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Well, that was fun! Open Studio & Garden Party 2017

I cannot let the week go by without writing a quick blog post telling you about all the fun we had this weekend at my first ever Open Studio and Garden Party.

In true British style, it hoyed it down all weekend! That didn’t damper spirits though, and the sound of chatter and laughter rung out from our conservatory. It was all a bit much for my husband, who went and hid in the greenhouse! Mind you, he did get the door fixed on it that has been waiting a while.

We had cake. Boy, did we have cake! I was so busy chatting to folk and helping with purchases that I didn’t get a chance for lunch, and had cake for lunch two days on the trot. I’m thrilled to say that we raised £107.32 for West Northumberland Food Bank from donations for cake.

The house, garden and woolly garret had never looked so clean and tidy, and I’d opened up the woolly garret for folk to see where I worked. Ever the teacher, I took great delight in showing these girls how my overlocker worked. The little one shrieked with laughter as the trimmings shot down the shoot!

The weekend such such a resounding success that I’m going to do it all again next year. the dates have been set for 22 and 22 of June 2018. Many are talking about making a weekend of it, as exploring this beautiful corner of Northumberland.

Helen from Stanegate Hideaways is offering 10% discount for booking of her Shepherd’s Huts and holiday cottages if you are coming to The Woolly Pedlar Open Studio & Garden Party. We also have two cracking Youth Hostels here, at The Sill and Ninebanks.

Sorry to mention the ‘C’ words, but I’ve also set the date for a Christmas open house on 2nd & 3rd December.

This has to be the quickest blog I’ve written, but I must get back up to the woolly garret and get jumper making!

 

 

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How the Woolly Pedlar got her Name

Back in 2011, my little upcycling business, The Woolly Pedlar was born, and I’d like to tell you how this came about and how I stumbled across the name.
I had left teaching and was looking to start a new venture. I was considering all aspects of my life, my interests and skills and thinking of how these could be married in business. At that time I was blogging about living sustainably and writing The Bridge Cottage Way. Through this, I had set up a knitting group. A friend said she didn’t want to learn to knit but had seen these recycled wool armarmers by Katwise on the internet and wondered if I could make her a pair. It was from this first pair of armwarmers that my idea to set up a business upcycling wool knitwear came about. Needless to say, my armwarmers have improved somewhat since the first pair.

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So that’s the ‘Woolly’ part of the name explained, now to explain the ‘Pedlar’ bit. As a family we have always gone to music festivals. This first started with me back in 1984 when I went to Stonehenge Free Festival, and then my first (and last) Glastonbury in 1985. My kids have all grown up loving festivals, and two of them have performed in festival bands over several years. I have had many a happy hour dancing to bands at stages powered alternative energy, be it wind, sun or pedal power. Indeed, at Eden Festival which we love, there is a venue with a row of bikes which powers the Board Walk Stage. There’s nothing finer that being on a bike providing the power for the mighty Mungo’s HiFi Sound System. 

Mty stall at the Green Gathering Festival

My stall at the Green Gathering Festival

I had the idea to get a bike linked to my sewing machine so I could sit at my tent, making armwarmers, while happy punters pedalled away providing the power. This was how the ‘Pedlar’ part of my name came about. With a bit of re-jigging of the spelling, and linking it to the selling of one’s wares as a pedlar. The name, ‘Woolly Pedlar’ seemed a good’un. I love my business name, and often get comments from customers that they do too. The Woolly Pedlar is about so much more than just jumpers. The Woolly Pedlar is me, with all that entails!

Unfortunately I have never got around to make that bike powered sewing machine, but I do get on my bike to deliver my woolly wares to my local village shop at Bardon Mill. So I guess I really the woolly pedaler!

 

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Featured image of sheep on a bike was painted by Lisa Edoff

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Working with Recycled Wool – A Few Questions Answered

Morning! It’s a bit of a damp squib out there, and all intentions of getting out on my bike have gone out the window, so I thought I’d stay in the warmth of my bed, laptop on knee, and write this week’s blog. I get asked lots of questions about working with wool, so I thought I’d try and answer some of them here by going through the processes involved in making clothes, soft furnishings and accessories from recycled wool knitwear.

squares

I posted this photo on my Facebook page this week of wool squares all ready cut out and waiting to be made into a bedspread, and a few questions arose from this which have prompted this week’s blog. They are also a scrummy colour, so hopefully this week’s blog will look pretty as well as be informative!

