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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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The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria.

Thrilled to be Joining The Wool Clip

The Wool Clip Members Photo by Sally Seed of Stoneleigh Communications

The Wool Clip Members Photo by Sally Seed of Stoneleigh Communications

I’ve been bursting to share this news with you for some time now. I’ve been invited to join fourteen woolly women over in Caldbeck, Cumbria, who between them run The Wool Clip. I’m over the moon to have been asked and am thoroughly looking forward to having a permanent base from which to showcase my upcycled woolly wares.

Let me introduce you to the gang. From left to right, standing: Pam Hall, Chris Crofts, Linda Chapman, Jan Beadle, Ema Allcock, Emma Redfern, Jean Wildish, Maud Mercier, Marion Rae, Me! Seated: Ruth Strong, Alice Underwood. Missing from the photo are: Debbie Lucas  and Cecilia Hewitt.

On Wednesday we will be heading over to Caldbeck to stock the shop and I am really looking forward to see what everyone has been making. The shop opens for the weekend of 11/12 Feb, and then full time from 18th February. Winter opening hours are 11-4.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria.

I have made a new collection, specially for The Wool Clip. It has been inspired by a photo of seaweed, found on an Orkney Beach, This is therefore called my ‘Orkney Collection’
You may remember reading about my adventures Cycling Around Orkney back in May 2016. This collection is exclusive to The Wool Clip.

Orkney Seaweed

Orkney Seaweed

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

The Orkney Collection, exclusive to The Wool Clip

You may also remember me telling you about winning Stallholder of the Year at Woolfest back in June 2016. Woolfest is my favourite woolly gathering, and is organised and run by The Wool Clip team of which I am now part of. So if you are visiting Woolfest in 2017, you’ll find my stall this year in the Wool Clip aisle, and I will be donning a blue pinny and helping run this fabulous event.

Woolfest 2016. Photo by Sally Seed Stoneleigh Communications

Woolfest 2016. Photo by Sally Seed Stoneleigh Communications

I’ll keep you all up to date with how things are going at The Wool Clip, and hope to see some of you there or at Woolfest this year.

Thanks for reading my blog and helping me celebrate this exciting step in my woolly journey.

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Vibernum at Bridge Cottage

Tales From The Woolly Garret: The January Blues

So, the tree’s down and the kids have left to go back to their respective homes. The house is quiet and cold. The van is still full of stock from Christmas shows, and the workshop is in a right old state. There is Christmas cake and chocolate to finish, even though the scales have reached a new high. The post Christmas lurgy has also struck and Lemsip has replaced gin as my drink of choice.

This time of year that can be tough for some. Just yesterday over on Twitter, someone I follow was asking if it was ok to say that she was ‘down’. Yes it is, it’s January, it’s cold and dark, and some of us are worn out from the run up to Christmas and the frenzy of Christmas markets. The January Blues can bite hard.

I must admit to feeling briefly low. I get so used to having the two elder ‘kids’ around, and it feels like a part of me is missing when they go. Go they must, however, as they have exiting your lives to lead, and we’d annoy the pants of each other if they stayed around for too long.

I also made the mistake of stepping on the scales – bad move! That should wait until at least two weeks after Christmas, if at all. To combat all the cheese we had a lovely run out to Caldbeck where we visited The Wool Clip and went for a long walk. For those who aren’t familiar with The Wool Clip, it’s a beaut of a shop full of all things woolly and run by the same co-operative who organise and run Woolfest. The countryside and villages around Caldbeck, which is on the north eastern edge of the Lake District, are stunning. It’s amazing how a good walk, a bit of woolly retail therapy and looking at horizons lifts the January Blues. I resisted cake at the cafe too and went for the carrot and parsnip soup.

I loved visiting The Wool Clip and met Emma from Hole House Bags who was running the shop that day. The blues were starting to lift!

