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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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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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Woolfest 2016

It’s a bit like Christmas. There’s masses of work before hand, it goes like a flash and then leaves you feeling worn out, wanting more and beginning to plan to the next one! I rate Woolfest high up, if not top of my list of favourite events to sell my woolly wares at. It is the UK’s premier wool festival, celebrating everything woolly from sheep to finished product. It is run superbly by the team from The Wool Clip, and is housed in Mitchell’s Auction Mart at Cockermouth in Cumbria.

jumpers For weeks beforehand my family had to fend for themselves while I beavered away up on the third floor of our house in my woolly garret, making sure I had enough jumpers, jackets and sweatercoats to do the show justice. I’d found a factory making hand loomed Scottish knitwear and managed to bag two boxes of these beauties which made for some awesome creations. Incidentally, all three of the above sold quick as a flash. Two didn’t even make it as far as Woolfest, and the one in the middle is winging its way to Vermont in the USA as I write. I get so stressed about not having enough stock, and from what I hear from other stallholders, this is a common worry.

packed

Then there’s the packing. Boy does this take a while! Everything has to be labelled priced, bagged and carried down from the top floor. Then there’s the stall fittings to fetch from the garage – grid walls, feet, rails, stands, mannequins, table, chest of drawers, signs etc. Thank goodness for my lovely husband who, working from home as an accountant, stopped work to give me a hand. In fact not only did he help me pack and unpack the van, but he came over with me to help with the set up and take down at Woolfest. Thank you Tim. I really appreciate you! The selling bit in the middle isn’t really his thing so he took himself off with his bike and a tent and explore the coast of Cumbria for two days.

 

view

The drive over to Cockermouth along the A66 past Keswick never fails to take my breath away. It is absolutely stunning! The mountains rise majestically in the North Lakes and I feel so privileged to have this as my commute to work. This is Blencathra, or Saddleback. I do wonder if my mountain climbing days are over? I’ve climbed a fair few in my life, with my highest being Mount Toubkal in Morocco, but these days I’m not as fit as I was, and I fear the coming down would be just as painful as the going up. Maybe I need to set myself the challenge of getting fit enough to climb mountains again?
julie

Another thank you needs to go to Julie from One Off Projects in Carlisle, who helps me sew. Julie also kindly gave up her time in between sewing bridesmaids dresses to come and help me set up and take down the stall. Julie found me a couple of years ago at Brocksbushes Christmas Fair, and has been helping to make ponchos, baby blankets and bedspreads ever since. Without Julie’s help there is no way I’d have been able to get where I am today with the business. Julie, you’re a star! She also arrived at Woolfest with a yarnbombed bike which took pride of place above the stall.

bike

When you arrive at Woolfest, you get given an empty, hosed down cattle or sheep pen, depending on which room you’re in. I was in the cattle shed, in row K, a great place to be in. There’s loads of space, natural light, and large size pens, not to mention music throughout the day. The only downside are the pigeons that sit high up on the beams and drop surprises on your stock and customers from a height! I had to put an umbrella up over my sweatercoats, and at night everything needs to be covered with dust sheets.
Last year, I’d built my stall rather high, and then realised that I’d totally obliterated the view of the poor guy selling drop spindles next to me. I felt so guilty that I asked to be put in the corner if I got accepted for a place the next year. As I prepared for Woolfest, I wondered if I’d shot myself in the foot and would be hidden away, especially if whoever was in the stall next to me had also built high.

stall

I needn’t have worried. I had a terrific pitch! It was huge. Almost three spaces for the price of two, and there was a wide aisle space I could use, as seen in the photo above which only shows a third of my space! I put my sweatercoats and jackets right at the front as folk walked in. These were my best sellers last year, and I wanted them to have pride of place.

ponchos

blankets-&-bedspreads

The other two thirds of the stall were filled with ponchos, baby blankets, kiddies’ ponchos, cushions and bedspreads.

It look six hours to set up the stall!

car-park-camping

Exhuasted, Tim and I retired to our van in the car park which was to be my home from home for the next two days. It’s great that there is a place to park up with portaloos provided – it helps to keep costs down, and there’s a great atmosphere amongst fellow traders as we talk over the day with a glass of wine.  I’m pretty self sufficient in the van, with a comfy bed, sink and cooker. It’s not a posh camper van, but a converted builder’s van, and does us just fine! The view over to the mountains from Woolfest is magical, and I love to have a little wander before bed to take in the scenery with my camera. I didn’t sleep that well – a mixture of excitement, anxiety and generally over thinking things, which is pretty normal for me before any big event. I also had a terrible sore throat, and chest infection so wasn’t feeling at my best at all when I gave up on sleep at 5.30 and got up to face the day.

