Double Moss Stitch

The Deftly Textured Sweater Pattern

I’ve had a wonderful weekend. It’s been the Easter weekend, with both work and family time, and some very kind people who have made it all the more special.

The Designer Makers' Market at The Witham Barnard Castle

The Designer Makers’ Market at The Witham Barnard Castle

I was peddling my woolly wares at the Designer Makers Market at The Witham in Barnard Castle on Good Friday and Easter Saturday. The event was run superbly by Kathryn from start to finish, and the venue, The Witham was great. The cafe served best cheese scones I have ever tasted! The punters too were lovely, appreciative of good design,  and all had encouraging words to say about my work. The sales were none too shabby either.

I was there with Ceri from Oakwood Soaperie and the two of us were having a girlie weekend away. Lovely Linda, a fellow trader, who runs Shanti, Shanti, Colours of Nepal, let us stay her house just ten minutes from Barnard Castle. We had such fun, a little gin, a little wine and a good deal of nattering. Linda was so kind, and it made a huge difference not having to drive the long distance home and back on Friday and Saturday.

Back at the Witham, on the Saturday, the footfall was great, and trade was brisk. There were lots of interesting people to talk to. A lady came to the stall wearing a jumper I recognised. Back in the 80s, I’d knitted myself a jumper with lots of double moss stitch, which I loved. In a moment of haste, I’d given the jumper to a charity shop and then later regretted it. It was such a good pattern, and I’d often thought of that jumper. I was thrilled to see someone wearing the very same hand knit, and told the lady I’d knitted one the same, but sadly no longer had it. The lady said she still had the pattern which had come from SHE magazine, and would be happy to make a copy of it for me.

Deftly Textured Sweater SHE Magazine

Deftly Textured Sweater SHE Magazine

I was absolutely thrilled. Not only did the lady make a copy of it, but she returned with it to The Witham later in the afternoon. Such a kind gesture! I was chuffed to bits.

Debbie Bliss Rialto in Citrine

Debbie Bliss Rialto in Citrine

I’d already bought myself seventeen balls of Debbie Bliss’s Merino Wool, Rialto in Citrine, and was searching for a pattern to knit with. I’d been looking for something with moss stitch in, and despite searching Ravelry on a couple of occasions hadn’t found anything that floated my boat.

Bingo! I now had it, thanks to the kindness of that lady.

Guess what I did all day yesterday?

Double Moss Stitch

Double Moss Stitch

Thanks for reading! I’ll be in the park at Hexham next weekend Sat 22 April at the Hexham Spring Festival. 🙂

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Looking Back Over Five Years Peddling My Wool by The Woolly Pedlar

Looking Back At The Past Five Years Peddling my Wool

Looking Back Over Five Years Peddling My Wool by The Woolly Pedlar

Looking Back Over Five Years Peddling My Wool by The Woolly Pedlar

It’s been an incredible five years. Six years ago I had to give up my teaching career due to ill health, and here I am, celebrating the fifth year of running my own business. Those of you who have been following my journey will have already heard about how it all began, so I won’t go into that all now, but leave you to read that very first blogpost for yourselves: How The Woolly Pedlar Came About

The Woolly Pedlar at Audio Soup Festival 2012

The Woolly Pedlar at Audio Soup Festival 2012

Yes, that is me in a red wig! Back in the summer of 2012 I started peddling my upcycled knitwear at small festivals, and Audio Soup was one of the first. I just had my camper van, which is a converted builder’s van, a wooden table and a few woolly wares.

The Woolly Pedlar at The Green Gathering 2016

The Woolly Pedlar at The Green Gathering 2016

Look how it’s grown! I now have my own gazebo, complete with branding and a much wider range of upcycled clothing, soft furnishings and accessories. A far cry from the wooden table at Audio Soup! This photo shows my stall at The Green Gathering 2016, which is a festival that is very dear to my heart. It is about all things eco and sustainable, which is very much where I am coming from. I really do believe that we only have a finite number of resources on our precious planet, and we must all do our bit to live as sustainably as we can. I was thrilled to win an Ethical Trader Award both in 2015 and 2016 at The Green Gathering. Unfortunately I won’t be at the Green Gathering this year, but hope to return in 2018. Tim and I are taking a year off this year to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary!

