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Zerowaste – Upcycling, upcycling and upcycling some more.

By now you probably know that I upcycle preloved wool jumpers and make all sorts from them, with the aim of keeping textiles out of landfill and from going to waste. I won’t go into details of all the products I create from recycled knitwear – you can head over to the online shop to see for yourselves what I’ve been making lately. Upcycling means to take waste and turn it into something more useful or aesthetically more pleasing. This is hopefully what I’ve done with this petite purple sweatercoat made from recycled jumpers, which I finished a week ago. This is not the end of the story however. I want to show how I take waste, and upcycle it until there is nothing left to waste at all. Zerowaste – literally!
purple-sweatercoat

The panels and sleeves for this coat were made from lambswool jumpers rescued from Hawick knitwear when the factory went into administration. You can read what I wrote about that in a previous blogpost entitled ‘The Sad Demise of Hawick Knitwear’. The bodice is a very shrunken cashmere jumper rescued from the rag bag in a local charity shop.

So, when I’ve finished making my sweatercoats, do I throw the scraps away? Not on your nellie! Those long enough, and especially any spare sleeves get cut into strips to make armwarmers:

AW77

It doesn’t stop there either! I still had some grey pieces left over, too short for armwarmer strips, but as long as they are 10cm each way, they can be cut into squares and used to make a cushion. I grabbed a felted pink cashmere jumper and cut off the button band to make the fastening on this cushion and hey presto, a lovely lambswool and cashmere cushion made from my waste. That’s zerowaste in my book!

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But it doesn’t stop there. Left with a pile of scraps that are now diminishing in size, and are no longer useful to me, I pass them onto my friends who are proggy matters. For those of you who are not familiar with proggy matting or proddy matting as it is called in other parts, this is a northern tradition where scraps of wool fabric are poked through a piece of hessian with a ‘prodder’. Ali Rhind explains in much better in her video on Hooky and Proggy Matting. If anyone is coming along to Woolfest in June, I’ll have a table loaded with bags of woolly scraps for you. I’ve also written a blogpost about this ‘The Art of Proggy Matting’
sian

So there you have it – upcycling, upcycling and upcycling some more. Zerowaste, and helping keep textiles out of landfill.

 

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In Celebration of the Apple

apple-1Those of you who have been following my musings since the Bridge Cottage Way days, will know I’m passionate about eating seasonally, and in this blog post, I am going to deviate from all things woolly and talk about how apples have dominated my week.

We’ve had so many windfall apples recently, and I’ve enjoyed stewing them with the few autumn raspberries or blackberries from the garden to have with my porridge. The rest I’ve left on the ground for the blackbirds and thrushes who hop around munching on them and sharing them with the slugs.

apple-3It was Apple Day this weekend at the Hexham Farmer’s Market. I was there with my stall, and Transition Tynedale were opposite with their locally produced apples and apple press, which kept us all going with delicious fresh apple juice. Other stalls had baked pies and other appley treats. The market was buzzing, and it was great to see so many folk out and about, buying local produce. The Woolly Pedlar had a great day too, with lots of sales, orders and several donations of jumpers to recycle.

apple-4My only contribution to the apple theme, was to make this autumn coloured sweatercoat, which, with a lot of poetic license could be likened to a Russet apple! Back home, Tim had also been juicing our apples, and I set about baking some raspberry and apple scones. I just added a few raspberries and chopped apple to a basic scone recipe – they were delicious and went down well with my daughter and her boyfriend for Sunday brunch.

apple 2 On Sunday I took a day off from woolly pedlaring, and made five jars of this delicious Apple and Lemon Curd. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for Bramley Lemon Curd, taken from the River Cottage series of books, ‘Preserves’ by Pam Corbin, for ages. One of my Facebook followers has asked for the recipe – so here it is, copied from the book:

Bramley Lemon Curd

Makes 5 x 225g jars

450g Bramley apples, peeled, cored & chopped

Finely grated zest & juice of 2 unwaxed lemons

125g unsalted butter

450g granulated sugar

4-5 large eggs, well beaten ( you need 200ml beaten egg)

Put the apples in a pan with 100ml water & lemon zest, & cook til fluffy. Beat to a puree or pass thru a seive.