Debra

Debra who some of you may know as the ex owner of The Bee in the Butterfly in Hexham, drove over to be my sales assistant for the two days. She soon became chief swisher too as she swished and swirled around the arena wearing my sweatercoats! This colour combination definitely suited her, though the sweatercoat in question didn’t hang around for long! Thanks Deb for your help. Sorry if this is sounding a bit like the Oscar’s!

coats

In fact most of my sweatercoats ans jackets sold, and I’ve now got a full order book, and have my work cut out to get more made for The Green Gathering, which is my next big event. I do have a few left, so if you’re after one, or anything else for that matter, head over to the website store to see what’s in stock, or get in touch via the contact form on the website if you’d like me to make you something special.
happy

 

police

I love seeing photos of happy customers, but I must have had the setting on my camera wrong, or my lens cap on, as I only have a few piccies. If you bought something from me at Woolfest, I’d love to see a photo of you wearing it. You can send me one via email or post it to my Facebook page.

We even managed to get this police officer in one of my black sweatercoats. I think we could be starting something here. Maybe the police force would like to funk up their uniforms a bit with a Woolly Pedlar coat?

It was all such fun! Debra remarked that she had face ache from smiling so much.

The atmosphere at Woolfest is nothing short of sensational. It is rammed to the rafters with folk who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making handmade items, and who love wool and colour.

It leaves you with a warm glow inside, and the happy knowledge that your work is appreciated.

As if this all positivity wasn’t enough, as the event was drawing to a close, a posse of Wool Clip ladies approached and presented me with the ‘Stallholder of the Year’ award.

Oh boy! My eyes welled up and exhaustion and emotion got the better of me for a moment.

As some of you may already know, five years ago my teaching career ground to a halt for one reason or another, and I was left jobless, and without any idea where to go next.

This award meant so much to me. I’m back on track!

Thank you so much Woolfest, to the team from the Wool Clip, my fellow traders who are all simply lovely, and to the catering team at Mitchells who even rustled up some cake and custard for me to keep my energy levels up.

One of the perks of the Stallholder of the Year Award is that I have a guaranteed place at next year’s Woolfest. It will be hard to top this year’s, and I’m already really looking forward to it. It’s a bit like Christmas!

prize

 

 

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It’s a Tough Life!

Four years ago last week I would have been looking forward to school breaking up, exhausted, stressed and in desperate need of a holiday. How different life is today. Instead of being a teacher, bogged down with end of year reports, evaluations, school assemblies and no end of stess, I packed the silver van again as The Woolly Pedlar, and headed off to another festival to sell my upcycled woolly wares. This time it was Audio Soup festival which is a couple of hours up the A1 for me, just south of Edinburgh.

Audio-Soup-1Audio Soup may be small, but it is full off all the right ingredients that go together to make a beautiful festival. First and foremost are the people – what a lovely bunch!

Geoff, who runs Mutley’s Crepes is in charge of the traders and can be seen striding around the site in his woolly hat and kilt. He let me pitch up next to my dear friend, Lorraine. What a beautiful lady, and a very dear friend.

 

 

Audio-Soup-4  Here she is, looking for birds on Lewis’ dress. We spent much of the festival sitting in the sun in front of the stalls, drinking tea and talking. Audio Soup is not the kind of festival where, as a trader, you are rushed off your feet!

There is plenty of time to chat and get to know everyone at this very friendly affair.

 

 

 

Audio-Soup-2Following a very busy Woolfest, I was glad to still have enough stock left for the summer’s festivals.

The stall looked bright and colourful, with a full rail of children’s ponchos at the front. It was a bit like the Hokey Cokey mind you, taking the rail in and out, as showers came and went.

 

Audio-Aoup-5 I had some really good sales – this lady was treated to this jumper by her father-in-law, a fellow stall holder and seller of crystals.

Her little girl got a patchwork poncho, and it was lovely seeing her running around the festival in it. In fact, I spotted a few Woolly Pedlar creations in the crowd as I danced to bands later at night, which was a proud feeling.

Audio-Soup-5Ponchos are still very much the best seller of the year, and this lady was very pleased with hers. She comes from Manchester, and tells me she is off home to spread the word about my little woolly upcycling business.