I also got quickly back up in the woolly garret and began sorting my jumpers into piles. This is always exciting, as new possibilities of colourways and potential projects get planned. I can’t wait to get sewing again! I have an exciting new collection panned based on a photo I took whilst Cycling Around Orkney. I’ll keep that under wraps though, until I’m ready to unveil the collection. Needless to say, I have an awesome pile of jumpers, with colours to beat any blues into submission.

 

Today I got out in the garden, and used the trug my husband bought me for Christmas. My one New Year’s Resolution is to get out in the garden more and to grow more veggies this year. Those of you who used to follow my blog The Bridge Cottage Way will know how important this is to me, but woolly pedlaring took over last year, and the garden was sadly neglected. I find getting outdoors to be one of the best ways of beating the blues, January or not! I got into the greenhouse and weeded in between the winter veg. It was great to be back connecting with the soil.

We have a rather unruly Vibernum near the greenhouse which has burst into flower. It is a wonderful sight, with a heady scent. The perfect antidote to the January Blues.

 If you’re feeling blue, I hope it doesn’t last, the days are getting lighter, and Spring is on its way!

 

 

 

 

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Woolfest 2016

It’s a bit like Christmas. There’s masses of work before hand, it goes like a flash and then leaves you feeling worn out, wanting more and beginning to plan to the next one! I rate Woolfest high up, if not top of my list of favourite events to sell my woolly wares at. It is the UK’s premier wool festival, celebrating everything woolly from sheep to finished product. It is run superbly by the team from The Wool Clip, and is housed in Mitchell’s Auction Mart at Cockermouth in Cumbria.

jumpers For weeks beforehand my family had to fend for themselves while I beavered away up on the third floor of our house in my woolly garret, making sure I had enough jumpers, jackets and sweatercoats to do the show justice. I’d found a factory making hand loomed Scottish knitwear and managed to bag two boxes of these beauties which made for some awesome creations. Incidentally, all three of the above sold quick as a flash. Two didn’t even make it as far as Woolfest, and the one in the middle is winging its way to Vermont in the USA as I write. I get so stressed about not having enough stock, and from what I hear from other stallholders, this is a common worry.

packed

Then there’s the packing. Boy does this take a while! Everything has to be labelled priced, bagged and carried down from the top floor. Then there’s the stall fittings to fetch from the garage – grid walls, feet, rails, stands, mannequins, table, chest of drawers, signs etc. Thank goodness for my lovely husband who, working from home as an accountant, stopped work to give me a hand. In fact not only did he help me pack and unpack the van, but he came over with me to help with the set up and take down at Woolfest. Thank you Tim. I really appreciate you! The selling bit in the middle isn’t really his thing so he took himself off with his bike and a tent and explore the coast of Cumbria for two days.

 

view

The drive over to Cockermouth along the A66 past Keswick never fails to take my breath away. It is absolutely stunning! The mountains rise majestically in the North Lakes and I feel so privileged to have this as my commute to work. This is Blencathra, or Saddleback. I do wonder if my mountain climbing days are over? I’ve climbed a fair few in my life, with my highest being Mount Toubkal in Morocco, but these days I’m not as fit as I was, and I fear the coming down would be just as painful as the going up. Maybe I need to set myself the challenge of getting fit enough to climb mountains again?
julie

Another thank you needs to go to Julie from One Off Projects in Carlisle, who helps me sew. Julie also kindly gave up her time in between sewing bridesmaids dresses to come and help me set up and take down the stall. Julie found me a couple of years ago at Brocksbushes Christmas Fair, and has been helping to make ponchos, baby blankets and bedspreads ever since. Without Julie’s help there is no way I’d have been able to get where I am today with the business. Julie, you’re a star! She also arrived at Woolfest with a yarnbombed bike which took pride of place above the stall.