Put the butter, sugar, lemon juice & apple puree into a double boiler or bain suspended over a pan of simmering water. As soon as butter has melted, & mixture is smooth & glossy, pass eggs thru a seive and add to mixture. Make sure mixture isn’t too hot. (no highter than 55-60 deg). If mixture does split, take the pan off the heat and beat with a whisk until smooth.
Stir the mixture over a gentle heat and cook until thick and creamy. This will take 9-10 minutes and will be 82-84 deg on a sugar thermometer. Immediately pour into warm steralised jars and seal. Use within 4 weeks. Once opened, keep in the fridge.

I hadn’t made this before, and was really pleased with the result.

The other appley dish of the weekend was a blackberry and apple crumble and custard for Sunday dinner, which came after the Roast Lamb which I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market, which was accompanied by veg from the garden. To finish it all off, we had some super cheese bought from the Leaside Cheesemakers at the Farmer’s Market. Great to have so much lovely seasonal produce both at home and at our local market, and super that lovely seasonal British apples have taken centre stage this week.

HFM1I’ll be back at the Hexham Farmer’s Market in two weeks, on Saturday 24th October with some fab new kiddies’ ponchos for Halloween plus lots of other new upcycled designs. So it’s back up the stairs to the woolly garret for me this week, but with plenty of yummy stewed apples for my porridge before I start the day. Three cheers for seasonal eating, and three cheers for the British Apple!

 

 

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Wonderful Woolfest

Over on the Woolfest Facebook group page, one lady recently posted: ‘ Not been this excited since I was 4 and waiting for santa to arrive!!!’

IMG_2112 compThere is a real buzz, as folk offer each other lifts, book tickets for Friday night’s spin in, talk about accomodation and most importantly, chat about what they are going to see, do and buy! Those exhibiting also show what they are going to be bringing along.

I find it really hard not to bombard the group page with photos of new designs, new products and exciting colours. I am so excited about the collection I’m taking along to Woolfest to hopefully sell, that I have to sit on my hands and not take up more than my fair share of group page space! Hopefuly enough folk will have found their way to The Woolly Pedlar’s Facebook page 😉

IMG_2119 compIf you don’t know about Woolfest, it is held in Mitchell’s Mart, on the roundabout as you approach Cockermouth, over in the Western Lake District, set in the most stunning scenery. I shall be rocking up in the silver van, and making the car park my home for the next two days. I have everything I need in my van, cooker, sink, bed, food, g&t, and even a bucket for nightime emergencies!

I love the atmosphere at Woolfest amongst fellow traders and look forward to catching up with them, once we stagger, exhausted, to our campervans after busy days.

pen-comp    So, when I arrive at Woolfest I’ll go to my empty cattle pen. This year I’ve got double the space – a large square, 15ft x 15ft. Last year it was rather like a bowling alley, which had created a bottle neck, and I wasn’t able to show my woolly wares at their best. This year, having been there once already, and having three times as much stock as last year, I am going to really enjoy transforming this empty pen into a colourful woolly paradise.

IMG_2115 comp

 

 

 

This is what I did with the space last year, with sweatercoats at the front. These were a real hit, and we had lots of ladies twirling in them at the front of the stall,  inspired by my friend, Adele, who came to help me wearing her sweatercoat.

I love Woolfest on so many levels. It is enormous fun, with hundreds of like minded souls, who have come together to celebrate wool.

It gave me a huge boost to my new little business, and I was thrilled to have been invited back again this year.

Brown-by-wallJulie and I was been working our socks off to bring lots of new designs. We’ve got dozens of ponchos for toddlers, children, and adults. New in stock are extra large size ponchos, and round necks in response too all who asked for ponchos without hoods.

I’ve got lots and lots of lovely blankets and bedspreads, with my popular hooded baby blankets, lap rugs, and hopefully enough bedpspreads to go round the whole of the stall.

I’ve been busy making sweatercoats and jumpers and have the biggest collection I have ever had at an event! I can’t wait to see what everyone thinks of them!

 

 

SW17.1 Last year there was lots of excitement and a bit of a rush over one very colourful sweatercoat. I have learnt from that, and have fifteen sweatercoats ready all in fabulous colours this year! I even have two rainbow coats ready for the off on Friday morning.

If you are coming to Woolfest, then goody!! Do drop by and say hello – you never know, you might be able to hold the stall while I go for a quick ‘comfort break’!

