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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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Memory Products

In Memory of Aline – Memory Cushions for the Family.

One of the lovely things about making bespoke and one off items, is that I get to meet the customer, and often on more than one occasion. Sometimes, as in this case, with more than one member of the same family. I have had the pleasure of making items for two sisters at different times.  I’ve made a baby blanket in red, white and green, with a rugby league badge on for Fiona. I think if was the Leicester Tigers. Her sister, Mari has bought one of my ponchos and looks absolutely amazing in it, don’t you think?

upcycled patchwork poncho

Upcycled patchwork poncho made from recyced wool knitwear

Whilst trading at the Northumberland County Show I had the pleasure to meet Fiona again, this time with her dad. They told me their  mum, Aline, his wife, had recently passed away, and asked if I could make a set of seven memory cushions for the family from her jumpers.

I’ve made a few memory products before, a cashmere bedspread for a lady whose mum had the finest collection of cashmere jumpers, many from Harrods, and some going back to the 1930s, and a lap rug for a lady from Hexham, from her late husband’s jumpers. (You can read about these over on the Memory Blankets page)

It was with great pleasure that I set about making the cushions from Aline’s jumpers. Her husband wanted a pair using a particular favourite jumper of his, with a red and navy stripe. Together we grouped the other jumpers into a colourway. Soft lilacs and turquoise with pink and navy was the result, and we decided on a lilac thread with seams showing for added texture and interest.

After cutting the jumpers into squares in the garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I began one morning last week to sew them. I told the girls I was making them that day, and by beautiful coincidence was told that this was Aline’s birthday. It made the making of the cushions even more special, and I thought of Aline as I sewed.

Memory Products, cushions

Memory Cushions from a Loved One’s Recycled Jumpers

Here they are, a pair for Fiona and Mari, one for Aline’s sister, and the red and navy pair for Aline’s husband.

Memory products cushions

Memory Cushions made from a Loved One’s Recycled Jumpers

 

Rest in Peace Aline

Memory Cushions

Memory Cushions handmade from your loved one’s Jumpers

Do get in touch if this is something I can help you with.

 

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Are you on Instagram?

Continuing my four part series on using social media for a small business, this week I’m asking the question, are you on Instagram? If not, here are a few pointers for getting up and running with what is becoming one of the fastest growing social media platforms.

As I’ve said before, for this fifty something year old, using social media to promote my upcycling business has been a steep learning curve, but a most enjoyable one. Instagram has become another string to my bow, and works very differently to Facebook or Twitter.

Multi-Color_Logo_thumbnail200

Research is showing that the photo-sharing app is one of the most effective brand-building tools available today. It is not surprisingly is a popular choice for other designers and professions, and is in fact increasingly important for every kind of business.

Whilst Instagram can be viewed on a laptop or pc, it is primarily an app for the smartphone. The Instagram app can be downloaded for free from the Apple store or Google play, and is very easy to use.

Once downloaded, you will be prompted to fill out your profile. Your username should match those already in use on other social media profiles. Write a short 150 character bio and include a link to your website.

Your profile picture can be your company’s logo or a photo of you, and again, it is useful to keep this consistent over all social media so that your brand is instantly recognisable. This is a job that I need to do as my profile pics are not all the same! I often wonder of it’s better to use a photo of me, an instantly recognisable product such as my sweatercoats, or my logo? I think I’ll change them all to my logo this week, after all it’s a great design!

LOGO ON DARK
Stick to a theme. I live and work in rural Northumberland making one off handmade, upcycled products. This therefore is what I want to show folk. I do not include photos of my dinner, holiday snaps, family or other aspects of my life, but I do show photos of behind the scenes, where I live and work, what has inspired me in nature as well as photos of new products. I think it’s a good idea to develop an image of you and your brand that is not just about what you make, but rather how it is made, and the personality behind the business.

Bridge-Cottage

You then need to add a caption. This is a chance to expand on your image, and link it back to your business. Use hashtags to help followers find your posts that are relevant to the photo, but use these at the end of the caption, and not jumbled up in the text. I frequently use the following hashtags: #upcycled #ecofashion #wool #recycled. You can put a couple of hashtags in your profile too.

On Instagram, you should be maintaining a regular posting schedule, but you don’t want to bombard your followers with too many posts. I generally post something once or twice a day, usually in the morning and again in the late afternoon to catch everyone returning home from work.

Don’t forget to crosspost your Instagram posts with other social media platforms. The app allows you to post images directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr and Foursquare. However, I do find that as the different social media platforms work in very different ways, I do tend to construct posts differently depending on where they are destined for. I crosspost direct to Twitter and Tumblr from Instagram, but not to Facebook. That just a matter of preference.

I’ll leave you now with this photo of a poncho sent by a lady in Tennessee USA who followed me on Instagram, then put an order in for a bespoke rasta poncho after seeing posting of my upcycled woolly ponchos. It’s proof that using social media for business really is worth the while!

Ruana

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram I’m woollypedlar

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