Purl Alpaca Designs Knitting Workshop

Last month I was so excited to be invited to Purl Alpaca Designs to try out one of their unique knitting workshops. After my first visit in 2014, I knew I was in for a treat since the alpaca herd had expanded from 14 to 26!

My knitting skills have been at something of a plateau for years now, so I was looking forward to learning some new techniques and advancing to garments.

Purl Alpaca Designs is set in beautiful Burwash Manor located around 5 miles from Cambridge city centre in Barton. The workshop takes place in Barton Village Hall with a short walk to Burwash to meet the alpacas on the farm. To say this was my perfect Saturday was an understatement.Burwash-Manor-Cambridgeshire

Kari-Helene and Tracy welcomed us with a room full of beautifully designed garments and patterns to choose from whilst we all chatted and got to know one another. There were around 10 of us at varying levels, but it was a great atmosphere with everyone helping each other to choose which garments suited us best and to decide on which pattern to work on.Purl-Alpaca-Designs-Sample-Garments

The knitting kits offer quick projects such as hats and mittens right up to more involved projects such as full length cardigans and dresses. We learnt that alpaca fleece doesn’t have much lanolin in it, which means it is softer and less scratchy than sheep wool.

Once we had chosen our project and pattern, we chose a shade of yarn. I decided to make the Iago Waistcoat in Ivory. Purl-Alpaca-Yarn-SelectionKari-Helene showed us how to master the long-tail cast on over some delicious home made cake. It gives a nice straight edge for the start of your work.Kari-Helene-Purl-Alpaca-DesignsWe learnt how important tension squares are for making garments and I was in the minority as I actually like doing them! I think of them as a warm up for knitting and usually always have to go down a needle size as I knit loosely. Purl-Alpaca-Workshop-Tea-Cake

After an hour or two of knitting, we tucked into a delicious lunch which was all homemade by Kari-Helene. She had even foraged to make some amazing gorse flower cordial. The lunch and attention to detail for the entire workshop was just beyond any other craft workshop I had ever attended. We were able to ask questions and get one-to-one tuition whenever we wanted throughout the day. Lunch-Purl-Alpaca-Knitting-Workshop

The next part of the day was to feed the alpacas!! Last time I found it a really calming experience so I was looking forward to meeting the new additions and to learning more from Tracy as we quizzed her on the herd and each alpaca.Alpaca-Farm

Alpacas are social herd animals which means they should be kept in groups. Tracy has a special bond with each alpaca in the herd and can identify them all immediately. Some of the alpacas were expecting, so it was exciting to learn that even more will arrive soon (and some are for sale)!Purl-Alpaca-Knitting-Workshop-Review

We fed the alpacas some apples which they absolutely loved. Tracy then told us lots about their fleece (they are sheared once a year in the Spring), and told us about their care and her lifestyle maintaining an alpaca farm. Purl-Alpaca-Burwash-ManorAlpacas don’t really like to be touched all that much, so after we fed them, we just enjoyed hanging out with them and observing their behaviour in the sunshine!

Brown-Alpaca Alpaca Sitting-Alpacas

Listening to Tracy was really fantastic as she is so passionate about the alpacas and what Purl Alpaca is about. One of the course attendees was planning to buy some alpacas so we all got excited hearing her plans too.   Purl-Alpaca-Herd

Feeding the alpacas is what sets this knitting workshop apart from any others I have attended. Meeting the animals that provide the fleece you knit with is pretty amazing and it gives you such an insight into the story behind the brand. When you return to your knitting you have a special feeling about the garment. Feeding-Alpacas

One thing that stood out to me is how each garment is constructed. The Iago Waistcoat is particularly simple in that it is two rectangular pieces joined together, but the other garments are clearly designed by someone who has trained in fashion design. Kari-Helene is passionate about garment construction and knows exactly how to get the perfect drape and fit so that each cardigan or shawl adapts to different people’s shapes as they wear it.

Knitting-In-ProgressI can totally understand why Purl Alpaca has so many loyal customers who buy into the story and passion Kari-Helene and Tracy bring.  Having attended a workshop (with some amazing women by the way!) I will definitely be looking out for new collections when they launch. The designs are feminine and pretty and will challenge me on my knitting journey as I progress through each one. I also purchased the pattern for the Darcy Chunky Snood which I look forward to making!Iago-Cardigan-Purl-Alpaca-Designs

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post today – I really did have the best time and I can’t wait to share my finished waistcoat with you soon!

