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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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work experience Berlin

Getting Help from Berlin

Nele has come from Berlin to Bridge Cottage, for six week’s work experience. She is studying Fashion Design at Berlin University and I’m delighted she has come to Bridge Cottage to learn about upcycling woollies, and to give me a hand. In case you’re wondering, Nele is pronunced N-ee-le, with the final ‘e’as in ‘the’, not Nelly as I first thought. Apologies for that, Nele!

work experience Berlin

Nele is on work experience from Berlin

It wasn’t long before Nele got stuck in. If you’re a fellow creative type you might understand the muddle that can ensue once the creative juices get flowing! Nele’s first job was to bring some sense of order to the woolly garret. I had stock all over the place which needed sorted into website stock, and stock for local stockists and shows.

 

Sorting out the muddle in the woolly workshop

Sorting out the muddle in the woolly workshop

Needless to say Nele has done a fantastic job, and not only can I now see the carpet, but all the stock is in the right place, neatly folded in labelled boxes, or hung on rails so I can now see what I’ve got in stock. As one of my Facebook followers said, ‘every crafter needs a Nele’

A tidy workshop thanks to Nele

A tidy workshop thanks to Nele

 

Nele’s next task was to make sure that everything listed on the website was actually in stock. When you make one off items, everything has to be listed separately, and it is all too easy to get in a muddle when doing shows, or taking stock to local stockists, if website stock taken to them. I hate having to apologise to customers online when I find I’ve sold an item they have ordered. My website stock is now in labelled boxes, all double checked, and I MUST NOT TAKE IT AWAY!!!

Nele checks stock against the website

Nele checks stock against the website

Today we have Sarah Loveland Photography here, who will be giving Nele and I lessons in taking indoor product shots. I have lots of new stock waiting to go on the website, and some of the photos on the website are far from adequate. There is also a bunch of shots where I have the most dodgy hair do ever! Nice poncho, shame about the hair do!

Nice poncho, shame about the hair do

Nice poncho, shame about the hair do

I’m enjoying having Nele here for reasons other than her enormous help. I studied German at school to A level, and to this day, I love speaking German! She is helping me to brush up on my vocabulary, and as we sit over lunch, we learn new words for the food we are eating in each other’s languages.

Nele is also young, so is a whizz with Instagram, and all the other tecchie things that this old luddite is having to learn. She is bright and young, and a breath of fresh air up in woolly garret.

I love Berlin too – a great city, which we visited four years ago. Here am I peddling along the East Side Gallery on the Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin.  (that isn’t a typo – that is how the company spells tyre!)

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin

Fat Tire Bike Tour of Berlin

Nele tells me she is very interested in learning about upcycling, and slow fashion, and I’m looking forward to another five weeks of having her here with me in the woolly garret.

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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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Vibernum at Bridge Cottage

Tales From The Woolly Garret: The January Blues

So, the tree’s down and the kids have left to go back to their respective homes. The house is quiet and cold. The van is still full of stock from Christmas shows, and the workshop is in a right old state. There is Christmas cake and chocolate to finish, even though the scales have reached a new high. The post Christmas lurgy has also struck and Lemsip has replaced gin as my drink of choice.

This time of year that can be tough for some. Just yesterday over on Twitter, someone I follow was asking if it was ok to say that she was ‘down’. Yes it is, it’s January, it’s cold and dark, and some of us are worn out from the run up to Christmas and the frenzy of Christmas markets. The January Blues can bite hard.

I must admit to feeling briefly low. I get so used to having the two elder ‘kids’ around, and it feels like a part of me is missing when they go. Go they must, however, as they have exiting your lives to lead, and we’d annoy the pants of each other if they stayed around for too long.

I also made the mistake of stepping on the scales – bad move! That should wait until at least two weeks after Christmas, if at all. To combat all the cheese we had a lovely run out to Caldbeck where we visited The Wool Clip and went for a long walk. For those who aren’t familiar with The Wool Clip, it’s a beaut of a shop full of all things woolly and run by the same co-operative who organise and run Woolfest. The countryside and villages around Caldbeck, which is on the north eastern edge of the Lake District, are stunning. It’s amazing how a good walk, a bit of woolly retail therapy and looking at horizons lifts the January Blues. I resisted cake at the cafe too and went for the carrot and parsnip soup.

