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On top of Great Cockup

Tales from the Woolly Garret. A Different Kind of Summer.

For the past several years, summer would see me packing up the van and heading off on the road to festivals to sell my woolly wares.  The Green Gathering down in Chepstow in particular, was a firm favourite. This year, however, I decided to do things differently.

The Green Gathering 2016

The Green Gathering 2016

 

I’m no Spring chicken. With Woolfest in June, Perth Festival of Yarn and Yarndale in September, then the mad period that is the run up to Christmas, I decided that we needed a break. (Head over to the Events page to see where I’ll be in the coming months)

Dear friends at The Green Gathering

Dear friends at The Green Gathering

I was sad not to be at the Green Gathering, as it is very dear to my heart with eco-living and green issues being a very big part of my life. I’ve also made some very dear friends there over the years. However, I am also part of a co-operative now, The Wool Clip. This has given me a permanent space in a shop to display and sell my woolly wares from. The need to go on the road isn’t so great.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria.

The Wool Clip, Caldbeck, Cumbria.

30 Years ago

30 Years ago

This year was our Pearl Wedding Anniversary. Thirty years of wedded bliss! We got the opportunity to rent a wonderful cottage in the Dudden Valley in the Lake Distrist and our three grown up kids all decided to come away with us for a week’s holiday in the Lake District to celebrate. We enjoyed some fabulous walking, fresh air and good company. I even got to the top of a mountain with the help of my son who is an outdoor instructor! You can see the weather wasn’t the best, but the sense of achievement, amazing!

Top of Harter Fell

Top of Harter Fell

More walking and letting it all go on the mountains took place the following week when my dear husband took me away to Over Water Hall. This is a fabulous country hotel in the North Lakes with amazing food, accommodation and general luxury. I felt very spoilt. We walked and walked, and couldn’t resist going up Great Cockup on our actual anniversary. Here I am enjoying striding out on the hills, and at the top.

Letting it all go

Letting it all go

On top of Great Cockup

On top of Great Cockup

My thoughtful husband had popped a miniature bottle of Prosecco into our picnic bag for the summit! The only damper on the day was the territorial buzzard who decided that we really shouldn’t be walking across her field! Scary stuff, but with a walking pole held high as if I were leading a party of tourists across London, the buzzard only swooped as low at the point of my stick. Needless to say we didn’t walk that route back to the hotel.  I don’t do fields of cows, and I certainly don’t do territorial buzzards.

My long suffering husband and me

My long suffering husband and me

My long suffering husband was glad we weren’t on the road doing festivals too. He also works from home  (as an accountant) and to come and help me set up stall means taking lots of time off work, which then needs to be caught up with when he gets back.

Apart from the walking and holidaying the the Lake District, it’s still been a busy summer. I hosted my first ever Open Studio and Garden Party – this was a roaring success, despite the stair rod rain! So much so, I’ve booked a date for next summer, and I hope lots of you will join me. Northumberland has so much to offer, and lots of folk are talking about making a weekend or holiday of it. My friend Helen from Stanegate Hideaways is offering 10% off accomodation in her Shepherd’s Huts if folk are coming to the event.

Summer in the garden

Summer in the garden

We love growing our own veggies. Last year with a summer full of festivals, the garden was sadly neglected. this year we’ve been able to spend much more time in the greenhouse and out in the veggie garden, and the fruits of our labour are coming in thick and fast.

The British weather has certainly been true to form of late. As I sit and type this, the rain is lashing at the windows and it’s blowing a hoolie. I’m damn glad I’m not doing the festival circuit this year. In fact, I’m off to make a bowl of porridge and a pot of coffee. Then it’s up to the woolly garret and on with the jumper making. I’ve been pleased to have had the time up in the woolly garret these past few weeks to really get my head down with designing and making. I’ll have lots of new creations coming with me to Perth Festival of Yarn and Yarndale in September.  The website and The Wool Clip shops are also full of lovely woollies. It’s been good to do things differently this summer.

Recycled Wool Autumn Sweatercoat

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking for waste wool knitwear

Finding Recycled Wool Knitwear – it’s easier said than done!