A big thanks to Tracy and Kari-Helene for the lovely welcome and for inviting me along to the workshop.



*I attended the workshop free of charge for review purposes. As always, opinions are my own. Read more about my disclosure policy here.

Purl Alpaca Visit

Last week I visited Purl Alpaca with my WI group, for an evening of yarn squishing and alpaca feeding. We were lucky enough to be a trial group for the event, which has now been released to the general public here.

Upon arrival we were greeted by these happy faces and some wonderful cloudy lemonade and homemade cookies.


The ladies at Purl Alpaca (Tracy and Kari-Helene) gave us a very warm welcome and talked us through the history of the business and showcased the latest knit wear. We were able to try things on, buy the kits and finished samples, or just purchase some yarn to add to our stashes.


Alpaca yarn is particularly soft and to avoid the scratchy feel of some natural fibres, Purl Alpaca are particularly strict with the grading of their fleece. The yarn is not dyed and all the colour ways are natural (although some blended), making each lot unique.


The visit inspired me to pick up my knitting needles again, after neglecting them for my crochet hook for some time.

Purl-Alpaca-Yarn Selection

This pom pom scarf was the softest thing I have ever put around my neck!


The garments were just beautiful.


After said yarn squishing, we ventured outside (THANK YOU ENGLISH SUMMER) and met the alpacas for some apple feeding and stroking.


We learnt that you must hold onto your apple very tightly!! Alpacas are friendly creatures and will not spit unless they are very very annoyed. If they are in distress, they will usually just sit down.


They are sheared once a year in the Spring. These alpacas were all female.


I came away with a very reserved haul of yarn, the chunky for a cowl I imagine. It’s been a while since I made anything for myself (this jumper was the last thing).


The visit was as relaxing as a spa day! Alpacas really are calming creatures and yarn shopping is always good therapy too. A much needed visit after a crazy few weeks, I may have to go again.

Big thanks to Purl Alpaca for a lovely evening. You can read their blog post here.



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Why I love Cambridge (and a yarn bomb)

I honestly feel like I live in the best place in the country. We moved from the big smoke to Cambridge 6 years ago and I utterly love it. Probably more and more as time goes by. Today I want to share with you some of my favourite things about the city.

The green space and river

Although Cambridge is a city, unlike London, the green space and idyllic river scenes make me feel like I can breathe. There is space. And cows.

The River Cam on claireabellemakes

People row and live on boats. After the rowing races they chuck each other in the river. Good old traditions.

I am also proud to say I can actually punt (only took me 5 years to learn).

The River Cam on claireabellemakes


You have to own a bike here. If you know me at all, in real life or through my blog, you know I’m obsessed with my bicycle. So much so, that I decorated it with bunting (tutorial here). It just makes sense to get around on a push bike.

Bicycles on claireabellemakes


As much as it is busy and sometimes noisy with the students around, the city doesn’t feel right without them there. During the holiday periods the city feels oddly deserted and the buzz returns when term begins. It’s a love/hate relationship. I should be grateful, I wouldn’t have a job without all 22,000 of them.


The city centre in Cambridge is filled with ancient buildings and inspiring sculptures. I find myself diverting on my journey to and from work some days, just to enjoy a different cobbled street or back path. Spaced along the river are wooden houses surrounded by pretty gardens and in the city centre a fun sculpture stands to pay tribute to a local eccentric who fundraised for charity his whole life.

Cambridge Architecture on claireabellemakes

A compact city

I love that you can reach anywhere in Cambridge within 30-40 minutes on foot or by bike. We never manage to leave the house without seeing someone we know. It’s friendly and compact. People stop to help each other and a good morning greeting isn’t unusual.

Creativity and that yarn bomb I mentioned…

Finally, it’s a creative city. People take up hobbies such as art, music, dance and craft. A yarn bombed lamp post or bike rack isn’t unusual.

Look as this guerilla knitting/crochet we saw today by the river. I wonder who could have put it there (*wink wink*)?! Perhaps they were inspired by Meredith of the blog One Sheepish Girl? She has declared today Sheepish Yarn Bombing Day!

Cambridge Yarn Bomb on claireabellemakes

Have you ever visited Cambridge? Or do you live in a place you love as much as I love Cambridge?


All images in this post are owned by claireabellemakes. Please contact me should you wish to use them.

I have shared this post on Handmade Monday – come see what others have been up to!