I loved visiting The Wool Clip and met Emma from Hole House Bags who was running the shop that day. The blues were starting to lift!

I also got quickly back up in the woolly garret and began sorting my jumpers into piles. This is always exciting, as new possibilities of colourways and potential projects get planned. I can’t wait to get sewing again! I have an exciting new collection panned based on a photo I took whilst Cycling Around Orkney. I’ll keep that under wraps though, until I’m ready to unveil the collection. Needless to say, I have an awesome pile of jumpers, with colours to beat any blues into submission.

 

Today I got out in the garden, and used the trug my husband bought me for Christmas. My one New Year’s Resolution is to get out in the garden more and to grow more veggies this year. Those of you who used to follow my blog The Bridge Cottage Way will know how important this is to me, but woolly pedlaring took over last year, and the garden was sadly neglected. I find getting outdoors to be one of the best ways of beating the blues, January or not! I got into the greenhouse and weeded in between the winter veg. It was great to be back connecting with the soil.

We have a rather unruly Vibernum near the greenhouse which has burst into flower. It is a wonderful sight, with a heady scent. The perfect antidote to the January Blues.

 If you’re feeling blue, I hope it doesn’t last, the days are getting lighter, and Spring is on its way!

 

 

 

 

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Phew! I’ve Found My Mojo Again

You’d have thought that coming back from my favourite festival, The Green Gathering, with the Silver Ethical Trader Award, would have me leaping up to the woolly garret, all fired up to make more coats and jumpers, scarves & armwarmers, but no, I temporarily lost my mojo.

A nasty troll incident on Facebook, and sales being down on last year, plus the exhaustion that goes with doing a big event, left me feeling rather flat, lacking in confidence and unsure of things. I couldn’t face sewing jumpers!

GG1

The Green Gathering was wonderful. Beautifully chilled, in glorious surroundings, with southern sunshine.  It was great to see so many friendly faces again, some of whom have become good friends, like Kym here and Gretel in her lovely moss green coat, and sales on the Thursday and Friday to old and new customers were fantastic.

GG4

GG5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GG3

Sales dipped and almost stopped as temperatures soared over the last couple of days of the Green Gathering, as woolly jumpers were the last things on peoples’ minds. I took advantage of this, and sat with feet up outside my stall lapping up the warm southern sun.

I do think I’ve worked extremely hard at my little business for the last four and half years, and sometimes I need to learn to take a break and do other things. So, with my daughter’s 23rd birthday coming up I decided to decorate her bedroom instead of going back to work. I know I can hear you saying, ‘that’s not a break’! I’m rubbish at doing nothing, and decorating her room was really satisfying.

I also took a couple of long afternoon breaks in the sunshine that appeared briefly last week, and Tim and I took time out yesterday for a walk along the beach at Embleton – one of my favourite places.

GG6

 

Result! My mojo has returned!

I’m back to the blog, and have stocked a new shop up in Belford. I’ve arranged a Pop Up Shop in Morpeth, at Treacle Wool Shop, and the machine is once again humming away with new creations. Phew! I was worried there for a minute, but it would seem my mojo has returned, and talking to other fellow artisans it would seem that I  have not been alone in these feelings. Others too have reported feeling blue and generally lacking in va va voom lately. Maybe it has all been something out of our control, but I’m jolly glad it has passed!

Time to get going and get my Christmas stock made!

I’m just about to write my latest newsletter, so if you’d like to hear about my latest local stockists, or get the dates for your diary of Autumn and Christmas Markets, then look out for the newsletter in your inbox, or sign up to it here:

Newsletter Sign Up

 

 

 

 

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Take an Old Stripy Scarf…Upcycling Knitwear

Every week I visit four charity shops in my home town of Hexham, and go behind the scenes to my bins where waste knitwear is collected. I sort through the woollies, and take what I can use in my upcycling. I’m very particular, and only a certain gauge of knitwear will do, and only the best quality and colours make it into my basket.

