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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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The Story of My Baby Blanket.

IMG_1402 Back in 2013, I was selling my woolly wares at Willowman Festival. Trading next to me was the lovely Hannah, who had her new baby boy, Lewis with her. He was just a babe in arms and being breastfed by his mum whilst she sold an eclectic mix of Fairtrade wares. Hannah commissioned me to make a hooded baby blanket for little Lewis, such as you see made from bath towels, but with a funky, pixie hood.

This was an exciting new commission, and when I got home from the festival I set about designing it.

I get a lot of beautiful cashmere and soft lambswool in my hunt for woollies to recycle. Cashmere jumpers often have a wee hole in them, making them unsellable in charity shops, but are ideal to cut up into squares and use patchwork style. I love that this is taking waste and using it to create something new.

IMG_1336 compI already made baby blankets using squares, and called them my ‘one hundred square’ blankets for obvious reasons! I thought they might be useful when learning to count, as kids could put an object in each  to learn one to one correspondance. (You can tell I was am ex teacher!)

I used this design as the basis for my hooded baby blankets, but added a funky hood with a pixie point in one corner.

BBL17.3

 

 

IMG_0335

Hannah and Lewis were delighted with their hooded baby blanket and I caught up with them at another festival later that summer.

Here is little Lewis, with his daddy, hiding from the sun at a very sunny Cockermouth Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

Elijah

Since then I have made and sold dozens of my hooded baby blankets. I’ve made them in brights and pastels, and even in the colours of a rugby team for little Elijah, whose mummy and daddy support Leicester Tigers.

I have sold them to folk all round the world. One lady was searching for a baby blanket which was ‘Handmade in UK’ and stumbled across me. Her son-in-law was British, and so wanted to buy a present for the newborn baby that was made in Britain.

 

 

I love seeing photos of little ones in my baby blankets, so if you have bought one, then do send a photo. I of course would only use it with your permission.

IMG_0244 compThis bonny babe is little Seren, who came for a play in the Bridge Cottage garden with my good friends, Pete and Eli.

Like Seren here, and little Elijah above, babies are loving the soft comfort that wool gives.

I always try to keep a good selection of these one off, upcycled baby blankets on the website. To see what’s currently in stock, head to ‘Baby Blankets’

If you would like one making in a particular colourway – if you need one in your football team’s colours for example, or any colour combo, then do get in touch.

My baby blankets are all one off’s – the delightful nature of using recycled knitwear means that once a jumper has been used, it’s gone, and I can never make the same product twice.

I am always making more baby blankets, as with the rest of my upcycled designs, so do keep a weather eye on the website shop to see what’s there.

Hannah-and-Lewis

I caught up with Hannah and Lewis again this year at splendid Audio Soup festival, which I blogged about last week, in my post, ‘It’s a Tough Life’ .

It was really good to see them, and see how much Lewis has grown. He’s a great little chap, always busy and chattering about what he is doing. On the right here, he’s having a sit down infront of my stall while he eats his halloumi.

LewisThanks to Hannah and Lewis, the hooded baby blanket with the funky little pixie hood was born, and has now been made into dozens of little blankets and hopefully many more to come, keeping babies warm in upcycled woolly warmth all around the world.

If you are having a baby, or are looking for a present for a baby shower or for a little one, then do head over to the website shop to see if there’s one there you like. Delivery is free within the UK, with International Shipping also available.

Local stockists of my upcycled baby blankets and other woolly wares include:

Mr Wolf, Hexham

Once Brewed Visitor Centre, Bardon Mill

The Hemmel Cafe, Allenheads

You can also see where I’ll be bringing my woolly wares to next, over on the event’s page – you never know, I may be coming fo a field or market near you soon and you can then see and feel the baby blankets for yourself.

Thanks for reading – feel free to share this and spread the word about upcycling.

You can catch up on all the past blogs if you fancy a read over on the website too.

Bye for now!

PS – I’m out and about next near Chepstow in the South West at the Green Gathering – see you there if you’re going 🙂

 

 

 

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