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

Talking of awards, I was absolutely blown away, when after two exceedingly busy days at Woolfest 2016, I was awarded Stallholder of the Year by The Wool Clip team who run the event. I adore Woolfest, which is in beautiful Cockermouth in Cumbria. Housed in the farmer’s mart, it is a two day event for all things woolly. things have moved on even further now, and I’m delighted to say that I am now a member of The Wool Clip. I will be in Aisle A at Woolfest 2017 and will be helping to run Britain’s premier wool event.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria

 

Happy Customers Green Gathering 2015

Happy Customers Green Gathering 2015

Of course my business wouldn’t be where it is now without all my lovely customers. I’ve found that making one off, unique garments brings so many rewards. One of the best has to be meeting and getting to know my customers personally. Some of them have become good friends, and although some live in distant places, we keep in touch through social media. It’s an absolute pleasure to be making clothes for those who are looking for an antidote for boring high street fashion!

Jeremy Corbyn buys from The Woolly Pedlar

Jeremy Corbyn buys from The Woolly Pedlar

I’ve had some famous customers too! Some of you might remember the kerfuffle that surrounded Jeremy Corbyn buying his wife, Laura one of my woolly wraps from Bardon Mill Village Shop. I innocently wrote a blog about how thrilled I was to have a famous customer, and the right wing press twisted my story into ‘Where’s Jeremy Corbyn?’, suggesting that instead of dealing with party business, he was uncontactable up on Hadrian’s Wall, buying knitwear. I was very grateful to the journalist from the Guardian who put the whole story into perspective!

Recycled Sock Tops from House of Cheviot

Recycled Sock Tops from House of Cheviot

My quest to find knitwear to recycle has taken many twists and turns. When i started out, I would scuttle around Hexham like a bag lady, collecting wool knitwear from the charity shops. I still do this, and am very grateful in particular to Tynedale Hospice at Home, Scope, Oxfam and Save the Children who all put by knitwear that cannot be sold. I love a felted jumper! Scope have really stepped up to the plate, and now collect waste knitwear on a regional basis for me.

I also buy waste knitwear now from some of our knitwear factories. Up until it’s closure, Hawick Knitwear was great source of beautiful recycled lambswool. I’m still working through the half tonne of beautiful lambswool jumpers I bought when it went into administration. The House of Cheviot sell me their waste merino wool sock tops, and these have been made into my ‘thinking hats’.

I also buy recycled knitwear in bulk from textile recyclers. I have learnt a great deal about the rag trade, and where our waste clothing ends up. So much goes to landfill, and so much gets shipped abroad. We must do everything we can to buy less, and recycle and upcycle.

Getting Help from One Off Projects

Getting Help from One Off Projects

As my business has grown, I’ve had to get help! I was thrilled when Julie from One Off Projects came to my rescue. Julie is a self employed seamstress who runs her own business, but helps me sew now. Julie is now responsible for making many of my bedspreads, ponchos and woolly wraps.

Plus Size Moss & Mustard Upcycled Wool Jacket with Pixie Hood by the Woolly Pedlar

Plus Size Moss & Mustard Upcycled Wool Jacket with Pixie Hood by the Woolly Pedlar

From making those first pair of armwarmers, and Katwise sweatercoats, my range of designs has grown steadily over the past five years, and I’ll leave you to browse the website to see what is currently available.

As always, I owe a huge amount of thanks my family who have supported me over the years. They have put up with the house being taken over by wool, and have lost the entire third floor! My dear husband has got up early on countless mornings to help set up my market stall, and has even come in handy for modelling, which he hates!

Elf hats modelled by the Woolly Pedlar's husband, Tim

Elf hats modelled by the Woolly Pedlar’s husband, Tim

I have met some amazing, creative folk who also run their own businesses. I would like to give a special shout out to lovely Ceri from Oakwood Soaperie, Linda from Shanti, Shanti Colours of Nepal, and Emily from Wildflower Trading.  All are awesome women, who have shown enormous support and encouragement when those inevitable periods of self doubt creep in. We will all be in the park together for Hexham’s Spring Fair on 22nd April, and I’m looking forward to a jolly good catch up with these three.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank you all, my readers, followers and customers. Without you, I would not be where I am today. You are all awesome! Here’s to the next five years.

Sue Reed is The Woolly Pedlar

Sue Reed is The Woolly Pedlar

 

 

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Spring Time Hexham

A Lovely Spring Day in Hexham

Yesterday I had a lovely day in Hexham, my local market town. It started with me taking photos of the Spring flowers in the park. I thought I’d show you them here in my blog. I also want to sing the praises of Hexham town centre, with it’s beautiful park, ancient Abbey and quirky independent stores.