Every now and then I get real gems, like the week I got several Fairisle jumpers and made this coat, resplendent in patterning: (incidentally, this coat now resides in America )

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The other week I pulled a stripy scarf out of my bin at Tynedale Hospice – I love getting stripes, and a scarf is so useful! But oh my goodness! The colours in this one were absolutely fabulous! Here it is in close up:

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I soon set about making piles of jumpers and seeing what I had in these colours on the shelves. I had a couple of felted jumpers for bodices – one purple, the other a deliciously soft green cashmere.

The scarf I decided would make excellent hood trims, and indeed it did! Two of them, with spare left over for pockets.  I took this photo one evening, and just love it!

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I sometimes make coats without hoods – I often say there’re like Marmite, you either love ’em or hate ’em! This stripy scarf and the possibility of using all those colours in a hood was just too good to pass on.

These coats deserved hoods, and hoods they got!

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I’ve got the Green Gathering coming up as my next event, and I’m taking these beauties with me if they don’t sell first – in fact, I’m going to keep this short and sweet again this week as I need to hot foot it up to the woolly garret where another coat is in the making.

I’ve love and leave you with some more photos of the two coats that came about as a result of a stripy scarf in the rag bin, and also give you the link to the sweatercoat section of the shop so you can find out more about them and do some window shopping. – Actual shopping is of course very welcome too!!

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How the Woolly Pedlar got her Name

Back in 2011, my little upcycling business, The Woolly Pedlar was born, and I’d like to tell you how this came about and how I stumbled across the name.
I had left teaching and was looking to start a new venture. I was considering all aspects of my life, my interests and skills and thinking of how these could be married in business. At that time I was blogging about living sustainably and writing The Bridge Cottage Way. Through this, I had set up a knitting group. A friend said she didn’t want to learn to knit but had seen these recycled wool armarmers by Katwise on the internet and wondered if I could make her a pair. It was from this first pair of armwarmers that my idea to set up a business upcycling wool knitwear came about. Needless to say, my armwarmers have improved somewhat since the first pair.

AW80

So that’s the ‘Woolly’ part of the name explained, now to explain the ‘Pedlar’ bit. As a family we have always gone to music festivals. This first started with me back in 1984 when I went to Stonehenge Free Festival, and then my first (and last) Glastonbury in 1985. My kids have all grown up loving festivals, and two of them have performed in festival bands over several years. I have had many a happy hour dancing to bands at stages powered alternative energy, be it wind, sun or pedal power. Indeed, at Eden Festival which we love, there is a venue with a row of bikes which powers the Board Walk Stage. There’s nothing finer that being on a bike providing the power for the mighty Mungo’s HiFi Sound System. 

Mty stall at the Green Gathering Festival

My stall at the Green Gathering Festival

I had the idea to get a bike linked to my sewing machine so I could sit at my tent, making armwarmers, while happy punters pedalled away providing the power. This was how the ‘Pedlar’ part of my name came about. With a bit of re-jigging of the spelling, and linking it to the selling of one’s wares as a pedlar. The name, ‘Woolly Pedlar’ seemed a good’un. I love my business name, and often get comments from customers that they do too. The Woolly Pedlar is about so much more than just jumpers. The Woolly Pedlar is me, with all that entails!

Unfortunately I have never got around to make that bike powered sewing machine, but I do get on my bike to deliver my woolly wares to my local village shop at Bardon Mill. So I guess I really the woolly pedaler!

 

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Featured image of sheep on a bike was painted by Lisa Edoff

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Satisfied Customers

Over on my Facebook page, I’ve been creating an album for the past four years called ‘Satisfied Customers’ which is a selection of photos sent to me by folk happy with their Woolly Pedlar purchases. I love looking back through it, as it’s not only a potted history of how my woolly creations have developed over the past four years, but is stuffed full of happy, smiling punters, delighted with what I have made. That has to be good for the soul, and is confirmation that I must be getting something right!

