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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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Happy New Year from The Woolly Pedlar

Tales from The Woolly Garret. Looking Back at 2016.

I’m in that limbo land between Christmas and New Year, when the fridge is still full of cheese and pavlova in varying states of decay, healthy walks punctuate the eating, and family and friends gather to drink and be merry. The pull up to the woolly garret to get making again is strong, with lots of new ideas buzzing around my head, but I’m trying to resist and get some much needed down time after the hectic run up to Christmas. What better way then to force a lie in, than to spend a morning in bed, laptop on tray, reflecting on the past year.

The Woolly Pedlar looks back at 2016

The Woolly Pedlar looks back at 2016

2016 was my fifth year of woolly pedlaring, turning the UK’s waste knitwear into new things, and continuing the fight to save waste and reduce the amount of clothing sent to landfill or abroad. It’s been another great year, with many new friendships forged and strengthened through my work. Running my own business continues to be a learning curve, and new challenges and discoveries appear at every turn.

I started 2016 as I expect many of you did, with some New Year’s resolutions. I work too hard at times, and forget to have time for me, resulting in overthinking and insomnia, so I began 2016 by joining Hexham Community Choir. I hadn’t sung since school days when I was in the choir at our all girl’s school, singing Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. We’d had to ship in boys from the local boy’s school to sing the tenor and bass parts, and there I found my first boyfriend, Kevin. I was very nervous at singing in public, so grabbed a quick singing lesson from my friend Wilf, and then jumped right in. I loved it from the word go, and found singing can not only bring friendship and a wonderful sense of togetherness, but can bring a deep relaxation of the body and mind, with Mondays now giving the best night’s sleep of the week!

Looking Back at 2016 - Singing

Looking Back at 2016 – Singing

Of course there was the usual New Year’s resolutions to get fit and lose weight – happens every year! I note this morning that I am exactly the same weight as I was this time last year. Hefty to say the least! However, with a shiny new bike given to me for a wedding anniversary present, we set about planning our first ever cycling holiday. We settled on Orkney as it is relatively flat, although the wind is something else!  You can read all about my cycling adventures around Orkney. I was incredibly proud of myself though not in a hurry to repeat it!

Cycling Around Orkney 2016

Cycling Around Orkney 2016

I’ve had a fantastic year selling my woolly wares up and down the country, and have clocked up three awards.

At the County Show in Northumberland I won an award for being ‘special’. The judges loved my stall and work, but were unsure what category to put me in! I love that, and I guess I am a bit of an individual in more ways than one! One of the frequent comments I get about my work is ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before’ ….jolly good, I’d say, I hate being a clone!!

A Special Award at Northumberland County Show 2016

A Special Award at Northumberland County Show 2016

The highlight of the year for me last year had to be wonderful Woolfest. It really does the soul good to be surrounded by so much woolly love. I had a whopping stand, but managed to fill it, and had the most phenomenal weekend. To top it all, I was delighted to receive the ‘Stallholder of the Year Award’ from the members of The Woolclip who run Woolfest.

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

My third award this year came from the team at the Green Gathering, that eco-minded festival down in Chepstow, where I won Silver Ethical Trader Award. I love the Green Gathering, and enjoyed meeting many friends again there, both fellow traders and punters. I came away from the Green Gathering feeling that is was ‘ok to be me’ if you know what I mean.

The Woolly Pedlar at Green Gathering 2016

The Woolly Pedlar at Green Gathering 2016

It takes an awful lot of hard graft to make enough stock to do events like Woolfest and the Green Gathering justice, not to mention all the effort to get stock ready, pack the van, set up these events, man the stall with huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm, and then unload when we get home. I was ready for a holiday!

The Woolly Pedlar at Woolfest 2016

The Woolly Pedlar at Woolfest 2016

Tim and I found a quirky little farmhouse up in the hills of northeast Ibiza and set off for a week’s rest and relaxation in October. I promised my husband I would forget work and leave social media behind for a week.

The Woolly Pedlar goes to Ibiza

The Woolly Pedlar goes to Ibiza

However, just as we were leaving, a media storm erupted over my blogpost about Jeremy Corbyn buying one of my woolly wraps from Bardon Mill Village Store. I went from being elated at him buying one of my pieces for his wife, to being devastated at what the right wing press did with my photos and blog. However, I was soon delighted once again at all the support given through social media, and my Facebook page in particular, for both me and my little business, and for Jeremy, for taking time out to walk in our beautiful county of Northumberland and for buying from a small business making upcycled clothing. I learnt a lot from all this, and will in future be far more wary in my dealings with the press.

