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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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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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Spring Time Hexham

A Lovely Spring Day in Hexham

Yesterday I had a lovely day in Hexham, my local market town. It started with me taking photos of the Spring flowers in the park. I thought I’d show you them here in my blog. I also want to sing the praises of Hexham town centre, with it’s beautiful park, ancient Abbey and quirky independent stores.

Spring Time Hexham

Spring Time in Hexham

Yesterday was one of those days when Spring was nudging gently against Winter. Although there was a chilly wind, the sun was shining, and I was looking forward to my Tuesday in Hexham.

Tuesday is my day for jumper gathering, and I can be found, like an old bag lady, scurrying from one charity shop to another, collecting the waste wool knitwear that they had put aside for me. I’ve written before about this  in my blog, Scope Step Up to The Plate.

This Tuesday however, I had a few other extras to look forward to. I was meeting my dear friend Anne for lunch at Hextol Tans having my grey hair coloured, and had a meeting with Cool Terry from TWDA who looks after my website for me.

The Bandstand, Sele Park, Hexham

The Bandstand, Sele Park, Hexham

Before I did all that though, I grabbed the chance to take some photos in the Sele park. The sunshine was glorious, and the Spring flowers splendid. We have a newly renovated bandstand here in the Sele Park at Hexham. I belong to Tynedale Community Choir, and we can sometimes be found here in the summer months practising our singing.

Hexham Abbey from The Sele Park

Hexham Abbey from The Sele Park

Hexham Abbey was looking glorious too, bathed in Spring sunshine, and is well worth a visit if you are ever in Hexham. It rises majestically in the market place, and is a sight to behold form every angle, both inside and out. I love to walk around the park and under the arch at the side and marvel at the sandstone architecture.

Hexham Abbey

Hexham Abbey

As I finished taking photos in the Sele Park, I spotted my friend Jeanette, sitting on a bench having a break in between her cleaning jobs. She shared her mocha coffee and croissants with me, and we had a lovely unexpected catch up.  A lovely surprise!

Sele Park, Hexham

Sele Park, Hexham

I left he park and went jumper gathering – another mighty fine haul from Hexham’s Charity shops! These are now in the washing machine at home, and will soon be being cut up and sewn into new creations. Head over to the shop on this website to see what I’ve been making lately.

My meeting with Terry at TWDA went really well, and I’d encourage you to take a look at all the other pages in my website here.  They’re all looking mighty fine!

St Mary's Chare, Hexham

St Mary’s Chare, Hexham

I met my friend Anne for lunch at Hextol Tans, which is on St Mary’s Chare, although the locals know it as ‘back street’ . Anne and I worked together at Priory School in Hexham, when I was teaching students who have learning difficulties. I was over the moon to find to two of the students we used to teach now working in The Tans – so good to see them! The food and service at The Tans is super. It is run by The Hextol Foundation, which is a local charitable company which is helping people who are disadvantaged in the workplace to get jobs, work experience, training and a sense of purpose. I for one will be making The Tans a regular stopping off place in the future.

The day was finished nicely with a trip to the hairdressers to get my grey hairs hidden, and then home when my other half was cooking buckwheat pancakes for our Shrove Tuesday tea.

With all the out of town stores rising up not only in our town of Hexham, but all over the country, I really do implore you to seek out your town centres. Visit those quirky independent stores. Hexham has an abundance of them, and they all need your business to survive! #shoplocal!

The Woolly Pedlar's Market Stall

The Woolly Pedlar’s Market Stall

I’m delighted to say that I’ll be in Hexham on Saturday April 22nd in The Sele Park, with the full kit and kaboodle, with a stall stuffed full of upcycled woolly wares. It is the Hexham Spring Fair and Eating Festival, with plenty to keep all the family amused. Do hope to see you there!

 

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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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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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Tales Woolly Garret Learn Sew Book

Tales From the Woolly Garret. My Learn to Sew Book

I actually squealed with delight when I unwrapped my parent’s Christmas present to me this year. It was a copy of ‘My Learn to Sew Book’. Back in the gender specific seventies I had been given a ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ and my brother a ‘My Fun with Wood Book’. I wonder, was this how The Woolly Pedlar began?

Tales Woolly Garret Learn Sew book

Tales from the Woolly Garret – My Learn to Sew Book

As a child I was encouraged to make things. I watched Blue Peter and made many of the items Valerie Singleton showed us. I even made my own kids a Tracey Island when Thunderbirds were popular for the second time around in the nineties. When visiting my Nan, I’d be asked in true Jane Austin style, if I had my ‘work’ with me. Not homework, but my embroidery or knitting – something I was positively encouraged to do. Maybe it was to give me something to do while the grown ups were talking.

Growing up in the seventies we made things for something to do. Children’s television ended at 5.30 with The Magic roundabout, when Dad came in from work, and didn’t start again til we got in from school. That included school holidays. We had no computers, ipads, xboxes or Playstations. We played outside, read or made things.