Jane

Having just done another successful day at Hexham Farmer’s Market as part of Hexham’s Spring Fair, I was inspired to dedicate this week’s blog to all my loyal customers, and Jane seen above in her new sweatercoat, bought yesterday is no exception. Jane first bought a jumper from me one very wet market day when I was selling my woolly wares at an event celebrating Hexham’s twinning with the town of Noyon in France. It was raining so heavily the event had to be moved inside the Abbey for fear of being washed away outside. Jane bought a jumper dress, and then the next year, a jacket from me when I opened up my home for the Art Tour. I know Jane follows my newsletter and blog, and I was delighted when she came to find me at a recent Vintage Fair. She has had her eye on this sweatercoat for a while now, and tried it on yesterday. It was a perfect fit, and I think she looks absolutely fabulous in it – a perfect match for those fabulous Docs she is wearing.

Bridget

Like Jane, Bridget has also been buying Woolly Pedlar creations for several years now. I remember when she first came across my stall and remarked how thrilled she was to find alternative clothing here in the north east. Bridget has also visited me at home on a couple of occasions, bringing friends along to see my work. I overheard her telling another customer how she rarely bought anything else these days other than Woolly Pedlar. Thanks Bridget, you’re a star! This blue British wool dress brought out the blue in Bridget’s eyes beautifully, and it was lovely to see her again.

London,-Caroline-&-Elvis

I’m delighted to say that my ‘satisfied customers’ are not confined to the north-east of England. I have a growing global following, and this lovely family is no exception. Here we have, from left to right, little London, Caroline and Elvis from California. London got her poncho whilst visiting friends in Hexham, and then mum and dad, Caroline and Elvis ordered adult ponchos for themselves, which I shipped over to the States. Elvis also has a hooded jumper. As each item I make is unique, it becomes a personal experience and I love to see who is wearing them. Caroline has sent me some super photos over the past couple of years, and I’d love to show them all, but here is just one, little London at a baseball game, looking so cute in her tutti fruitti poncho. If you’d like a poncho , then you’ll find plenty to choose from online, or at any of the events I’m at (details of these can be found by clicking the Events tab on the website)

London

I try to get out and about around the country a bit over the year, and this summer, I’ll be heading off again in August to one of my favourite festivals, The Green Gathering. Last year’s Green Gathering was so much fun, and I must show you this fabulous photo of three very happy customers – all of whom have kept in touch via Facebook and some of whom have also bought more pieces from me. The lady in the super cherry red poncho writes her own blog as Compostwoman in The Compost Bin.

GG14

Whilst women make up the bulk of my customers, let’s not leave out the men, and I’ll finish with this photo of a very happy postie, who’s wife bought him a pair of armwarmers and left a message saying how delighted he was as he could now sort through the letters without getting cold hands!
Postie

It was a hard task, choosing photos for this blog, as you’ve been great at sending me photos, and there are dozens more I could have chosen. If you’d like to see more, hop over to Facebook, and have a look through my ‘Satisfied Customers’ album. If you are a happy customer, and have a Woolly Pedlar creation, do send me a photo, either through social media or by emailing me – sue@woollypedlar.co.uk   I love to see your happy, smiley faces wearing my work. If you’d like to browse my current collection, then head over to the website shop here on this website.
Thanks for reading!

 

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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:

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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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Working with Recycled Wool – A Few Questions Answered

Morning! It’s a bit of a damp squib out there, and all intentions of getting out on my bike have gone out the window, so I thought I’d stay in the warmth of my bed, laptop on knee, and write this week’s blog. I get asked lots of questions about working with wool, so I thought I’d try and answer some of them here by going through the processes involved in making clothes, soft furnishings and accessories from recycled wool knitwear.

squares

I posted this photo on my Facebook page this week of wool squares all ready cut out and waiting to be made into a bedspread, and a few questions arose from this which have prompted this week’s blog. They are also a scrummy colour, so hopefully this week’s blog will look pretty as well as be informative!

I’ve already written about how wool jumpers can be sourced in a previous blogpost, ‘Finding Jumpers to Upcycle’. So I’ll start with the process from when I bring the jumpers home.