Spring Time Hexham

Spring Time in Hexham

Yesterday was one of those days when Spring was nudging gently against Winter. Although there was a chilly wind, the sun was shining, and I was looking forward to my Tuesday in Hexham.

Tuesday is my day for jumper gathering, and I can be found, like an old bag lady, scurrying from one charity shop to another, collecting the waste wool knitwear that they had put aside for me. I’ve written before about this  in my blog, Scope Step Up to The Plate.

This Tuesday however, I had a few other extras to look forward to. I was meeting my dear friend Anne for lunch at Hextol Tans having my grey hair coloured, and had a meeting with Cool Terry from TWDA who looks after my website for me.

The Bandstand, Sele Park, Hexham

The Bandstand, Sele Park, Hexham

Before I did all that though, I grabbed the chance to take some photos in the Sele park. The sunshine was glorious, and the Spring flowers splendid. We have a newly renovated bandstand here in the Sele Park at Hexham. I belong to Tynedale Community Choir, and we can sometimes be found here in the summer months practising our singing.

Hexham Abbey from The Sele Park

Hexham Abbey from The Sele Park

Hexham Abbey was looking glorious too, bathed in Spring sunshine, and is well worth a visit if you are ever in Hexham. It rises majestically in the market place, and is a sight to behold form every angle, both inside and out. I love to walk around the park and under the arch at the side and marvel at the sandstone architecture.

Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey

As I finished taking photos in the Sele Park, I spotted my friend Jeanette, sitting on a bench having a break in between her cleaning jobs. She shared her mocha coffee and croissants with me, and we had a lovely unexpected catch up.  A lovely surprise!

Sele Park, Hexham

Sele Park, Hexham

I left he park and went jumper gathering – another mighty fine haul from Hexham’s Charity shops! These are now in the washing machine at home, and will soon be being cut up and sewn into new creations. Head over to the shop on this website to see what I’ve been making lately.

My meeting with Terry at TWDA went really well, and I’d encourage you to take a look at all the other pages in my website here.  They’re all looking mighty fine!

St Mary's Chare, Hexham

St Mary’s Chare, Hexham

I met my friend Anne for lunch at Hextol Tans, which is on St Mary’s Chare, although the locals know it as ‘back street’ . Anne and I worked together at Priory School in Hexham, when I was teaching students who have learning difficulties. I was over the moon to find to two of the students we used to teach now working in The Tans – so good to see them! The food and service at The Tans is super. It is run by The Hextol Foundation, which is a local charitable company which is helping people who are disadvantaged in the workplace to get jobs, work experience, training and a sense of purpose. I for one will be making The Tans a regular stopping off place in the future.

The day was finished nicely with a trip to the hairdressers to get my grey hairs hidden, and then home when my other half was cooking buckwheat pancakes for our Shrove Tuesday tea.

With all the out of town stores rising up not only in our town of Hexham, but all over the country, I really do implore you to seek out your town centres. Visit those quirky independent stores. Hexham has an abundance of them, and they all need your business to survive! #shoplocal!

The Woolly Pedlar's Market Stall

The Woolly Pedlar’s Market Stall

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be in Hexham on Saturday April 22nd in The Sele Park, with the full kit and kaboodle, with a stall stuffed full of upcycled woolly wares. It is the Hexham Spring Fair and Eating Festival, with plenty to keep all the family amused. Do hope to see you there!

 

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work experience Berlin

Getting Help from Berlin

Nele has come from Berlin to Bridge Cottage, for six week’s work experience. She is studying Fashion Design at Berlin University and I’m delighted she has come to Bridge Cottage to learn about upcycling woollies, and to give me a hand. In case you’re wondering, Nele is pronunced N-ee-le, with the final ‘e’as in ‘the’, not Nelly as I first thought. Apologies for that, Nele!

work experience Berlin

Nele is on work experience from Berlin

It wasn’t long before Nele got stuck in. If you’re a fellow creative type you might understand the muddle that can ensue once the creative juices get flowing! Nele’s first job was to bring some sense of order to the woolly garret. I had stock all over the place which needed sorted into website stock, and stock for local stockists and shows.

