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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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Recycling Textiles Bristol

The Bristol Connection – Recycling Woollens in the UK

We’ve been to Bristol for the weekend. ‘Come for lunch’ my in-laws said. Fine, except they live 500 miles away  and we are up here in Northumberland. Mind you, it was their diamond wedding anniversary and when you’ve been married for sixty years then I think a bit of effort from the family to gather for a lunch is in order.

We decided to fly to Bristol and then catch a train – not the most environmentally way of travelling I know, but I had to be back up north for a pop up shop at Treacle Wool Shop in Morpeth the following day.

At the same time, in my quest for second hand woollens to upcycle, and following a tweet seeking textile recyclers who were willing to sell back to buyers in the UK, I stumbled upon the Bristol company, Bristol Textile Recyclers.  Bingo! I could kill two birds with one stone.

So, Tim and I flew down to Bristol and enjoyed a night at Brooks Guest House, with a super meal at Pho. It was my first experience of Vietnamese street food, and the broth that gives the cafe it’s name, which was absolutely delicious, and it won’t be my last. I had the pleasure of meeting and being waited on by lovely Natalie who goes under the name of rosaliecreates on Instagram, who is a textiles students and is a fellow fan of all things woolly.

We enjoyed a walk through town to Bristol Textile Recyclers and were treated extremely well by Aimee there. Following a very interesting tour of the factory, we were taken to the board room where three big bags of recycled woollen were awaiting my attention. They were great! Just the job!

I am absolutely thrilled to have found a new source of recycled woollens. I’m also looking forward to making more connections down in Bristol and shall be looking for outlets that will be interested in selling my upcycled woolly wares.  So thank you Bristol and Bristol Textile Recyclers for a great weekend. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Recycling Textiles Bristol

The Woolly Pedlar does business with Bristol Textile Recyclers

 

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Upcycled Hats from House of Cheviot Sock Tops

They say when one door closes, another one opens. After Hawick Knitwear closed, I lost one of my suppliers of waste knitwear for upcycling. However I’m delighted to have hooked up with another of Hawick’s knitwear manufacturers. This time, I’m recycling waste sock panels from The House of Cheviot, manufacturers of luxury country socks.

Upcycling House of Cheviot kilt hose

Using waste panels from Scottish kilt hose from The House of Cheviot in my upcycling

When Ian from The House of Cheviot got in touch to see if I could do anything with sock tops, I had no idea what I could do with them, but suggested he sent down a box full.

Waste House of cheviot Woolly Pedlar recycling

Waste sock tops from House of Cheviot sent to The Woolly Pedlar for recycling

I was delighted with my shipment! They were fabulous pieces of fine merino wool with a bit of stretch, in the most wonderful patterns.

I asked the question over on my Facebook page, of what my followers thought I should make with them, and suggestions came in thick and fast. Legwarmers, tea cosies, mug cosies, hats, scarves etc.

sock-top

The thickness of the knitwear meant that my usual modus operandi of putting seams on the outside wouldn’t work, and the width and height of the panels also limited what could be done. I’m afraid the boxes sat in the corner of the workshop for a while while I scratched my head.

hats

Then it came to me – my husband has a Tibetan style hat which he loves, made from panels of recycled cotton. Bingo! I pinched his hat for a while and made a pattern from it with the help of Julie from One off Projects who helps me sew here at The Woolly Pedlar. A new hat was formed, made from recycled country sock tops. I bet no one else is making these!

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What I wasn’t prepared for was the rush of online sales that followed as soon as they had been made! It would seem folk love my sock top hats, which I’ve named ‘Thinking Hats’.

Thinking Hat upcycled recycled merino wool sock top

‘Thinking Hat’ upcycled from recycled merino wool sock tops

I took the first batch of hats to Hexham Farmer’s Market and put a few on the website shop. They were a resounding success at the market, and I was soon pedalling to the post office van with orders to post.

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I will be getting in touch with The House of Cheviot today to get another shipment of sock tops sent down, and I’ll have plenty ready for all my Christmas events, and for the web shop.

I think they’ll make great Christmas presents!

Head to the ‘Events’ tab to see where I’ll be selling my woolly wares next, or you can shop online.

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Memory Products

In Memory of Aline – Memory Cushions for the Family.

One of the lovely things about making bespoke and one off items, is that I get to meet the customer, and often on more than one occasion. Sometimes, as in this case, with more than one member of the same family. I have had the pleasure of making items for two sisters at different times.  I’ve made a baby blanket in red, white and green, with a rugby league badge on for Fiona. I think if was the Leicester Tigers. Her sister, Mari has bought one of my ponchos and looks absolutely amazing in it, don’t you think?

upcycled patchwork poncho

Upcycled patchwork poncho made from recyced wool knitwear

Whilst trading at the Northumberland County Show I had the pleasure to meet Fiona again, this time with her dad. They told me their  mum, Aline, his wife, had recently passed away, and asked if I could make a set of seven memory cushions for the family from her jumpers.