 

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to the packing. I’ve been labelling and packing for three days now! Still hoping to make some more mens’ jumpers at the beginning of next week, then that’ll be it! Woolfest here I come 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Angela’s Jumper

I made this jumper this week. I’ve nicknamed it Angela’s Jumper, and I’ll tell you why. It started life with a thick, felted green jumper that sat on my shelves waiting for other jumpers to join it. That is how all my creations start out.  J20.3

The bodice is always the starting point, and this needs to be good and thick, preferably felted, to hold the weight of the skirt, and more so when making a sweatercoat (see below) as there can be a lot of weight in the full skirts.

IMG_0358It can take months to find enough of the right colours to make a sweatercoat or jumper and for that reason, I have lots of piles of sweaters waiting for others up in the woolly garret.

Can you imagine how long it took to save enough ivory sweaters to make this wedding coat? (By the way, if by the time you are reading this it is for sale, it is listed over on the website as Ivory Eco Wedding Coat!)

As well as needing enough of the same colour, textures and weight of knits are also important. Whilst the ivory wedding coat is make from all one colour, much of its charm when seen close up comes from the different textures and patterns used. The waistband is also an important part as it needs to cinch in the waist and therefore colour and density of the knit are very important.

J20.6

Back to the jumper in question, however. I am going to call it ‘Angela’s Jumper’. If you look at the close up here, you’ll see the waistband is made from a strip cut from a jumper with a diamond pattern. The trim on the hood is also from the same jumper. I had been saving this jumper until I had enough greens, blues and a hint of orange to go with it, and enough of it left to be used in another creation, so back on the shelf with the left over bits.

Imagine my delight when I showed a photo of it on my Facebook page, and a lady called Angela commented that she had given that very jumper to Oxfam in Hexham which is one of the places where I gather my woollies to upcycle. Talk about keeping it local!

Angela tells me she cant remember where it was bought but she says it was sometime around 1987! It has accompanied her on many hill walks in Scotland and the Lake District, predating the need for micro light fleeces and other mountain hardware, and kept her warm on a particularly cold winter trip to Denmark. She says she hopes the new owner enjoys wearing it as much as I did.

I love that this jumper has stayed in the local economy, was worn and loved by someone local, and now upcycled into a new garment to be worn and loved by someone else. This is the true nature of upcycling – turning what someone has finished with into a new product and saving waste from being thrown away.

Thank you to my lovely daughter Hannah for modelling it for me on one of her visits home from university! If you’d like to buy Angela’s jumper, or see some of the other jumpers and sweatercoats I have made, head to the Women’s Clothing section of the website shop.

J20.2

 

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Finding Jumpers to Upcycle

I often get asked, ‘Where do you get all your jumpers from?’

When I made my first pair of armwarmers (see pic) 1st-attemptI got the jumpers for them from one of the charity shops in my local town of Hexham, or maybe even a combination of them. I can’t actually remember. Today I still get a good percentage of my woollies from my local charity shops. The whole purpose of why I’m doing what I’m doing, apart of course from making a living, is to rescue waste and turn it into better things rather than going to landfill – commonly known as upcycling. I therefore ask my local charity shops to keep a special eye out for anything that would normally be going to waste and save it for me. After all, holes can be cut around, bobbles shaved off, and grubby marks washed! I also buy off the shelf and find it best to set aside a day a week to check out what’s new in my local shops

I am really lucky in Hexham to have nearly all the charity shops on board, saving me their waste woollies.

Another wonderful source of good wool jumpers is the Scout’s Jumble Sale in a nearby local village. A love a good jumble sale and remember fondly when my kids were little and jumble sales were much more frequent than they are today.

dollI’m having a wonderful time at our local Farmer’s Market in Hexham where I’ve put out a collecting bin, where local folk can recycle their old jumpers. I’m more than happy to offer a discount or give a pair of armwarmers as a reward. It’s great to keep everything in the local economy too  – you’ll find me down at Hexham Farmer’s Market on every second and fourth Saturday ( next one is 25th April) with my stall full of woolly wares

 

 

 

 

 

BL4.3 As good as the local jumble sales and charity shops are, I found I was still needing more knitwear and in particular, patterned and Fairisle designs. I had a brainwave one day and emailed a knitwear factory up in the Borders of Scotland to ask what happened if they made a mistake in the making of one of their jumpers. I am happy to say we came to an agreement whereby I buy any waste from them whether in the form of odd panels, sleeves, fronts or backs, or seconds.

