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A Really Lovely Moment

GG14When you make one off pieces and sell them yourself at events such as The Green Gathering, each and every sale becomes a personal encounter. It is a joy to get to know my customers, some of whom I’ve forged real friendships with. I want to write about the moment depicted in this photo. It was Sunday night at the Green Gathering, 2015, and we had quite a crowd at The Woolly Pedlar’s tent. It was just beginning to get dark, I had a gin and tonic in my hand, the minirig was playing some good tunes and we were busy with lots of visitors to the stall.

GG20Gretel, the lady on the far right of the photo had come along wearing the sweatercoat she’s bought earlier that day. I’d nicknamed the coat ‘Tangerine Dream’ and Gretel looked stunning in it. She’d married it up with a super skirt an accessories and looked ready for a good night’s partying.

I was thrilled to hear from Gretel that she would be taking the coat down to Inspiral Lounge at Camden in London in a few weeks for a night out.

Next to Gretel in the photo is a mannequin – we’ll ignore that, except to say that that sweatercoat is also sold! So, next to Gretel, and next to the mannequin from right to left is Kim.

GG16Kim had already been along to the stall several times over the weekend and had bought her self this aqua sweatercoat, which fitted her like a dream, and was just the right colours for her.  She looked sensational! When she later posted a this photo of her wearing it on her Facebook page, she got heaps of compliments, and now uses it as her profile picture.

Kim had also treated herself to a hooded jumper she tells me will be really useful for walking the dogs in. I was over the moon to see Kim return again on the Sunday night for the blue and grey poncho she had been eyeing up all weekend!
gg21Next to Kim in the photo is Lizzie, and apologies to Lizzie as I don’t have a photo of her alone! Lizzie bought this red hooded jumper and looked amazing in it!

Lizzie is mum to Em who helps to run the Green Gathering and did an admirable job running the Trader’s Market. Lizzie was rightly very proud of Em, and was full of praise for her daughter.

 

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Last but not least along the line is Sarah, who bought not one but two ponchos! Sarah writes a blog called The Compost Bin and writes about life as The Compost Woman. Sarah lives on a four acre small holding and lives as sustainable as she can, running courses, and working as an environmental educator and Forest school leader. I spotted Sarah walking out of another stall wearing her autumnal colour poncho. She looks fab in both of them, but I am particularly fond of the ‘Damson Gin’ poncho she wearing in the group photo.

It was a really lovely moment, as the four ladies met at the stall. We hugged, and for a moment, really connected. This to me was a very significant end to a wonderful festival where connecting with people who have similar ethics and a similar way of life to me was a big part of the weekend. I felt a genuine warmth to all four ladies, and since then we’ve found each other on Facebook and hope pur paths will cross again soon. I very much hope to be at next year’s Green Gathering, and hope too that Gretel, Kim, Lizzie and Sarah will be there too.

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upcycled poncho Green Gathering Woolly Pedlar

The Green Gathering 2015 & an Ethical Trader Award

11866468_816112391790862_8360432639777265028_n I love the Green Gathering!
Held in the beautiful grounds of Piercefield Park, near Chepstow, just over the Severn Bridge in Wales this truely is, as its tagline suggests, a festival beyond hedonism. I’ve taken these few lines in question form from their website, which in my mind,  sum up The Green Gathering up very nicely.
Are you disenchanted with austerity and consumerism?
Concerned about unjust, unsustainable economic and environmental policies?
Do you have a different dream?
Do notions of community and co-operation turn you on?
Interested in green tech, crafts, cycling, recycling and composting?
Do you enjoy story-telling; real food, cider and music; seeing kids roam free?

GG13You won’t find massive sound systems, big names or big bands at The Green Gathering. There most certainly is a party to be found at night, but that is not the main incentive for going. To me, the overriding force at the Green Gathering is the bringing together of like minded souls. I feel more at home and more connected with the folk at the Green Gathering than I do in so called ‘normal’ walks of life.

So, with the van full of newly made ponchos, jumpers, sweatercoats and baby blankets, we set off last Wednesday from Northumberland on the six hour journey.

With the help of mGG2y son and husband, we soon had the stall set up and began chatting to our neighbours.

