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
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.