.  Being skittish, they ran off.  Then she tried to make them follow her using the bucket.  This worked well and feeling confident, Tracy rang Fiona (from Inside Out at Burwash Manor) who ran down the drive and stopped the traffic.  Even following Tracy and being enticed with food, they wouldn't cross the road, whirling round and running back to where they had been.

Next Tracy caught Dusty, made a temporary headcollar from baling twine and took her for a walk! Going into the field for approximately 550m she immediately caught the attention of our two stud males, George and Bollinger, they ran across to check Dusty out and Charlie and Iago followed to see what all the fuss was about.  The plan was for them all to follow Dusty and have Fiona do her traffic duty again.  Didn't quite work out though as George tried to mate with Dusty and so did Bolly.  Tracy was now in a bit of a pickle.  Enter Tim, out for a walk during his lunch hour, he rounded the bend and said "Do you need a hand?"
"I do a bit!" Tracy replied and whilst Tim held Dusty, Tracy ran to Bessie and got the headcollars and lead reins.  Huh, George and Bolly were caught but Iago and Charlie had lost interest.  With Tim's help, George, Dusty and Bolly were walked back to Burwash Manor with the plan to put the boys in with the sheep owned by Bex.  Bex knew of the problem and took down the fencing so they could be led in, but the two cows didn't like their new field mates and chased Bolly who leapt the fence across to the drive.  Luckily again, Tim had phoned his colleague Alan who was coming up the drive and he caught Bolly.  Now, what on earth to do with them?

Bolly, the high jumper

George was penned into the field shelter with Dusty, Bolly was penned into the coral area with Inca, so whilst they were safe and occupied, it was now time to think of catching Iago and Charlie.  Tim, Bex and Alan were absolutely marvelous.  Using food, temporary fencing and will power, the last two escapees were rounded up, caught and unwillingly walked back to the girls' field and put in with their relatives.

So they are all safe for now and in a location closer to the farm where we hope they will be left alone!

A big thank you again to everyone involved in helping, both from us and the alpacas!

Tracy & Kari-Helene xxx