Recycling Textiles

Recycling Textiles

If we’ve not met before, let me introduce myself. I’m The Woolly Pedlar, upcycler of waste wool knitwear. I run a small business from my home in Northumberland, recycling wool textiles into new clothing, soft furnishings and accessories. My quest for recycled wool knitwear has taken many twists and turns over the last six years, but recently I have started to despair.

The Woolly Pedlar, upcycler of waste wool knitwear

The Woolly Pedlar, upcycler of waste wool knitwear

I’m coming up against many brick walls when it comes to buying recycled wool knitwear in bulk.
The statistics say that you could fill Wembley stadium with the amount of recycled textiles we throw away every year in the UK, but getting my mitts on it is easier said than done.
It would appear the vast majority of our recycled clothing is now shipped abroad for second hand clothing markets in East Africa and Eastern Europe. The Textile Recycling Association informs me that very few of the recycled textile companies are grading in the UK. It is more cost effective just to ship everything abroad, where our second hand cast offs are piled high in the market places of developing countries. This has huge knock on effects for the traditional textiles of those countries, and for the cotton farmers. It also means I cannot get my woollies.

Wool jumpers waiting to be upcycled

Wool jumpers waiting to be upcycled in happier times

My upcycling business has two main sources of recycled wool knitwear – one is the second hand clothing market, and another, knitwear manufacturers who produce waste. Indeed, I used to buy a lot of waste wool knitwear from Hawick Knitwear factory, up in the Borders of Scotland. However, Hawick Knitwear closed in 2016. You can read more about this in ‘The Sad Demise of Hawick Knitwear‘. I was gutted when this source of beautiful lambswool and cashmere dried up. The only UK manufacturer of knitwear I am currently buying from is The House of Cheviot. I use their waste wool sock tops to make my ‘Thinking Hats’ and ‘Coffee Cup Cosies’. If any other knitwear manufacturers are reading this, and generate waste, then please get in touch.

Recycled Sock Tops from House of Cheviot

Recycled Sock Tops from House of Cheviot

This leaves the second hand clothing industry and charity shops. My home town of Hexham has six charity shops, and four out of the six save waste wool knitwear for me. You see, even if a jumper has a hole in it, I can cut out the good bits, and use them to make ponchos, bedspreads, bags and baby blankets. You know the saying, waste not want not!

 Patchwork style poncho using waste wool knitwear

Patchwork style poncho using waste wool knitwear

However, this can be patchy, and relies on the volunteers in the shops remembering to put knitwear to one side for me.

Scope have stepped up to the plate and have gone one stage further. They are attempting to collect regionally for me, and this, I think might be the way forward.

I contacted Kate Holbrook from Turtle Doves to see if she could help. Kate, like me, recycles knitwear, but specialises. Kate has put me in touch with The Together Plan, a small charity in London supporting communities from Belarus. I am delighted to say they are happy to supply me with a small amount of recycled wool knitwear. It’s also great that two ethical businesess such as Turtles Doves and The Woolly Pedlar have been able to work together.

If we could find a way to collect the waste wool before it goes to the big textile recyclers, then maybe, we can keep more of it in UK and the local economy, and I’ll be able to carry on making lots of lovely upcycled woolly goodies.

I’m off to get in touch with other area managers. If you are reading this and can help me in my quest, then please get in touch. I am after medium weight wool knitwear, (no chunky, hand knits or acrylic).

Looking for waste wool knitwear

Looking for waste wool knitwear

If you have been having a clear out at home and have any woollies you’d like to send, then please also get in touch. I’d be happy to pay postage and can offer a discount code for the website for your trouble.

Your Hopefully,

The Woolly Pedlar

Upcycled Coatigan from Recycled Knitwear

Upcycled Coatigan from Recycled Knitwear

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The Wool Clip Team at Woolfest 2017

Woolfest 2017 – Doing it Differently

This year’s Woolfest was a very different weekend to the three previous shows where I had taken a stall and sold my upcycled woolly wares as an independent trader. (See previous blogposts such as: Wonderful Woolfest) Back in February I joined the Wool Clip, a co-operative of thirteen woolly women, based at Caldbeck in Cumbria. As well as having a lovely little shop, The Wool Clip is responsible for Woolfest, the UK’s premier wool gathering. This year was certainly going to be different, as I joined the team in the planning, preparation and running of Woolfest.