I’ve already written about how wool jumpers can be sourced in a previous blogpost, ‘Finding Jumpers to Upcycle’. So I’ll start with the process from when I bring the jumpers home.

washing-jumpers

First of all everything is washed. I sort into vague colour piles washing all light jumpers together. It’s not that I’ve ever had a problem with colours running, but you can get wool fibres from one jumper sticking to another. I’ve learnt this the hard way when washing beautiful cream jumpers only to find them covered in black fluff. I wash everything on a 40 degree mixed load with a 1200 spin. Much of today’s woollen knitwear is machine washable and will come out pretty much as it went it, but without the ‘eau de old lady’ pong that can come from charity shops. Other woollies, will felt and shrink and these are just perfect for making bodices for jackets and sweatercoats. As I’ve said before, the bodice needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the rest of the garment. This is also the main reason why I don’t make clothes to order, as what size bodices I get to work with very much depend on what I find and how it comes out of the wash. I don’t own a tumble drier, never have done – an unneccessary drain on the planet’s energy resources if you ask me! I either hang up the jumpers outside or dry on racks indoors. Although at times my house ends up looking like Widow Twanky’s laundry!

cutting-wheel-and-mat

When I first starting making things from cut out squares I painstakingly cut all the squares with a pair of scissors using a cardboard square as a template. I hadn’t heard of a cutting wheel, and spent hours and hours cutting each square with my scissors. I even employed the kids and friends of the kids’ to cut out squares for me as it was just taking me too darn long.

Then I discovered a cutting wheel – brilliant! Along with a cutting mat and large ruler with grids marked out cutting became so much easier. Think pizza slicer but for fabric. A word of warning however, these are ridicuously sharp and cutting should always be done away from fingers.

The first task when cutting jumpers is to disect the jumper, cutting away the seams. The beauty of these cutting wheels is that more than one layer of jumper can be cut through at a time, saving precious time. I save the bottom rib bands for making the tops of armwarmers and baby legwarmers.

This brings me nicely back to my cut out squares, and the commonest question I get asked when speaking at meetings.

‘Don’t the squares fray when you’ve cut them out?’

No they don’t is the quick answer. I only use manufactured wool knitwear of medium weight. I don’t use handknits and I don’t use chunky knits. This is mainly because they just don’t work with an overlocker (or serger for those of you across the pond). The cut out pieces just sit there, good as gold, waiting for their turn to be stitched.

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When I first started woolly pedlaring, four years ago, I started with a domestic overlocker. You do need an overlocker if you are to sucessfully join knitwear together. A domestic overlocker is a great place to start, but will only cope with fairly lightweight materials. I started by making arwarmers, and soon got the upcycling bug and moved on to making coats and jumpers. It was pretty evident fairly early on that my domestic overlocker was just not up to the job. The smoke coming out of the back after eight hours use a day, and the bunched up stitches where I’d been trying to sew three thicknesses of jumper were a clear indication.

My this point I’d left my teaching job and was seriously considering going self employed. I used my final payment from teaching to set myself up with an industrial overlocker. This is a marvellous piece of kit, and is still going strong. It copes admirably with hours and hours of sewing at a time, and sews through jumpers like soft butter.

Getting the hand of threading can be a right pain, but You Tube has some great tutorials. One top tip I will give you, is to put a different colour thread on each of the four bobbins while you are learning how to thread it. That way you will soon understand what each thread’s job is.

So, now let’s get on with some sewing!

 

Your next decision will be whether to have the seams on the front or on the back. It’s amazing how many men cannot handle the seams on the outside! It’s not exclusively men, but when I sell at fairs, it’s so often the men that comment on my work being ‘the wrong way round’. I do sew with seams on the inside sometimes, but I love the wiggle and added texture that comes from putting seams on the outside.

sewing-squares

This woo bedspread which I’ve just finished for a customer has seams on the back. She wanted a smooth finish. The squares have all been been cut into six inch squares and to make a large double bedspread you will need 360 squares.