 

Sorting out the muddle in the woolly workshop

Sorting out the muddle in the woolly workshop

Needless to say Nele has done a fantastic job, and not only can I now see the carpet, but all the stock is in the right place, neatly folded in labelled boxes, or hung on rails so I can now see what I’ve got in stock. As one of my Facebook followers said, ‘every crafter needs a Nele’

A tidy workshop thanks to Nele

A tidy workshop thanks to Nele

 

Nele’s next task was to make sure that everything listed on the website was actually in stock. When you make one off items, everything has to be listed separately, and it is all too easy to get in a muddle when doing shows, or taking stock to local stockists, if website stock taken to them. I hate having to apologise to customers online when I find I’ve sold an item they have ordered. My website stock is now in labelled boxes, all double checked, and I MUST NOT TAKE IT AWAY!!!

Nele checks stock against the website

Nele checks stock against the website

Today we have Sarah Loveland Photography here, who will be giving Nele and I lessons in taking indoor product shots. I have lots of new stock waiting to go on the website, and some of the photos on the website are far from adequate. There is also a bunch of shots where I have the most dodgy hair do ever! Nice poncho, shame about the hair do!

Nice poncho, shame about the hair do

Nice poncho, shame about the hair do

I’m enjoying having Nele here for reasons other than her enormous help. I studied German at school to A level, and to this day, I love speaking German! She is helping me to brush up on my vocabulary, and as we sit over lunch, we learn new words for the food we are eating in each other’s languages.

Nele is also young, so is a whizz with Instagram, and all the other tecchie things that this old luddite is having to learn. She is bright and young, and a breath of fresh air up in woolly garret.

I love Berlin too – a great city, which we visited four years ago. Here am I peddling along the East Side Gallery on the Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin.  (that isn’t a typo – that is how the company spells tyre!)

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin

Nele tells me she is very interested in learning about upcycling, and slow fashion, and I’m looking forward to another five weeks of having her here with me in the woolly garret.

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Vibernum at Bridge Cottage

Tales From The Woolly Garret: The January Blues

So, the tree’s down and the kids have left to go back to their respective homes. The house is quiet and cold. The van is still full of stock from Christmas shows, and the workshop is in a right old state. There is Christmas cake and chocolate to finish, even though the scales have reached a new high. The post Christmas lurgy has also struck and Lemsip has replaced gin as my drink of choice.

This time of year that can be tough for some. Just yesterday over on Twitter, someone I follow was asking if it was ok to say that she was ‘down’. Yes it is, it’s January, it’s cold and dark, and some of us are worn out from the run up to Christmas and the frenzy of Christmas markets. The January Blues can bite hard.

I must admit to feeling briefly low. I get so used to having the two elder ‘kids’ around, and it feels like a part of me is missing when they go. Go they must, however, as they have exiting your lives to lead, and we’d annoy the pants of each other if they stayed around for too long.

I also made the mistake of stepping on the scales – bad move! That should wait until at least two weeks after Christmas, if at all. To combat all the cheese we had a lovely run out to Caldbeck where we visited The Wool Clip and went for a long walk. For those who aren’t familiar with The Wool Clip, it’s a beaut of a shop full of all things woolly and run by the same co-operative who organise and run Woolfest. The countryside and villages around Caldbeck, which is on the north eastern edge of the Lake District, are stunning. It’s amazing how a good walk, a bit of woolly retail therapy and looking at horizons lifts the January Blues. I resisted cake at the cafe too and went for the carrot and parsnip soup.

I loved visiting The Wool Clip and met Emma from Hole House Bags who was running the shop that day. The blues were starting to lift!

I also got quickly back up in the woolly garret and began sorting my jumpers into piles. This is always exciting, as new possibilities of colourways and potential projects get planned. I can’t wait to get sewing again! I have an exciting new collection panned based on a photo I took whilst Cycling Around Orkney. I’ll keep that under wraps though, until I’m ready to unveil the collection. Needless to say, I have an awesome pile of jumpers, with colours to beat any blues into submission.

 

Today I got out in the garden, and used the trug my husband bought me for Christmas. My one New Year’s Resolution is to get out in the garden more and to grow more veggies this year. Those of you who used to follow my blog The Bridge Cottage Way will know how important this is to me, but woolly pedlaring took over last year, and the garden was sadly neglected. I find getting outdoors to be one of the best ways of beating the blues, January or not! I got into the greenhouse and weeded in between the winter veg. It was great to be back connecting with the soil.