bike

When you arrive at Woolfest, you get given an empty, hosed down cattle or sheep pen, depending on which room you’re in. I was in the cattle shed, in row K, a great place to be in. There’s loads of space, natural light, and large size pens, not to mention music throughout the day. The only downside are the pigeons that sit high up on the beams and drop surprises on your stock and customers from a height! I had to put an umbrella up over my sweatercoats, and at night everything needs to be covered with dust sheets.
Last year, I’d built my stall rather high, and then realised that I’d totally obliterated the view of the poor guy selling drop spindles next to me. I felt so guilty that I asked to be put in the corner if I got accepted for a place the next year. As I prepared for Woolfest, I wondered if I’d shot myself in the foot and would be hidden away, especially if whoever was in the stall next to me had also built high.

stall

I needn’t have worried. I had a terrific pitch! It was huge. Almost three spaces for the price of two, and there was a wide aisle space I could use, as seen in the photo above which only shows a third of my space! I put my sweatercoats and jackets right at the front as folk walked in. These were my best sellers last year, and I wanted them to have pride of place.

ponchos

blankets-&-bedspreads

The other two thirds of the stall were filled with ponchos, baby blankets, kiddies’ ponchos, cushions and bedspreads.

It look six hours to set up the stall!

car-park-camping

Exhuasted, Tim and I retired to our van in the car park which was to be my home from home for the next two days. It’s great that there is a place to park up with portaloos provided – it helps to keep costs down, and there’s a great atmosphere amongst fellow traders as we talk over the day with a glass of wine.  I’m pretty self sufficient in the van, with a comfy bed, sink and cooker. It’s not a posh camper van, but a converted builder’s van, and does us just fine! The view over to the mountains from Woolfest is magical, and I love to have a little wander before bed to take in the scenery with my camera. I didn’t sleep that well – a mixture of excitement, anxiety and generally over thinking things, which is pretty normal for me before any big event. I also had a terrible sore throat, and chest infection so wasn’t feeling at my best at all when I gave up on sleep at 5.30 and got up to face the day.

Debra

Debra who some of you may know as the ex owner of The Bee in the Butterfly in Hexham, drove over to be my sales assistant for the two days. She soon became chief swisher too as she swished and swirled around the arena wearing my sweatercoats! This colour combination definitely suited her, though the sweatercoat in question didn’t hang around for long! Thanks Deb for your help. Sorry if this is sounding a bit like the Oscar’s!

coats

In fact most of my sweatercoats ans jackets sold, and I’ve now got a full order book, and have my work cut out to get more made for The Green Gathering, which is my next big event. I do have a few left, so if you’re after one, or anything else for that matter, head over to the website store to see what’s in stock, or get in touch via the contact form on the website if you’d like me to make you something special.
happy

 

police

I love seeing photos of happy customers, but I must have had the setting on my camera wrong, or my lens cap on, as I only have a few piccies. If you bought something from me at Woolfest, I’d love to see a photo of you wearing it. You can send me one via email or post it to my Facebook page.

We even managed to get this police officer in one of my black sweatercoats. I think we could be starting something here. Maybe the police force would like to funk up their uniforms a bit with a Woolly Pedlar coat?

It was all such fun! Debra remarked that she had face ache from smiling so much.

The atmosphere at Woolfest is nothing short of sensational. It is rammed to the rafters with folk who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making handmade items, and who love wool and colour.

It leaves you with a warm glow inside, and the happy knowledge that your work is appreciated.

As if this all positivity wasn’t enough, as the event was drawing to a close, a posse of Wool Clip ladies approached and presented me with the ‘Stallholder of the Year’ award.

Oh boy! My eyes welled up and exhaustion and emotion got the better of me for a moment.

As some of you may already know, five years ago my teaching career ground to a halt for one reason or another, and I was left jobless, and without any idea where to go next.

This award meant so much to me. I’m back on track!

Thank you so much Woolfest, to the team from the Wool Clip, my fellow traders who are all simply lovely, and to the catering team at Mitchells who even rustled up some cake and custard for me to keep my energy levels up.

One of the perks of the Stallholder of the Year Award is that I have a guaranteed place at next year’s Woolfest. It will be hard to top this year’s, and I’m already really looking forward to it. It’s a bit like Christmas!

prize

 

 

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