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to be skirted by hand and I hand pick the parts that will be used for yarn and bag them in plastic sacks in readiness for the mill.


Once labelled and weighed, I take them to Specialist Spinning in Oxfordshire where they are professionally


spun to our


predetermined specification. They are then sent to a company in Yorkshire to be washed and spun into 50g balls with our labels attached. I’ll pick up our new yarn and drop off the next batch of fleece to be spun on a rolling cycle. We are making approximately 150 kilos in two colours every couple of months and gradually progressing through our colour chart.


Once new yarn has arrived, Kari- Helene eagerly takes it and knits swatch samples of different stitches; she lets her imagination choose what to do with it. Once an idea formulates, she’ll draw a sketch of how she’d like the end product to look. Her next step is to knit and knit and knit…


88 | ukhandmade | Autumn 2011


Quite often the original idea has to be adapted, changed or put on hold, before she has something she’s really happy with. Then the pattern is written, with all the calculations for the different sizes (she never knew there was so much maths involved in Fashion design!). It’s sent to the pattern checker; any alterations are amended on the original design and a test piece is knitted by one of our Purl Girls.


Once this stage is reached, we concentrate on our photo shoot. Kari-Helene styles the collection to suit its theme and we find a model that has the look we are after. An outdoor location is found and a day is set aside, then we pray the weather gods are on our side this year as well! Afterwards, we agree which images to use and our designs are printed as patterns.


Each design is named after one of our alpacas, their photograph has to be taken and biography written. This year we are using Houghton Hall as


a backdrop and, as their herd with ours supplied the fibre, our design story comes full circle.


Has it been difficult to get people interested in alpaca yarn? K-H: I have always been in love with alpaca yarn, and it never really crosses my mind that people might be sceptical to it! Everyone we talk to and that feels the quality of our yarn is always positive and eager to start using alpaca, so it has never felt difficult. I guess the challenge is to spread the word to people who have never had the chance to work with pure alpaca yarn before.


TB: I hadn’t heard of alpaca yarn before getting interested in alpacas and because they’ve only been in the country for about 20 years, it is a pretty new thing! When I first knitted with it, it was such an exquisite texture; I was immediately hooked and haven’t used anything else since. I am inclined to get enthusiastic about things so enjoy telling people about the unique properties, the


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