I then sew the squares into strips. Each strip has 18 squares, and I made 20 strips.

I then sew up all the strips, and then sew all the way around the perimter of the bedspread. The overlocker will not finish off the end, and you will be left with a ‘chain’ of stitches. Just get a needle and thread and sew this in by hand. The beauty of making a bedspread in this way is that all ends will be stitching in apart from just one at the end, making the hand sewing minimal. As you can imagine, this is a very different matter with something like a handkerchief hem which has dozens of points.

So here we are, one double bedspread. I shall be delivering this to Matilda next week. Let’s hope she likes it!

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Of course I make all sorts of other products from recycled wool and not just using squares. I’ll leave you to browse the shop to see what else can be made.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog! I’m sure you have many other questions – ask away! I’m more than happy to help. 🙂

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In Celebration of the Apple

apple-1Those of you who have been following my musings since the Bridge Cottage Way days, will know I’m passionate about eating seasonally, and in this blog post, I am going to deviate from all things woolly and talk about how apples have dominated my week.

We’ve had so many windfall apples recently, and I’ve enjoyed stewing them with the few autumn raspberries or blackberries from the garden to have with my porridge. The rest I’ve left on the ground for the blackbirds and thrushes who hop around munching on them and sharing them with the slugs.

apple-3It was Apple Day this weekend at the Hexham Farmer’s Market. I was there with my stall, and Transition Tynedale were opposite with their locally produced apples and apple press, which kept us all going with delicious fresh apple juice. Other stalls had baked pies and other appley treats. The market was buzzing, and it was great to see so many folk out and about, buying local produce. The Woolly Pedlar had a great day too, with lots of sales, orders and several donations of jumpers to recycle.

apple-4My only contribution to the apple theme, was to make this autumn coloured sweatercoat, which, with a lot of poetic license could be likened to a Russet apple! Back home, Tim had also been juicing our apples, and I set about baking some raspberry and apple scones. I just added a few raspberries and chopped apple to a basic scone recipe – they were delicious and went down well with my daughter and her boyfriend for Sunday brunch.

apple 2 On Sunday I took a day off from woolly pedlaring, and made five jars of this delicious Apple and Lemon Curd. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for Bramley Lemon Curd, taken from the River Cottage series of books, ‘Preserves’ by Pam Corbin, for ages. One of my Facebook followers has asked for the recipe – so here it is, copied from the book:

Bramley Lemon Curd

Makes 5 x 225g jars

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored & chopped

Finely grated zest & juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

125g unsalted butter

450g granulated sugar

4-5 large eggs, well beaten ( you need 200ml beaten egg)

Put the apples in a pan with 100ml water & lemon zest, & cook til fluffy. Beat to a puree or pass thru a seive.

Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice & apple puree into a double boiler or bain suspended over a pan of simmering water. As soon as butter has melted, & mixture is smooth & glossy, pass eggs thru a seive and add to mixture. Make sure mixture isn’t too hot. (no highter than 55-60 deg). If mixture does split, take the pan off the heat and beat with a whisk until smooth.
Stir the mixture over a gentle heat and cook until thick and creamy. This will take 9-10 minutes and will be 82-84 deg on a sugar thermometer. Immediately pour into warm steralised jars and seal. Use within 4 weeks. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

I hadn’t made this before, and was really pleased with the result.

The other appley dish of the weekend was a blackberry and apple crumble and custard for Sunday dinner, which came after the Roast Lamb which I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market, which was accompanied by veg from the garden. To finish it all off, we had some super cheese bought from the Leaside Cheesemakers at the Farmer’s Market. Great to have so much lovely seasonal produce both at home and at our local market, and super that lovely seasonal British apples have taken centre stage this week.

HFM1I’ll be back at the Hexham Farmer’s Market in two weeks, on Saturday 24th October with some fab new kiddies’ ponchos for Halloween plus lots of other new upcycled designs. So it’s back up the stairs to the woolly garret for me this week, but with plenty of yummy stewed apples for my porridge before I start the day. Three cheers for seasonal eating, and three cheers for the British Apple!

 

 

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