We have a rather unruly Vibernum near the greenhouse which has burst into flower. It is a wonderful sight, with a heady scent. The perfect antidote to the January Blues.

 If you’re feeling blue, I hope it doesn’t last, the days are getting lighter, and Spring is on its way!

 

 

 

 

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Tales Woolly Garret Learn Sew Book

Tales From the Woolly Garret. My Learn to Sew Book

I actually squealed with delight when I unwrapped my parent’s Christmas present to me this year. It was a copy of ‘My Learn to Sew Book’. Back in the gender specific seventies I had been given a ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ and my brother a ‘My Fun with Wood Book’. I wonder, was this how The Woolly Pedlar began?

Tales Woolly Garret Learn Sew book

Tales from the Woolly Garret – My Learn to Sew Book

As a child I was encouraged to make things. I watched Blue Peter and made many of the items Valerie Singleton showed us. I even made my own kids a Tracey Island when Thunderbirds were popular for the second time around in the nineties. When visiting my Nan, I’d be asked in true Jane Austin style, if I had my ‘work’ with me. Not homework, but my embroidery or knitting – something I was positively encouraged to do. Maybe it was to give me something to do while the grown ups were talking.

Growing up in the seventies we made things for something to do. Children’s television ended at 5.30 with The Magic roundabout, when Dad came in from work, and didn’t start again til we got in from school. That included school holidays. We had no computers, ipads, xboxes or Playstations. We played outside, read or made things.

I loved my ‘My Learn to Sew Book’, with it’s projects growing in difficulty. I began with the ‘Shell Shape Needlebook’, which consisted of three shell shaped pieces of felt, joined by overstitching, and added it to me ever growing sewing box. I loved collecting haberdashery, and still have many of these first items in my sewing box today.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

After the shell shaped needlebook, I progressed to a hedgehog pincushion and made a family of finger puppets and a hen egg cosy. I made a stuffed mouse, and a floppy frog. Oh how I loved felt!

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

I later progressed to making Baby Billy and Polly Dolly, complete with clothes, though I was a tad disappointed in my Polly Dolly, as she looked nothing like the one in the book. I just couldn’t get the hair right.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

My Nan was a great embroiderer and between her and my ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ I learnt how to do tent stitch, blanket stitch,  chain stitch, French knots, and made a sampler.

These were all sewn by hand, and by making them I learnt sewing techniques that were reinforced at school by sewing binker canvas samplers.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

Patchwork quilting was another sewing skill learnt with the help of ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ and my creative family. My Great Aunt Vera was a quilter, and sold her quilts to America. I remember as a child being in awe of her sewing room, and longed to have one for myself. I made the little dolls bedding set, and then moved on to a full double bedspread, which I’m ashamed to say is one of those unfinished projects I’m sure we all have.

However, what I really wanted to do was make my own clothes, and longed to own a sewing machine, which I eventually did. It was a toy sewing machine, a little red one, and was my pride and joy. I made myself the Dirndl Skirt on p.52. Good grief, what was I thinking? Social suicide surely!! I would have shown you a photo of me in my creation but fortunately I couldn’t find one!

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

I’m laughing now a read back through the ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ at some of the promises – apparently if I made the Apron on p54, I would look both ‘smart and sensible’ – something I’ve never aspired to or indeed managed in 54 years!!

I’d lost the original book in the various moves from my childhood home, and am so grateful to my parents for finding me a copy of this wonderful book which brings back so many memories. As I sit up in the woolly garret, surrounded by sewing (not I’m afraid tidily put away in paper of polythene bags as the book suggests), I really do wonder if this was the start of The Woolly Pedlar. I’m so glad I learnt to sew, and I hope generations of children – boys and girls – continue to learn to sew.

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woolly wrap happy christmas woolly pedlar

Happy Christmas – It’s a wrap!

Happy Christmas one and all! It’s time to leave the woolly garret for a while, get the tree up and shopping done ready for the family’s Christmas.

It’s been a phenomenal year again, my fifth year of rescuing preloved jumpers to turn into new things. I would like to thank you all for all your continued support. It’s been great to meet so many of you at my events over the year, as well as those of you I’ve met virtually through social media.

I won’t waffle on here, as I’ve got a busy day ahead, and I’ll be writing a longer summary of the year after Christmas.

More importantly, it’s time to make my first ever live video over on Facebook (eeeekkkk!) where I’ve been running a competition to win a woolly wrap to celebrate reaching 3000 followers. Thank you to all who entered, liked and shared.

