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Getting ready for Woolfest 2017

Rage Against the Machine. Getting Ready for Woolfest 2017

You can tell when I’ve got a big event on the horizon. I wake up far too early and cannot get back to sleep. Guess it’s stress, but it doesn’t feel like negative stress. I’m buzzing with excitement and plans. You see, this year is different. I’ve traded at Woolfest for the past three years, but in February I joined the Wool Clip. The Wool Clip is a cooperative of thirteen woolly women who do a myriad of different things with wool. We are based over in Caldbeck in Cumbria and have a wonderful little shop there.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria

We’ll be shutting the Wool Clip shop on Thursday 22nd June so the team can get all set up and ready at Woolfest. The Shop will reopen again on Sunday 25th June when Ruth will be there valiantly ‘manning’ the shop with matchsticks propping up her eyelids. (I find the expression ‘manning’ the shop a most unsuitable word considering we are a cooperative of thirteen women.)

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

Stallholder of the Year Woolfest 2016

Last year, in 2016, I had the most enormous stand at Woolfest. It was a challenge to fill it, but fill it I did, and had the most fantastic show. One of the best things about Woolfest is the people. It is so good to be amongst creative, colourful people who understand about craft.  Exhausted, but buzzing from a wonderful two days, the icing on the cake was to win Stallholder of the Year.

This blogpost is all about the run up to this year’s Woolfest, so I won’t go into lots of detail about previous years as I’ve written about my experiences, and you can read all about them in these blogposts:

Getting ready for Woolfest 2017

Getting ready for Woolfest 2017

 

It’s been a difficult few months. I hit a button when sewing not once, but twice, and did some damage to my trusty industrial overlocker. For one reason or another it took four weeks to get my machine fixed. I’m now on my second sewing machine repair man. A great guy called Paul form the Carlisle sewing machine shop, came like a knight in shining armour after I had to sack my previous repair man for complete incompetence. I tried not to get stressed as I was unable to sew for four weeks in the run up to my biggest and best event of the year.

With all the terrible disasters over the past few months, the Grenfell tower block fire, and terrorism in London and Manchester, I decided that not being able to sew jumpers really wan’t that important in the grand scale of things. It freed me up in fact to develop some new products and to spend some time designing and sorting.

Coffee cup cosy from recycled merino wool sock tops

Coffee cup cosy from recycled merino wool sock tops

Those good people up at The House of Cheviot had sent me three boxes of recycled merino wool sock tops, which I usually make into hats, but a new size and shape of sock top had been sent that lent itself perfectly to cup cosies. With my machine out of action, I had time to design a new product. The coffee cup cosy was born. If these go well at Woolfest, then I’ll be rolling them out at Christmas, nicely packaged to make a great affordable gift.

'Thinking Hats' from recycled merino wool sock tops

‘Thinking Hats’ from recycled merino wool sock tops

I do have plenty of new ‘thinking hats’ ready for Woolfest too – there are some great colours and patterns! Sophia visited yesterday, and despite the heat, thought that my Thinking Hats were great for kids too!

Thinking Hats are great for kids too

Thinking Hats are great for kids too

Once my machine was fixed, it was nose to the grindstone, and there were jumpers, dresses and coatigans to be made for Woolfest.  Once Woolfest is over, I’ll divide any remaining stock between The Wool Clip shop and my website shop. I will of course let you all know what is going where via social media and my newsletter.

If you’re coming to Woolfest, don’t go looking for me in my usual spot. As I’ve joined The Wool Clip, I’ll be there in Aisle A, just down form the Information Desk.

There is so much to see and do at Woolfest – here’s a link to ‘What’s on at Woolfest’ 
I’ll leave you now, as I’ve got tonnes to do to get the stock all labelled, priced and packed in the van, but here is a selection of some of my new creations. Hope to see you there!

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

The Woolfest Collection 2017

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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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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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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.

workshop-1

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!

Untitled-1

 

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. 🙂

AP68.1

 

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