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Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Woolly Hats in the Woods

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

This blog post is a celebration of several things.

  • Of the special friendships and professional relations forged through social media
  • Of families and times having fun in the great outdoors together
  • Of my upcycled woolly hats
  • Of UK knitwear manufacturers who have the foresight to recycle their waste and collaborate with upcyclers such as myself.
Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

I have made a large amount of hats, some from squares of recycled knitwear, and some from recycled merino wool sock tops from The House of Cheviot (more of the latter later).  I hate taking product shots using a plastic dummy, and had to resort to using a squash with a drawn on face to model the hats for the website.

Kids Hats Recycled Wool Knitwear The Woolly Pedlar

Kids Hats from Recycled Wool Knitwear by The Woolly Pedlar

Through Twitter and Instagram, I have got to know Corinne Hills down in Sheffield. Corinne bought a baby blanket from me in the past and our online friendship has developed over the last couple of years. Corinne has a wonderful family of boys, and home educates her children, spending lots of time in the woods as a learning environment. Recently, Corinne has set up her own website, Corinne Hills Photography and I thought, what better person to photograph my hats?

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

I am a massive fan of getting children out and about in the great outdoors. When I was teaching children with learning difficulties I did my training to become a John Muir Award leader. The John Muir Award encourages folk to discover a wild place, explore it and conserve it and then share their findings. Corinne and her family can be found regularly exploring and interacting with the woods around their home town of Sheffield.

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

So back to my hats – I make hats for everyone – from big people to little people! These can be found in the Accessories Dept of the website for big people, and in the Kids and Babies section for little people. Hats are either made using squares of recycled wool knitwear, as in the photo above, or using recycled merino wool sock tops as in the photo below.

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

The merino wool sock tops are a by product from that posh sock company, The House of Cheviot.  I’ve written about them before, in a blog post ‘Recycled Sock Top Hats from The House of Cheviot‘. I think it’s great when UK knitwear manufacturers can sell their waste to upcyclers such as myself. Waste needn’t be waste!

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

Photo by Corinne Hills Photography

So, in conclusion, let’s hear it for Corinne and her family of awesome boys and for her photography; for the upcycling of waste knitwear into fabulous and funky hats; and for forward thinking knitwear manufacturers for recycling their waste back into the UK’s economy.

Thanks for reading!

 

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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 Highs and Lows of Using Facebook as a Small Business

Oh Facebook you fickle friend! You really have incensed me this week. It is not often I have a rant, and I do try to keep everything as positive as possible, but when I spend the best part of a day photographing, editting and listing a new product which I’m really excited about, and then the algorithm by which Facebook decides what should appear in your newsfeed deduces that my woolly wraps are only to be seen by handful of people, I’m left feeling utterly frustrated.

WWR4.3

Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can be tremendous, and I would recommend that anyone who has a visual product to show the world uses Facebook and other social media to their full advantage. Why wouldn’t you use a global platform to show the world what you have been making?

Facebook-for-Business

I first set up my Facebook business page, The Woolly Pedlar, back in 2012 when I left teaching and my little one woman upcycling business was launched.  I had watched with interest how Katwise used Facebook with Etsy and had what could only be described as a cult following. She only had to post an album of her latest creations and they would be seen and shared by thousands which led to a stampede when her sale started, with her sweaters selling faster than Glastonbury tickets.

happy-customer

Facebook has allowed me to engage with so many wonderful people. Do date I have 1,852 followers, and I have been sold many of my upcycled woolly goodies through the power of Facebook alone. I have an album which continues to grow, of photos sent by happy customers. In fact Phillippa who sent in the photo above, has just sent me another, this time of her daughter in one of my upcycled ponchos.

Gill

I have built relationships with my followers, some of them remaining virtual friends, and some of them becoming real life friends and colleagues, with us meeting at events and shows, and keeping in touch with each other via the Facebook page.

lucy

One piece of advice I would give anyone who has a Facebook business page, is to build up a picture of yourself, what makes you tick, your personality and anything that supports your brand. Some of you will know my story, and that The Woolly Pedlar came about through my love of recycling, and living sustainably and through the writing I did of The Bridge Cottage Way. I try, therefore, to show folk more about me that simply what I make. After all. no one wants to engage with a page that simply bombards you with ‘buy this’ posts. Whilst there is a fine line to be drawn between exposing the ins and outs of one’s family life, I do think followers like to get a feel of you as a whole person, and of the lifestyle you have, as well as seeing what you’ve been making. The Woolly Pedlar is about so much more than just jumpers.

garden

I try to have time out every day for a mindful wander round the garden both for relaxation, and to get a photo ready for my daily ‘Good Morning’ posts which I’m told by my followers are greatly enjoyed. (or perhaps they’re just being polite)

I use Facebook to share my blogposts, newsletter updates, event news as well as showing how and why I make what I do.
Little and often has to be they key. I often get told ‘I don’t have the time for social media’ but if used little and often I feel it isn’t too time consuming. It’s a question of getting into the habit, but also of not letting it take over your life!

So why, if I find Facebook such a great marketing tool, am I so cross with it? A year or so ago Facebook decided that it wanted small businesses to pay to boost posts. I guess Facebook does need to earn its money somehow, and we had had a free run for sometime, but it seems to be doing pretty ok from advertising. So now, I find that any post with a link to my website, a £ sign, a size or anything that includes the words ‘website, for sale,’ or a price or size is guaranteed to be only seen by a few. So how the dickens do I get folk to see what is for sale?

I find when I ask my followers to comment on a post, as soon as the commnets come in, then the views start to soar. I don’t want to always be asking for favours to comment or share, and although subtle questions are asked to prompt comments, if not careful, these can sound contrived.

snowdrops

Just this week, one of my ‘Good Morning’ posts with a picture of my snowdrops was seen by getting on for a thousand folk, whereas my poor old woolly wraps were only seen by a handful. Yes, I had put the prices on my woolly wraps, with links to the website, but how else was I going to show folk what I had made, how much it cost and where it could be bought? Yes, I could put links to the website in the comments below, but not everything is as savvy as each other about navigating Facebook.

WWR3.3

I know other artists are feeling the same as me, and their frustraion about the way Facebook is operating is palatable. So please, I implore you, if you like what I make, and see one of my posts with new makes on do leave a comment!! It makes all the difference.
Of course there are other social media platforms, and I have a Twitter account, Pinterest boards, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, but honestly, there are only so many minutes in a day, and I do need to get on and make things!

Rant over! Promise next week’s blog with be without moans. Thanks for reading 🙂

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