Tamsin Beevor you are the winner!!

I’ll be keeping the website shop open over the Christmas season, and my local stockists all have lots of woolly goodies in stock. If you’re in Haltwhistle, then Peacock Blues has 20% off all my woolly wares.

May I just take this opportunity again to wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

It’s a wrap!

woolly wrap happy christmas woolly pedlar

Happy Christmas from The Woolly Pedlar! Winner of the woolly wrap competition is announced!

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Phew! I’ve Found My Mojo Again

You’d have thought that coming back from my favourite festival, The Green Gathering, with the Silver Ethical Trader Award, would have me leaping up to the woolly garret, all fired up to make more coats and jumpers, scarves & armwarmers, but no, I temporarily lost my mojo.

A nasty troll incident on Facebook, and sales being down on last year, plus the exhaustion that goes with doing a big event, left me feeling rather flat, lacking in confidence and unsure of things. I couldn’t face sewing jumpers!

GG1

The Green Gathering was wonderful. Beautifully chilled, in glorious surroundings, with southern sunshine.  It was great to see so many friendly faces again, some of whom have become good friends, like Kym here and Gretel in her lovely moss green coat, and sales on the Thursday and Friday to old and new customers were fantastic.

GG4

GG5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GG3

Sales dipped and almost stopped as temperatures soared over the last couple of days of the Green Gathering, as woolly jumpers were the last things on peoples’ minds. I took advantage of this, and sat with feet up outside my stall lapping up the warm southern sun.

I do think I’ve worked extremely hard at my little business for the last four and half years, and sometimes I need to learn to take a break and do other things. So, with my daughter’s 23rd birthday coming up I decided to decorate her bedroom instead of going back to work. I know I can hear you saying, ‘that’s not a break’! I’m rubbish at doing nothing, and decorating her room was really satisfying.

I also took a couple of long afternoon breaks in the sunshine that appeared briefly last week, and Tim and I took time out yesterday for a walk along the beach at Embleton – one of my favourite places.

GG6

 

Result! My mojo has returned!

I’m back to the blog, and have stocked a new shop up in Belford. I’ve arranged a Pop Up Shop in Morpeth, at Treacle Wool Shop, and the machine is once again humming away with new creations. Phew! I was worried there for a minute, but it would seem my mojo has returned, and talking to other fellow artisans it would seem that I  have not been alone in these feelings. Others too have reported feeling blue and generally lacking in va va voom lately. Maybe it has all been something out of our control, but I’m jolly glad it has passed!

Time to get going and get my Christmas stock made!

I’m just about to write my latest newsletter, so if you’d like to hear about my latest local stockists, or get the dates for your diary of Autumn and Christmas Markets, then look out for the newsletter in your inbox, or sign up to it here:

Newsletter Sign Up

 

 

 

 

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Are you on Instagram?

Continuing my four part series on using social media for a small business, this week I’m asking the question, are you on Instagram? If not, here are a few pointers for getting up and running with what is becoming one of the fastest growing social media platforms.

As I’ve said before, for this fifty something year old, using social media to promote my upcycling business has been a steep learning curve, but a most enjoyable one. Instagram has become another string to my bow, and works very differently to Facebook or Twitter.

Multi-Color_Logo_thumbnail200

Research is showing that the photo-sharing app is one of the most effective brand-building tools available today. It is not surprisingly is a popular choice for other designers and professions, and is in fact increasingly important for every kind of business.

Whilst Instagram can be viewed on a laptop or pc, it is primarily an app for the smartphone. The Instagram app can be downloaded for free from the Apple store or Google play, and is very easy to use.

Once downloaded, you will be prompted to fill out your profile. Your username should match those already in use on other social media profiles. Write a short 150 character bio and include a link to your website.

Your profile picture can be your company’s logo or a photo of you, and again, it is useful to keep this consistent over all social media so that your brand is instantly recognisable. This is a job that I need to do as my profile pics are not all the same! I often wonder of it’s better to use a photo of me, an instantly recognisable product such as my sweatercoats, or my logo? I think I’ll change them all to my logo this week, after all it’s a great design!

LOGO ON DARK
Stick to a theme. I live and work in rural Northumberland making one off handmade, upcycled products. This therefore is what I want to show folk. I do not include photos of my dinner, holiday snaps, family or other aspects of my life, but I do show photos of behind the scenes, where I live and work, what has inspired me in nature as well as photos of new products. I think it’s a good idea to develop an image of you and your brand that is not just about what you make, but rather how it is made, and the personality behind the business.