I’ve made a few memory products before, a cashmere bedspread for a lady whose mum had the finest collection of cashmere jumpers, many from Harrods, and some going back to the 1930s, and a lap rug for a lady from Hexham, from her late husband’s jumpers. (You can read about these over on the Memory Blankets page)

It was with great pleasure that I set about making the cushions from Aline’s jumpers. Her husband wanted a pair using a particular favourite jumper of his, with a red and navy stripe. Together we grouped the other jumpers into a colourway. Soft lilacs and turquoise with pink and navy was the result, and we decided on a lilac thread with seams showing for added texture and interest.

After cutting the jumpers into squares in the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I began one morning last week to sew them. I told the girls I was making them that day, and by beautiful coincidence was told that this was Aline’s birthday. It made the making of the cushions even more special, and I thought of Aline as I sewed.

Memory Products, cushions

Memory Cushions from a Loved One’s Recycled Jumpers

Here they are, a pair for Fiona and Mari, one for Aline’s sister, and the red and navy pair for Aline’s husband.

Memory products cushions

Memory Cushions made from a Loved One’s Recycled Jumpers

 

Rest in Peace Aline

Memory Cushions

Memory Cushions handmade from your loved one’s Jumpers

Do get in touch if this is something I can help you with.

 

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Scope Step Up to the Plate with Recycled Wool Textiles

My quest for recycled wool textiles to recycle has taken many twists and turns over the last five years. I’ve bought from vintage sellers, knitwear factories, charity shops and have had donations from folk having a clear out. Recently I have lost two of my major suppliers. Hawick Knitwear went into administration at the beginning of the year, and one of my second hand wholesalers no longer has knitwear available. I wasn’t exactly panicking, but I needed to find new suppliers!

May-3
Hawick knitwear while it lasted was a wonderful find. I bought boxes and boxes of beautiful garment panels of the finest lambswool and cashmere. However, large groups such as Pringle pulled out of manufacturing their knitwear in Scotland, and Hawick was forced to close.  I searched for other knitwear factories and was shocked to find how few remain. Even Edinburgh Wool Mill tell me they no longer manufacture in the UK!

I have approached many of the textile recycling companies that get their stock from the ‘Cash for Clothes’ culture, but every time have drawn a blank. Batley in Yorkshire is home to several textile recycling depots, but they all tell me their clothing is not sorted here, is not for sale and is shipped abroad.

I have looked into the exporting of our second hand clothing and have discovered that there are mountains of our discarded clothing flooding the East African markets. Local textile manufacture and traditional textile skills are dying out as a result. Today, East Africa imports roughly $151 million worth of castoffs from Europe and North America, mostly collected from nonprofits and recyclers, each year*. That is a staggering amount of clothing. (*taken from ‘Ahead of the Ban on Used Clothing’ by Ecouterre).

The Guardian reports that ‘a massive 351m kilograms of clothes (equivalent to 2.9bn T-shirts) are traded from Africa alone.  The top five destinations are Poland, Ghana, Pakistan, Ukraine and Benin’

I have contacted the depots where our rejected second hand clothing end up and each time I have been met with brick walls.

So, thinking out of the the box, I approached the then manager of Scope, Hexham, Sheelagh,  to see if we could collect knitwear that was going to rag on a regional basis. This was a couple of years ago, but when taken to a higher level, there was not a great deal of enthusiasm.

Not satisfied to leave it there, I picked this up again recently, and sent out a random tweet on Twitter asking for recycled knitwear & tagging Scope in this. One of the big wigs of Scope picked this up and asked Sheelagh, now the area manager if there was anything Scope to do to help. Doh! We’ve been banging on for a couple of years about this.

I was delighted when Sheelagh invited me to speak at the meeting of the area managers in Newcastle this week to see if we could get the on board with collecting knitwear regionally and in some small part, stemming the flow of discarded clothing to East Africa.

I had ten minutes to get my message across – armed with laminated sheets explaining about the type of wool knitwear I use, and a few samples of my work, I went to the front, called order, and started my talk.

Result! They are all on board. Scope has stepped up to the plate and this week Scope will begin collecting waste wool knitwear on a regional basis to be recycled, upcycled and kept in the local economy.

Good news indeed! Thank you Scope.

Scope-2

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Read All About It!

Not exactly Harpers and Queen or Vogue, but hey, it’s exposure none the less. I’m in Women’s Weekly this week! It’s in the issue dated 12 July and is on sale in your newsagents now!

 

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It’s a nice piece, (even though I don’t knit, as the front cover says) with lots of photos and family members – there’s Hannah and John, my two youngest, and Mari, who is my eldest son’s girlfriend, in the centre. It’s interesting that they pick up on the whole recycling and looking after the planet concept, which is after all where The Woolly Pedlar sprung from, when I was writing a blog about living sustainably, The Bridge Cottage Way. 

July-2

In other news, you’ll also find The Woolly Pedlar in this month’s issue of To Knit and Crochet, published by the Knitting Network, so thanks to the two journalists involved, who looked down the Google tube for upcyclers and found me! The power of the internet knows no bounds

July-3

Thanks must go to Mari, Hannah and Tom, my models! Cheers guys 🙂

 

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