On our right were Cotton Forest, owned by the lovely Davina with a classy stall full of fairtrade cotton clothing and upcycled accessories and handmade candles. Davina and Todd were great fun, and I am so glad there were next to us.

On our left were Phil, Shelly and little Lily from Festival Emporium

It was great to see that Em, who organises the market. had put all the handmade traders together – a great touch. We soon got to know each other and lots of fun over the weekend.

GG5Here’s Davina from Cotton Forest with her stall full of beautiful fair trade cotton goods and handmade candles – we got on so well with Davina and Todd and enjoyed their company both during the day and out in the evenings for a drink and a dance!

 

 

GG10…and here are Phil, Shelly and little Lily from Festival Emporium – lovely people! Just along from them was Orla from OrlaBeeHandmade – an inspirational young lady, who, despite major health challenges, and being wheelchair dependent has made beautiful clothes and was there with her mum selling at a festival – all power to you, Orla!

GG4 It was busy at the stall from first thing in the morning right through to night time – I was doing running repairs on this guy’s shorts before my mid morning coffee! He was very happy that his shorts were saved! #makedoandmend!

I love the banter that is to be had at a festival stall – you meet so many amazing people and have so many conversations about all sorts! Folk were really complimentary about my work and it was a joy to be able to talk about upcycling and saving the planet’s precious rescources with so many who just got where I was coming from.

What’s more, I had record sales!! I took over 30 jumpers and sweatercoats with me, and have come home with only a handful left!

GG11This lady bought this sweatercoat which looked as if it had been made for her – perfect colours, and an amazing fit. She looked stunning! In fact she fell in love with a couple of other pieces too – a poncho and hooded jumper!

GG8 Ponchos continue to be best sellers for men, women and kids. This guy was seen wearing his poncho for the rest of the festival – he told me he had even been to bed in it!

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The autumnal colours in this poncho were a hit and I sold lots of them, both with hoods and with cowls, in large and regular sizes. I think this lady looks stunning in her poncho – she has a look of a 60s model!

I have lots more lovely photos, but must sign off soon and get sewing! I’m feeling the pressure a bit as I need to restock for my next events, BAAFEST  and the humungous Festival of Thrift – if you head over to my Facebook page, you’ll find the complete album of Green Gathering photos.

GG9Before I go, I’d like to give a shout out to the new compost loos! Crowd funded prior to the event, these were a very welcome addition to the festival. If you are a festival goer I’m sure you’ll join me in your loathing of chemical toilets. Here at the Green Gathering the compost loos were always clean, non smelly and a delight to use! Big up the compost loos!

GG3 Last but not least is my Green Trader Award. I thought Em was coming over to the stall for a cuppa or a natter, and was so surprised when I was awarded a Green Trader Award!

I am passionate about recycling and using less, and I do work very hard at upcycling so my woollies, so the award was absolutely brilliant! Thanks to the team at the Green Gathering for awarding this to me!

In fact, on behalf of all the other traders and festival goers, I would like to say a massive thank you to Em and Dave Wierdigan, and all the others involved in making this year’s Green Gathering such a resounding success.

I very much hope to be back next year!

 

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It’s a Tough Life!

Four years ago last week I would have been looking forward to school breaking up, exhausted, stressed and in desperate need of a holiday. How different life is today. Instead of being a teacher, bogged down with end of year reports, evaluations, school assemblies and no end of stess, I packed the silver van again as The Woolly Pedlar, and headed off to another festival to sell my upcycled woolly wares. This time it was Audio Soup festival which is a couple of hours up the A1 for me, just south of Edinburgh.

Audio-Soup-1Audio Soup may be small, but it is full off all the right ingredients that go together to make a beautiful festival. First and foremost are the people – what a lovely bunch!

Geoff, who runs Mutley’s Crepes is in charge of the traders and can be seen striding around the site in his woolly hat and kilt. He let me pitch up next to my dear friend, Lorraine. What a beautiful lady, and a very dear friend.

 

 

Audio-Soup-4  Here she is, looking for birds on Lewis’ dress. We spent much of the festival sitting in the sun in front of the stalls, drinking tea and talking. Audio Soup is not the kind of festival where, as a trader, you are rushed off your feet!