Jeremy Corbyn buys from The Woolly Pedlar

Jeremy Corbyn buys from The Woolly Pedlar

I had some great press coverage too over the year, with a lovely piece in Women’s Weekly about my woolly pedlaring. It was great to see them use so many photos of the family in it, and the write up was superb. I’ve also featured in Reloved, the magazine that focuses on upcycling in the home, and am in the latest issue of Read Me, our local magazine about Haltwhistle, where they talk about how I came to live and work where I do, in ‘The Road to Willimoteswick’.

Women's Weekly write about my woolly pedlaring

Women’s Weekly write about my woolly pedlaring

It has been a rollercoaster of a year in my hunt for wool knitwear to recycle. When Hawick Knitwear closed, I lost a valuable supplier. I was also buying vintage knitwear from a company that imported clothing from Europe and the States, which had in the past provided some wonderful knitwear, but that too dried up early in 2016. So the hunt was on! It’s amazing when you consider the amount of textile waste from this country in one year alone would fill Wembley Stadium, but it’s very hard to find textile recyclers willing to sell back in the UK. Many of the firms I contacted said they did not sort clothing here, but shipped it all abroad. After drawing blanks with many, I stumbled across Bristol Textile Recyclers, and bingo! I now having a new supplier of waste wool knitwear.

As well as buying from textile recyclers, I also buy from my local charity shops have been delighted with the help that our area manager of Scope has given me. Scope have really stepped up to the plate, and now collect waste woollen knitwear on a regional basis. This keeps clothing in the local economy which is good for me, good for you, and good for the planet!

Merino Wool Hats from waste sock tops from the House of Cheviot

Merino Wool Hats from waste sock tops from the House of Cheviot

It’s increasingly hard to find knitwear manufacturers in this UK, and with Hawick knitwear going into administration, the hunt was on to find others. The House of Cheviot has been one new discovery, and I’ve bought boxes of recycled merino wool sock tops from them which have made the most excellent hats. These are selling really well up at Walltown Crags on Hadrian’s Wall where walkers can sometimes be caught out by our chilly Northumberland weather.

Allendale Forge Studios stocks Woolly Pedlar

Allendale Forge Studios stocks Woolly Pedlar

The list of local stockists, and indeed some stockists further afield has grown considerably this year, with Farfield Mill down in Sedbergh now stocking Woolly Pedlar. The Allendale Forge Studios are featuring my woolly wares as part of it’s Winter Exhibition, and Studio 2 at The Forge has a good range of upcycled woolly goods. I’m hoping for some good sales from there over New Year as revellers gather for the Tar Barrels procession and bonfire at New Year. If you’d like to find out more about the Tar Barrels, here is a short film made by my friend Nat Wilkins that is a fantastic piece of social history: Tar Barrel in the Dale

Mr Wolf, Market St, Hexham

Mr Wolf, Market St, Hexham

In Hexham, on Market Street, Mr Wolf continues to do a roaring trade in my kiddies’ ponchos and Sarah Robinson-Gay has my bedspreads in the gallery. The Bardon Mill Village Store and Tea Room is where Jeremy Corbyn found my woolly wraps, and sales there have really taken off in the past few months.

Bespoke bedspread by the Woolly Pedlar

Bespoke bedspread by the Woolly Pedlar

It’s been a great year too for bespoke commissions, from coats to bedspreads, baby blankets for football supporting families and memory cushions for a special family. I love making bedspreads – you can really get into the ‘zone’ with one of these – mindful meditation at its best! This bedspread was made from Kirstie Adamson, a fellow artist who is a magazine collage artist. Do get in touch if I can help with a bespoke order.

The run up to Christmas this year as as busy as ever, with shows, fairs and events running right through November and into December. They are exhausting!! However, I love getting together with my fellow traders – it’s like a family reunion! Lovely too to catch up with loyal customers some of whom come wearing their woolly purchases from previous years. I was glad to hang up my woolly hat for Christmas, and have enjoyed a super time with the family. Here we all are on our annual visit to the Quayside in Newcastle for a family meal and group photo.

The Reed Family 2016

The Reed Family 2016

I’m having a massive sale beginning on 2nd January when I’ll be clearing out lots of stock to make way for some exciting new designs and collections for 2017. There will be 20% off everything on the website. The creative cogs are turning, and I’ll soon be back up in the woolly garret, head down, making more upcycled woolly wares for you.

In the meantime, I would just like to say a huge thank you to Julie from One Off Projects who helps me sew. There is now way I would have been able to have such a wide selection of stock without her help.