I loved my ‘My Learn to Sew Book’, with it’s projects growing in difficulty. I began with the ‘Shell Shape Needlebook’, which consisted of three shell shaped pieces of felt, joined by overstitching, and added it to me ever growing sewing box. I loved collecting haberdashery, and still have many of these first items in my sewing box today.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

After the shell shaped needlebook, I progressed to a hedgehog pincushion and made a family of finger puppets and a hen egg cosy. I made a stuffed mouse, and a floppy frog. Oh how I loved felt!

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

I later progressed to making Baby Billy and Polly Dolly, complete with clothes, though I was a tad disappointed in my Polly Dolly, as she looked nothing like the one in the book. I just couldn’t get the hair right.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

My Nan was a great embroiderer and between her and my ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ I learnt how to do tent stitch, blanket stitch,  chain stitch, French knots, and made a sampler.

These were all sewn by hand, and by making them I learnt sewing techniques that were reinforced at school by sewing binker canvas samplers.

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

Patchwork quilting was another sewing skill learnt with the help of ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ and my creative family. My Great Aunt Vera was a quilter, and sold her quilts to America. I remember as a child being in awe of her sewing room, and longed to have one for myself. I made the little dolls bedding set, and then moved on to a full double bedspread, which I’m ashamed to say is one of those unfinished projects I’m sure we all have.

However, what I really wanted to do was make my own clothes, and longed to own a sewing machine, which I eventually did. It was a toy sewing machine, a little red one, and was my pride and joy. I made myself the Dirndl Skirt on p.52. Good grief, what was I thinking? Social suicide surely!! I would have shown you a photo of me in my creation but fortunately I couldn’t find one!

My Learn To Sew Book

My Learn To Sew Book

I’m laughing now a read back through the ‘My Learn to Sew Book’ at some of the promises – apparently if I made the Apron on p54, I would look both ‘smart and sensible’ – something I’ve never aspired to or indeed managed in 54 years!!

I’d lost the original book in the various moves from my childhood home, and am so grateful to my parents for finding me a copy of this wonderful book which brings back so many memories. As I sit up in the woolly garret, surrounded by sewing (not I’m afraid tidily put away in paper of polythene bags as the book suggests), I really do wonder if this was the start of The Woolly Pedlar. I’m so glad I learnt to sew, and I hope generations of children – boys and girls – continue to learn to sew.

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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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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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Jeremy Corbyn supports small business

Jeremy Corbyn Supports The Woolly Pedlar

Here at Woolly HQ, I am one very excited Woolly Pedlar. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of The Labour Party, has just visited our local village shop, Bardon Mill Village Shop and Tea Room, and bought his lovely wife, Laura one of my upcycled woolly wraps!

Bardon Mill Village Shop

Bardon Mill Village Store and Tea Room, one of The Woolly Pedlar’s local stockists

Imagine my excitement when I heard that Jeremy Corbyn was on the same train from Newcastle as my son’s girlfriend, and not only that, but he had got off the train with his wife, Laura, at Bardon Mill. Now, Bardon Mill is only a very small station, and we only get half a dozen trains stopping there a day. It is, however, a gateway up to the magnificent countryside of Hadrian’s Wall and that was where Jeremy and his wife were headed for a well earned day off and walk in stunning countryside after all the hustle and bustle of the Labour Conference the previous week.

Hadrian's Wall at Steel Rigg, Bardon Mill, Northumberland

Hadrian’s Wall at Steel Rigg

As Jeremy and Laura walked up towards the village, my son Tom chatted to him about walking and the countryside around, and the route their walk could take.

In the shop, my son’s girlfriend and Jeremy helped Laura choose which woolly wrap suited her the best, and Jeremy bought it for her.

Jeremy Corbyn buys from The Woolly Pedlar

Jeremy Corbyn chooses his wife a woolly wrap made by The Woolly Pedlar at Bardon Mill Village Store and Tearoom

 

I don’t know what your political persuasion is, and I do try to keep politics out of my work, but I am a huge fan of Jeremy Corbyn. I strongly believe in anti-austerity and equality, and believe that he is the best thing to have happened to British politics in a very long time. I was over the moon to hear that Jeremy liked my work enough to buy his wife something.

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I am as pleased as punch that my upcycled woolly wares will be going back down to London with Jeremy and Laura. I hope they enjoyed their walk, and I hope my wrap kept Laura warm!

If you’d like a woolly wrap like Laura, Jeremy Corbyn’s wife, then head over to Woolly Wraps, in Women’s Clothing on the web shop and you’ll find a good selection.

You can also find out where I’ll be selling my woolly wares next using the Events tab.

Local Stockists can be found under ‘Customer Info’.

Jeremy Corbyn supports small business

Jeremy Corbyn support small business in north east The Woolly Pedlar

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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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