Bridge-Cottage

You then need to add a caption. This is a chance to expand on your image, and link it back to your business. Use hashtags to help followers find your posts that are relevant to the photo, but use these at the end of the caption, and not jumbled up in the text. I frequently use the following hashtags: #upcycled #ecofashion #wool #recycled. You can put a couple of hashtags in your profile too.

On Instagram, you should be maintaining a regular posting schedule, but you don’t want to bombard your followers with too many posts. I generally post something once or twice a day, usually in the morning and again in the late afternoon to catch everyone returning home from work.

Don’t forget to crosspost your Instagram posts with other social media platforms. The app allows you to post images directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare. However, I do find that as the different social media platforms work in very different ways, I do tend to construct posts differently depending on where they are destined for. I crosspost direct to Twitter and Tumblr from Instagram, but not to Facebook. That just a matter of preference.

I’ll leave you now with this photo of a poncho sent by a lady in Tennessee USA who followed me on Instagram, then put an order in for a bespoke rasta poncho after seeing posting of my upcycled woolly ponchos. It’s proof that using social media for business really is worth the while!

Ruana

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram I’m woollypedlar

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The Power of Twitter

Following on from last week’s post, about the Highs and Lows of Using Facebook as a Small Business, I thought I’d write this week about the ‘Power of Twitter’. I love Twitter, and it has helped me link up with some awesome people and has provided many business opportunities.

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It was through Twitter I met Gavin Forster. (It was in fact through Northeasthour on Twitter, but more of that later.) Gavin has a photography business, Gavin Forster Photography and was looking for designs to photograph to jazz up his website. He had seen a tweet of mine showing my brightly coloured, upcycled, woolly creations and thought my work was just what he was looking for. Gavin picked  a suitcase full of my sweatercoats and jumpers and took them off on a photoshoot with one of his models. I was delighted, as I got some absolutely stunning photos, many of which I still use today, and Gavin was delighted too as he got a lots of very funky shots.

The black and white sweatercoat above is one of his shots, as are these two and all three remain firm favourites of mine.

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Only last week, I came across Chris, who has a workshop called Quercs down in Skipton where he makes upcycled furniture using reclaimed timber. Chris had tweeted about his gallery opening, and his hunt for fellow upcyclers to exhibit there. I’m happy to say that through the power of Twitter, Chris and I started talking and last week I sent down a big box of bedspreads, throws and cushions to Skipton. Chris’ furniture and my bedspreads go beautifully together. Quercs is now added to the list of stockists of my upcycled woolly wares, thanks to the power of Twitter.

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One of the most unusual commissions to date has to the the coffin cosy I was asked to make for Divine Departures, a funeral parlour in Gateshead.(Unfortunately no longer in business). Divine Departures were after a covering for their cardboard caskets that fitted with the ecofriendly nature, and found me through #Northeasthour.

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 Northeasthour, is an hour dedicated to north east businesses and is hosted by Helen Armstrong on Twitter, every Monday from 8-9pm and on Tuesdays from 1-2pm. The idea being that is you tweet anything with the hashtag #northeasthour then this can be easily spotted and retweeted or commented on by others joining in with the hour. There are many different ‘hours’ over on Twitter, far too many to join in with them all, but living in the north-east, I’ve found #northeasthour to be a tremendously supportive community. I’ve even had my carpets cleaned by a guy who I found through #northeasthour.

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It was through the power of Twitter that ITV got in touch. They has seen my work and were looking for a small business to interview for a broadcast about the election and how it was affecting businesses in the northeast. I was picked as I was a small business that appeared to be doing well. It was a fantastic opportunity to talk about my work, and the crew spent a lot of time with me, filming at home, and in Hexham at The Farmer’s Market.

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The list of contacts made and friendships forged could go on. In just 140 characters, Twitter invites you to tweet. Hashtags are used to help people find tweets. So for example, I tweeted about my latest sweatercoat today. I tweeted ‘This latest sweatercoat has a stonking great hood! #ecofashion’. I then included the link to my website and this photograph. A great opportunity to show what I’ve just made, and the #ecofashion hashtag means those searching for tweets on the subject will hopefully find mine! It really is as simple as that.
If you have something to tell the world, I really would suggest you give Twitter a go.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m @Woollypedlar.

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