Thanks to my family and in particular to my husband Tim who has valiantly helped set up markets at the crack of dawn, lugging fixtures and fittings and bags of stock for me, and generally putting up with me being a stress head!

The biggest thank you of all has to go to you lot, my loyal customers. Without you, my little woolly upcycling business would not be the success it is. Thank you for all the support in 2016 on social media – those likes, comments and shares are so helpful in getting my work seen.

So here’s raising my coffee cup to us all, Happy New Year to you all!

Happy New Year from The Woolly Pedlar

Happy New Year from The Woolly Pedlar

 

 

 

 

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Let Me Introduce Myself by the Woolly Pedlar

How The Woolly Pedlar Came About

How exciting, my first blogpost on my new website! Many of you may well be used to my musings and may have been following The Bridge Cottage Way blog, about living sustainably, for some time. I have now decided to move all my writing over to this new Woolly Pedlar website, which I hope you will enjoy.
For those of you who are new to The Woolly Pedlar, a warm woolly welcome to you, and I hope you enjoy my posts. Let me tell you how it all begun.

I started writing The Bridge Cottage Way when I gave up my teaching career of twenty five years due to ill health. I have always believed in living well with what we have, by buying less, reducing waste, and growing as much fruit and veg as we can. It was about all this, that I wrote about in the Bridge Cottage Way.

Teaching Kyle to Knit - the Woolly Pedlar

Teaching Kyle to Knit – the Woolly Pedlar

It was through The Bridge Cottage way that the Woolly Pedlar was born.  Kyle, a friend of my son and daughter, had asked me to teach him how to knit.  Kyle’s brother and girlfriend were expecting their first baby, and Kyle wanted to knit something for them. Together we hatched plans to form The Bridge Cottage Way knitting group.

 

 

 

 

Upcycled Armwarmers Recycled Knitwear The Woolly Pedlar

Upcycled Armwarmers from Recycled Knitwear by The Woolly Pedlar

Another friend got in touch when she heard about the knitting group, and said she wasn’t interested in learning how to knit, but wanted me to make her a pair of Katwise armwarmers, which she had seen on the internet. Katwise is from the USA and makes upcycled ‘sweatercoats’ and armwarmers from recycled knitwear. She has a huge following, and has made her tutorials for making armwarmers and sweatercoats available to purchase and download online. She has given her blessing for folk to use these, and make and sell their own, and only askes that she gets a mention from time to time.

I explained to Claire that these weren’t knitted, but were made from recycled jumpers and needed an overlocker  (a four thread sewing machine that cuts and sews as it goes)  to make them. I had always fancied getting an overlocker and with the money I got from leaving teaching, bought my first one – a small, domestic machine.

An Upcycled Sweatercoat Recycled Knintwear The Woolly Pedlar

An Upcycled Sweatercoat made from Recycled Knintwear by The Woolly Pedlar

It wasn’t long before family and friends all got a pair of   armwarmers for presents, and my mind had started working overtime with the possibilities of making more. I downloaded Katwise’s tutorial for making sweatercoats, and despite some pretty poor first attempts, gradually perfected the task until I had made some that I thought were sellable.
I loved trawling round the charity shops and hunting out local jumble sales where I could find wool jumpers to recycle. This fitted perfectly into my way of life and love of reusing what we have to reduce the drain on the planet’s resources, as well as appealing to the creative side of my personality

My first time at Woolfest. The Woolly Pedlar

My first time at Woolfest. The Woolly Pedlar

Well that was back in 2011, and I have since then bought an industrial overlocker, and have completely taken over the top floor of our house. I registered as self employed in March 2012, and now work full time as the Woolly Pedlar, upcycling knitwear into a whole host of products, which you will be able to find in my online shop, and when I’m out and about selling my woolly wares at markets and festivals.  Head over the the EVENTS page on this website to see where I’ll be popping up next.

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I love my work, and take a great deal of pleasure from working with colour and texture, and am now designing my own range of clothes, soft furnishings and accessories from recycled jumpers. I am meeting some lovely folk along the way, both fellow artisans, and the loyal army of customers that have discovered my work. My health has improved dramatically from when I was forced to leave teaching, and I now look forward to the future, and lots more woolly pedlaring to come.

To get all the news about new products, where I’ll be popping up next, and general upcycling banter, sign up to the newsletter here:

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Just before I go, a few thank yous – to my long suffering husband and three children for being there for me when I needed you all.

To Gemma from Yellow Cherry Design for her superb design skills with my branding, and to cool Terry from TWDA   for helping me with this new website.

Thanks for reading this first blogpost. See you soon!

 

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