The Wool Clip Team at Woolfest 2017

The Wool Clip Team at Woolfest 2017

I must admit to feeling nervous as the new girl, but equally very excited. I drove over to the shop on the Thursday to collect stock, and then drove across country from Caldbeck to Cockermouth via Bassenthwaite. It is a glorious corner of the Lake District, and as my van rolled along the lanes, I felt very blessed to be working at what I do, and being able to work in such beautiful places.

 

 

The set up team had got the Wool Clip aisle all ready, with cool white linen tablecloths and backdrops, and beautiful woolly bunting. It didn’t take long to get my area filled, and I was pleased with the result.

Woolfest - My Stall in The Wool Clip Aisle

Woolfest – My Stall in The Wool Clip Aisle

I don’t find table displays easy, and my space was a fraction of the size I had had in previous years, so the setting up was challenging. However, everything I wanted to show was out on display, and I was very happy with my space.

The Woolly Pedlar At Woolfest 2017

The Woolly Pedlar At Woolfest 2017

In previous years I had slept in my van in the car park, but this year I had the luxury of a room in the newly built Premier Inn just 5 minutes walk from Woolfest. I had a really good night’s sleep, and the luxury of a hot shower before heading over to Mitchell’s Mart where Woolfest is held.

I love wandering around Woolfest early in the morning, listening to the noise sheep bleeting. There is an air of anticipation and excitement, as stall holders call out greetings to each other and lift the covers from their displays.

Herdwick Sheep At Woolfest 2017

Herdwick Sheep At Woolfest 2017

My first task was to greet folk at the door, and prevent anyone entering before 10am. It wasn’t long before a queue of excited fans of all thing woolly had gathered, and we counted down to doors opening.

Coatigan Fun At Woolfest

Coatigan Fun At Woolfest

Back at the stall there was a lot fun being had, with much twirling in coatigans. Lou pictured here on the left was one of the Wool Clip volunteers helping in aisle A. She was an absolute poppet and helped my customers, as did the other volunteers, when I wasn’t able to be at the stall.

A Happy Customer

A Happy Customer

It was great to see many familiar faces at the stall, as returning customers came back for more of my creations. Doris here now has three of my ponchos, all with matching bags!

Ruth in her Coatigan

Ruth in her Coatigan

Ruth, a fellow stallholder, bought herself this purple and turquoise coatigan, and says she’ll be wearing it at other shows and events. I think she looks stunning in it. Coatigans were definitely the best sellers, and I need to get busy making some more. Head over to Women’s Clothing to see what ponchos, wraps, dresses, jackets and coatigans are currently available.

Upcycled wool coatigans, jumpers and dresses

Upcycled wool coatigans, jumpers and dresses

Although we were all ridiculously busy, there was still time for some silliness!

Silliness at Woolfest

Silliness at Woolfest

The two days went in a flash! We were exhausted, and it’s taken me a whole week to recover, unpack the van and sort out stock. If feels like Christmas – you work really hard getting ready for it, and then it goes in a flash and you can’t wait for it to happen all over again next year.

My next event is my Open Studio and Garden Party, here at Bridge Cottage on 22/23 July. Please email me at sue@woollypedlar.co.uk if you’d like to come.
I’ll be a Perth Festival of Yarn on 10th September and Yarndale on 23rd & 24th September.

Meanwhile it’s back up to the woolly garret where I must get making more coatigans and jackets! I’m busy getting more dresses, bags, woolly wraps & ponchos on the website this weekend, so feel free to hop over to the shop and have a mooch!

Country Casual Upcycled Patchwork Wool Bag

Country Casual Upcycled Patchwork Wool Bag

If you are in the North Lakes, Penrith or Kewsick area, drive over to The Wool Clip shop in Caldbeck, you’ll find a good selection of woolly wares, including this lovely blue and purple hooded jacket. Though as there’s only one, once it’s gone it’s gone! All the other member of The Wool Clip also have fabulous displays in the shop, and one of us is always on hand to chat. There is a lovely cafe, other craft shops, and a pretty little village to wander round, so you could make a day of it!

upcycled wool jacket Wool Clip

Upcycled Wool Jacket available while stocks last at The Wool Clip, Caldbeck

The dates for next year’s Woolfest have already been set! See you there 🙂

Woolfest 2018

Woolfest 2018

 

 

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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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