Adventures in Crochet

I never really understood when people said they were ‘addicted’ to crochet. I’ve knitted for a while now, but haven’t really progressed further than basic patterns. After a lengthy knitted bear project and a couple of cushions, I felt as though I wanted a break from knitting to explore different crafts. DPNs and knitting in the round could wait, but yarn couldn’t – so I discovered crochet.

Ever since my first crochet class, I haven’t been able to go a day without picking up a hook and practising stitches or creating a granny square. I get it now.

It’s official. I’ve well and truly caught the crochet bug.

There’s something so satisfying about how crochet grows. In my mind, it makes more sense than knitting and is way more flexible and forgiving. Of course I am still a beginner and have plenty more to learn. Even if you are not handy with a hook, I hope you will enjoy my recent creations and finds below.

Granny Squares by claireabellemakes

I have been working on these blue coloured granny squares for a small lap blanket for my sewing room. I love being able to make a quick granny square each day and this has totally broken my ‘don’t have an ongoing project/WIP’ habit. I’m sure I will share it once complete. The yarn is Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino, lovely and silky and fabulous to work with.

This crochet basket certainly has its imperfections, but was a really fun project – my first with t-shirt yarn. I’m not sure what to keep in it yet.

Crochet Basket in progress

Crochet Basket by claireabellemakes

I discovered Hooplayarn last year and fell in love with it, as it fully embraces the upcycling trend. Hooplayarn is a selvedge from the textile industry and is made from offcuts of clothing. Usually 100% cotton or a cotton/stretch mix, it is really versatile and can be worked into some fantastic projects. Check out this pinterest board of free patterns.

There are many free patterns on this great Dutch crochet blog (posts in English too!) and the writer is more than happy to be contacted with any pattern/general crochet queries. She hosts a great link up party once a week too – great for inspiration!

This week I also discovered another crochet blog, Fiddly Fingers. Alison explores ‘extreme crochet’ and made this amazing crochet cat named Chester! Do pop over and check out the blog post, it’s really fun. Just click on Chester below.

Finished Chester

It was thanks to Rachael from Sew Ray Me that I discovered Chester above. Rachael is super lovely & a hugely talented crafter. When I spotted her crochet hook rolls on twitter this week, I knew I had to treat myself to one.

Crochet Hook Roll

Rachael’s service is fantastic, with customers voting on her selected fabric choices via Instagram pictures. It was great fun and many people chimed in and helped out with my choice above. To be honest, it was a pretty difficult decision as she has such a good eye for fabric combos and her stash is amazing! It is beautifully stitched and organises my hooks perfectly. An utter bargain at £10 including P&P, thanks Rachael.

Do you enjoy crochet?

claireabelle x

Sew Chatty

Happy International Yarn Bombing Day

I recently discovered that June 9th is International Yarn Bombing Day. The origins of yarn bombing (or knit graffiti) are often debated, but it is said to have begun in Texas, USA in 2005. Colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are displayed in public places, often by anonymous crafters.

It got me thinking about whether I would ever have the confidence or skills to participate in a yarn bombing. What motivates people? Is it just a fun way to express creativity, or are there statements to be made? Whatever the idea behind a yarn bomb, it sure is a fun way to decorate a street or item, and it’s bound to make people stop and smile.

My yarn bombing research led me to rediscover all the recent knit graffiti I had seen online and in the national and local news.

Some of you may have seen the recent press about guerrilla knitwear artist Olek’s crocheted outfits for Anthony Gormley sculptures on Crosby Beach, Merseyside. Although the sculptures have been on the beach since 2005, Olek wanted to transform the sculptures into something new. She says “By covering them and giving them a new skin, I made them more alive”. Would this be the same for a tree? Or a railing? I know if I discovered a branch covered in a multicoloured plethora of yarn, it would certainly make me notice the tree when I would have otherwise walked on by.


It’s said to be technically illegal to yarn bomb (considered a form of graffiti), but many local knitting groups are embracing the trend and I even discovered a recent yarn bomb in the nearby city of Norfolk.

The Norfolk Ninja Knitters spruced up lamposts and sculptures outside the City Hall, but sadly the council removed the yarn bombs 🙁


These yarn bombs I found on Pinterest are really inspiring….

I love this London phone box, with Big Ben as the backdrop!

Source: www.knitthecity.com / Image © Knit the City

This one would really make people think twice about dodging parking fees…..


I wonder how long this tree yarn bomb took?


Have you spotted a great yarn bomb in your area? Have you ever yarn bombed?

Claire x