washing-jumpers

First of all everything is washed. I sort into vague colour piles washing all light jumpers together. It’s not that I’ve ever had a problem with colours running, but you can get wool fibres from one jumper sticking to another. I’ve learnt this the hard way when washing beautiful cream jumpers only to find them covered in black fluff. I wash everything on a 40 degree mixed load with a 1200 spin. Much of today’s woollen knitwear is machine washable and will come out pretty much as it went it, but without the ‘eau de old lady’ pong that can come from charity shops. Other woollies, will felt and shrink and these are just perfect for making bodices for jackets and sweatercoats. As I’ve said before, the bodice needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of the rest of the garment. This is also the main reason why I don’t make clothes to order, as what size bodices I get to work with very much depend on what I find and how it comes out of the wash. I don’t own a tumble drier, never have done – an unneccessary drain on the planet’s energy resources if you ask me! I either hang up the jumpers outside or dry on racks indoors. Although at times my house ends up looking like Widow Twanky’s laundry!

cutting-wheel-and-mat

When I first starting making things from cut out squares I painstakingly cut all the squares with a pair of scissors using a cardboard square as a template. I hadn’t heard of a cutting wheel, and spent hours and hours cutting each square with my scissors. I even employed the kids and friends of the kids’ to cut out squares for me as it was just taking me too darn long.

Then I discovered a cutting wheel – brilliant! Along with a cutting mat and large ruler with grids marked out cutting became so much easier. Think pizza slicer but for fabric. A word of warning however, these are ridicuously sharp and cutting should always be done away from fingers.

The first task when cutting jumpers is to disect the jumper, cutting away the seams. The beauty of these cutting wheels is that more than one layer of jumper can be cut through at a time, saving precious time. I save the bottom rib bands for making the tops of armwarmers and baby legwarmers.

This brings me nicely back to my cut out squares, and the commonest question I get asked when speaking at meetings.

‘Don’t the squares fray when you’ve cut them out?’

No they don’t is the quick answer. I only use manufactured wool knitwear of medium weight. I don’t use handknits and I don’t use chunky knits. This is mainly because they just don’t work with an overlocker (or serger for those of you across the pond). The cut out pieces just sit there, good as gold, waiting for their turn to be stitched.

workshop-1

When I first started woolly pedlaring, four years ago, I started with a domestic overlocker. You do need an overlocker if you are to sucessfully join knitwear together. A domestic overlocker is a great place to start, but will only cope with fairly lightweight materials. I started by making arwarmers, and soon got the upcycling bug and moved on to making coats and jumpers. It was pretty evident fairly early on that my domestic overlocker was just not up to the job. The smoke coming out of the back after eight hours use a day, and the bunched up stitches where I’d been trying to sew three thicknesses of jumper were a clear indication.

My this point I’d left my teaching job and was seriously considering going self employed. I used my final payment from teaching to set myself up with an industrial overlocker. This is a marvellous piece of kit, and is still going strong. It copes admirably with hours and hours of sewing at a time, and sews through jumpers like soft butter.

Getting the hand of threading can be a right pain, but You Tube has some great tutorials. One top tip I will give you, is to put a different colour thread on each of the four bobbins while you are learning how to thread it. That way you will soon understand what each thread’s job is.

So, now let’s get on with some sewing!

 

Your next decision will be whether to have the seams on the front or on the back. It’s amazing how many men cannot handle the seams on the outside! It’s not exclusively men, but when I sell at fairs, it’s so often the men that comment on my work being ‘the wrong way round’. I do sew with seams on the inside sometimes, but I love the wiggle and added texture that comes from putting seams on the outside.

sewing-squares

This woo bedspread which I’ve just finished for a customer has seams on the back. She wanted a smooth finish. The squares have all been been cut into six inch squares and to make a large double bedspread you will need 360 squares.

I then sew the squares into strips. Each strip has 18 squares, and I made 20 strips.

I then sew up all the strips, and then sew all the way around the perimter of the bedspread. The overlocker will not finish off the end, and you will be left with a ‘chain’ of stitches. Just get a needle and thread and sew this in by hand. The beauty of making a bedspread in this way is that all ends will be stitching in apart from just one at the end, making the hand sewing minimal. As you can imagine, this is a very different matter with something like a handkerchief hem which has dozens of points.

So here we are, one double bedspread. I shall be delivering this to Matilda next week. Let’s hope she likes it!

Untitled-1

 

Of course I make all sorts of other products from recycled wool and not just using squares. I’ll leave you to browse the shop to see what else can be made.

Thanks for reading this week’s blog! I’m sure you have many other questions – ask away! I’m more than happy to help. 🙂

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