I also look out for sellers of vintage and secondhand knitwear on Ebay and in the north-east, and sometines travel with my van to secondhand clothing wholesalers.

So that’s it really. It does take a while to collect enough jumpers to stock my stalls throughout the year locally and at festivals. I put a lot of time and effort into collecting the right jumpers and I’m very fussy about the quality and quantity of wool in my products.

If you’ve got any more tips for sourcing sweaters, then do let me know! I understand there are much better opportunities in The States and Australia for finding waste knitwear – do let me know of your experience.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Being Filmed for You Tube and the Telly

It’s been quite a week for filming here at Woolly HQ, what with Tyne Tees Television here talking about the economy, and Film Able here making a You Tube documentary.

studio-space Needless to say, I am one of those creative souls who lives and works in a right muddle, so before any film crews arrived, it was time to tidy up! I am very fortunate to live in a big house, with empty rooms as children are fleeing the nest. We have a third floor, and I have completely taken over this with my woolly pedlaring. I have a workshop and studio, which is great, but means even more room to make a mess in!

However, I was really pleased with the result and felt it would make a good backdrop to the films.

 

 

Helen-Ford-ITV-Mar-2015Don’t you just love the contacts that can be made through social media? I was phoned a couple of weeks ago by Helen Ford from Tyne Tees Television after I’d followed her on Twitter, to see if I’d like to take part in a feature looking at how local businesses were fairing in this present economic climate.

Helen was lovely to talk to, and did the filming herself. We chatted about the local economy and the importance of encouraging folk to buy local and buy handmade to support small businesses. I talked on camera about this, and how awesome the support from other local busineses has been. We discussed social media and how this gives a global platform to small businesses like myself.

Helen tells me she is planning for the feature to be broadcast at 6pm on Tuesday 7th April on Tyne Tees if you are able to tune in.

workshopI’ve also been busy making a You Tube video about my woolly pedlaring and have had Film Able here. Under the guidance of Vicky and Mark from Haltwhistle Film Project, Film Able are a group of filmakers who have learning difficulties, who I first came across when working at Priory School in Hexham. I’d wanted a film making obout the organic vegetable garden I’d built with my students, and Film Able had done such a super job back then, I had no hesitation in asking them to help film me at work, and out and about with my woolly wares. Cool Terry, my web designer says it would be a really good idea to put a You Tube vidoe out about what I do, and put it on the website.

 

Tess and Marilyn from Film Able had already come along to Hexham Christmas Market back in December and had filmed me at work. Coincidentally they filmed what was one of my best sales of the year! I expect I’ll be beaming when we get to see the film. They also filmed my workshop and me at work from various angles, and me talking about what I do and why I do it before we went out into the garden to film me twirling around in some of my sweatercoats. We had lots of fun and a laughs, but at the same time worked hard on the film. I am so impressed by the skills this film making group have and am really looking forward to seeing the finished film, which of course I’ll share with you here when it’s ready.

SW11.3

 

 

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There are Two ‘L’s in Woolly

Have I ever told you how the name, The Woolly Pedlar (take note of the spelling) came about? We’ve always been lovers of music festivals in this family, and when I was thinking about setting up this little business, I had the idea of powering a sewing machine at festivals by bike power. That is how the name the Woolly Pedlar was born.

IMG_2298I put the name, Woolly Pedlar into Google and found a small knitting business, The Woolly Pedler – with an ‘er’. So I looked in the Oxford Dictionnary and found that this was the American spelling, and I should use Pedlar, with an ‘ar’ being British. Unfortunately for the lady with the ‘er’ this now meant that I came before her on the Google page. I am truely sorry for this if you are that lady and are reading this.

What I was not prepared for, were the amount of folk who get the spelling completely wrong! So much so, I have bought the domain names of ‘Wooly Pedlar’ , ‘Wooly Pedler’ and other misspellings.

There are two ‘l’s in Woolly!!! I mean to say, if you write the word ‘real’ and change it to ‘really’ there are two ‘l’s. The same for usual – it becomes usually! I don’t know if it is the ex teacher in me, but I must admit to finding just a little bit annoying.

So, if you’re looking down the google tube for me, please remember, there are 2 ‘l’s on Woolly.

 

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