There is plenty of time to chat and get to know everyone at this very friendly affair.

 

 

 

Audio-Soup-2Following a very busy Woolfest, I was glad to still have enough stock left for the summer’s festivals.

The stall looked bright and colourful, with a full rail of children’s ponchos at the front. It was a bit like the Hokey Cokey mind you, taking the rail in and out, as showers came and went.

 

Audio-Aoup-5 I had some really good sales – this lady was treated to this jumper by her father-in-law, a fellow stall holder and seller of crystals.

Her little girl got a patchwork poncho, and it was lovely seeing her running around the festival in it. In fact, I spotted a few Woolly Pedlar creations in the crowd as I danced to bands later at night, which was a proud feeling.

Audio-Soup-5Ponchos are still very much the best seller of the year, and this lady was very pleased with hers. She comes from Manchester, and tells me she is off home to spread the word about my little woolly upcycling business.

 

 

My son and daugher came to help over the weekend, and it was great to have their company.

John, my son, got himself a tribal haircut from Billie the Barber, and spent the weekend practising his knife juggling.

 

Audio-Soup-6 Audio-Soup-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had an absolute blast at Audio Soup, and danced the night away on all three nights. I really love my festival friends, and Audio Soup is up there as one of the best this year

Next up for me is the Green Gathering, held in beautiful Piercefield Park near Chesptow, 13-16 August where I’ll be joining hundreds of others in what must be the greenest, most eco friendly festival around.

GG1

It’s a tough life!

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The Katwise Sweatercoat

I first began making the Katwise sweatercoat four years ago. It was more to give me something to do whilst I was off on long term sick from my teaching job. I had already downloaded the tutorial for making the Katwise armwarmers and had made a few pairs for friends and family, and I felt like I was ready to tackle a bigger project. I had caught the bug! Trawling my local charity shops, I hunted for woollen jumpers until I had enough to tackle my very first sweatercoat. Here is one of the early ones. Little was I to know back then, that my adventures with sweatercoats would become my new business as ill health would force me permanently out of teaching.

IMG_0717 compIf you haven’t already come across Katwise, or Kat O’Sullivan, then do check out her website. She has an almost cult following over in the States, and her jumpers and sweatercoats sell out as fast as Glastonbury tickets. She sells the tutorials for making them as downloadable PDF files, and says to folk that it’s fine to make and sell them, just a long as they mention her name and charge a reasonal price so as no to undervalue hers or others’ work.

I used to be a bit embarrassed about owning up to the fact that my sweatercoats were not my original design, but were a Katwise copy, but I soon got over that! Whilst the design of the sweatercoat may not be my own, there is still a lot of skill involved in selecting the right combination of colours, textures and weight of recycled knitwear to use, not to mention the skill of putting them together with an industrial overlocker.

IMG_0358  I have made sweatercoats now for four years as The Woolly Pedlar in many combinations of colours. Here is the Eco Wedding Sweatercoat that is made soley from ivory wool sweaters. I have added a maribou feather trim and it has some sweet embroidery on the cuffs. It took months to collect enough ivory sweaters, and white certainly didn’t look right at all!

As I write this, the eco wedding coat is still for sale, but head over to the Sweatercoat section of the shop to check out this and all the other sweatercoats that are still for sale.

 

 

Christmas-2014

The starting point for making a sweatercoat for me, is always the bodice. This needs to be thick enough to take the weight of the full skirt, and so preferably made from a felted wool jumper or cardi. If is is too lightweight, then it will not hold its shape. I use a mannequin and place the bodice on it, finding the natural waistline and cut it off there. The waistband then needs to good and thick to really keep the shape of the coat. To give an even more cinched in wasit feel, then add a tie belt. This is all explained in more detail in Katwise’s tutorial.

IMG_0260 comp After the waistband is on, I add the full skirt, made up of panels which I often cut from the sleeves of jumpers,  and then the hem lines – the more of these you add, the fuller and longer the skirt.

I then make the hood. Now, I find that hood are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or you hate them!

 

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I have made my fair share of wacky, pointy hoods, but I do get asked to make sweatercoats without hoods. For some, the coat is wacky enough, but the hood is just one stage too far! For others, the longer the hood, the better. Though I do warn folk when going to the loo to lift the hood over their shoulders! Sorry to be gross!

plum-beautiful

I do, therefore make sweatercoats with collars like this, but as with all my creations, what I make very much depends on what I can find, old jumper wise. For that reason it is all very serendipitous, but it keeps it exciting!

After the hood is made, add a button band, sleeves and pockets, and after all the ends have been sewn in by hand, you have your sweatercoat!

I’m heading off to Woolfest soon, and am hard at work making lots of new sweatercoats for this year. Woolfest is held in June, the 26th – 27th to be precise. It is set in stunning scenery on the edge of the Lake District at Cockermouth and is held in the Farmer’s Mart.  When I get there, I will be given an empty cattle pen that has been hosed down, and then have the afternoon to transform this into my stall. This is last year’s stall, though I’m pleased to say I will have double the space this year.

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I love Woolfest! It is a gathering where wool is celebrated in its every form, and has a very high class of exhibitor. If you are coming to Woolfest, do come and say hello. You’ll find me in row K at the far side of the Mart.

 

IMG_0850 comp This was the sweatercoat that caused the biggest stir last year. I’d posted a pic on the Woolfest Facebook page of this sweatercoat and there was something of a rush when the doors opened on the Friday morning! I made a mental note to self – #makemorenextyear!

So, with this in mind, I’ve been busy collecting piles of jumpers in lovely, bright colourways, as well as monochrome, in blacks and greys. My only problem is there are not enough hours in the day, or days in the week!

 

Whenever I make a new sweatercoat, I generaly list it for sale online, on this website in the Women’s Clothing/Sweatercoats section of the shop.  I also show it on all the other social media, You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – just search for The Woolly Pedlar, but make sure you spell it right! There are 2 l’s in Woolly!
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I don’t generally take orders for sweatercoats, as it is so hard to predict what jumpers I can find, but if you do have a special request, then get in touch, and I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks for reading, and if you fancy making yourself a Katwise sweatercoat, then go for it! Let me know how you get on, and I’d love to see a photo of what you make, and as Katwise says, if you do end up selling them, then best of luck –  just give me a mention from time to time 🙂

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Getting some help

‘Recycled, Upcycled and Handmade by Me’ has been the message on the sign above my stall for the last couple of years, and I’ve taken great pride in the fact that I’ve made everything myself.

However, The Woolly Pedlar brand has gone from strength to strength and I just can’t make enough to meet demand anymore. It’s time to get some help.

Meet Julie, who I met at Brocksbushes Christmas Fair and who is my knight in shining armour. Julie has her own small business, teaching sewing classes and working as a freelance seamstress. I will still be designing my creations, choosing the colours and making my jumpers and sweatercoats myself, but Julie will be joining the Woolly Pedlar team to help with sewing blankets, ponchos and other projects when I need a bit of extra help.

1234883_10151651157005958_129562289_nI’m also enlisting some help in cutting out squares for blankets and ponchos. My patchwork ponchos have been a best selling item this winter, thanks to ponchos seeing a revival on the catwalks. I’ve been over the moon with how popular they’ve been, both with adults and children. The lovely children’s shop, Mr Wolf in Hexham has sold dozens of little diddy ponchos for me. However, this has meant hundreds and hundreds of squares have had to be cut out from recycled jumpers. My lovely daughter Hannah has come to the rescue, along with another couple of students. I now give them a pile of jumpers in a particular colourway, a sharp pair of dress making scissors and a template, with the instructions to cut the jumpers into 4inch or 6inch squares, and pay them by the hour.

When I tentatively made my first pair of armwarmers, I had no idea that in a couple of years I would be employing staff! I am over the moon with how my little business has grown, and am looking forward to 2015, and having a well stocked online shop (announcement about this coming very soon) as well as plenty for folk to choose from at the markets and festivals I will be attending.

Don’t forget, to be sure of hearing all the news, you can sign up for my newsletter which will be delivered monthly into your inbox by hitting the subscribe button on the homepage or the highlighted ‘newsletter’ above

Thanks for reading, til the next time, keep cosy and all the very best

Sue,

The Woolly Pedlar

 

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