 

 

My son and daugher came to help over the weekend, and it was great to have their company.

John, my son, got himself a tribal haircut from Billie the Barber, and spent the weekend practising his knife juggling.

 

Audio-Soup-6 Audio-Soup-8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had an absolute blast at Audio Soup, and danced the night away on all three nights. I really love my festival friends, and Audio Soup is up there as one of the best this year

Next up for me is the Green Gathering, held in beautiful Piercefield Park near Chesptow, 13-16 August where I’ll be joining hundreds of others in what must be the greenest, most eco friendly festival around.

GG1

It’s a tough life!

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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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To Etsy, or not to Etsy, that is the question…

Talk about having all your eggs in one basket! Don’t get me wrong, I love my new website, but internet sales have fallen in number since I moved all my internet shop over here.

SW17.1I don’t think it’s because folk don’t like my work anymore, or that it’s too expensive, I just think that I am competing with the big boys such as Etsy and Ebay in the search listings.

I’ll say it again, I love my new website – I love its design (thank you Cool Terry from TWDA and Gemma from Yellow Cherry Design), I love having my blog on the same site rather than blogspot. I love having the shop there, but I can see from the list of key words used to find the website that it is my brand that is bringing folk here. In other words, they are searching specifically for me, The Woolly Pedlar, however they are spelling it! (That’s another issue and one I wrote about in a previous blog: ‘There are 2 l’s in Woolly!)

AW27 I closed my Etsy shop originally when this website was created for many reasons, most of all being that I didn’t want to spread my stock too thinly or get in a muddle. With making one off items, it’s hard enough keeping track of what sells at Farmer’s Markets and events, and what sells online. I have on more than one occasion had to apologise when I’ve sold a pair of armwarmers at a market then had a customer order the same pair online. This means it is vital to keep online stock seperate from that which is destined for the stall.

 

IMG_4195This of course means I need a big stock and this was always a problem in the past, as I was in the fortunate position of selling my woolly creations as fast as I could make them. Not so any more! I have a fairy godmother in the form of Julie who I introduced to you in the blog ‘Getting Some Help‘. Julie leaves all the designing of coats and jumpers, and the making of scarves and armwarmers to me, but she is a whizz at making my patchwork ponchos and bedspreads. This has meant that I now have plenty of stock not only for Woolfest, which is my next big event (more on that later), but I now have enough to keep a good selection on the shop and to reopen my Etsy shop which I’ll do after Woolfest. Hopefully then I’ll catch those who are searching on Etsy or looking down the Google tube for something specifically handmade and upcycled.
I’ll let you all know when that happens, and who knows, I may even open a Folksy shop while I’m at it!

Back to Woolfest! Are you coming? This is my favourite event of the year, and takes place in the Farmer’s Mart at Cockermouth on the western edge of the Lake District. It is two days of everything woolly, a celebration of sheep and their wonderful wool, and I for one can’t wait! It is on 26th and 27th June this year. If you are coming, you’ll find me in row K and I look forward very much to seeing you there!

Woolfest-2015In the meantime, you can catch up with all my woolly goings on over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – just search for The Woolly Pedlar, but remember, there are 2 l’s on Woolly!

 

 

 

 

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The Katwise Sweatercoat

I first began making the Katwise sweatercoat four years ago. It was more to give me something to do whilst I was off on long term sick from my teaching job. I had already downloaded the tutorial for making the Katwise armwarmers and had made a few pairs for friends and family, and I felt like I was ready to tackle a bigger project. I had caught the bug! Trawling my local charity shops, I hunted for woollen jumpers until I had enough to tackle my very first sweatercoat. Here is one of the early ones. Little was I to know back then, that my adventures with sweatercoats would become my new business as ill health would force me permanently out of teaching.

IMG_0717 compIf you haven’t already come across Katwise, or Kat O’Sullivan, then do check out her website. She has an almost cult following over in the States, and her jumpers and sweatercoats sell out as fast as Glastonbury tickets. She sells the tutorials for making them as downloadable PDF files, and says to folk that it’s fine to make and sell them, just a long as they mention her name and charge a reasonal price so as no to undervalue hers or others’ work.

I used to be a bit embarrassed about owning up to the fact that my sweatercoats were not my original design, but were a Katwise copy, but I soon got over that! Whilst the design of the sweatercoat may not be my own, there is still a lot of skill involved in selecting the right combination of colours, textures and weight of recycled knitwear to use, not to mention the skill of putting them together with an industrial overlocker.

IMG_0358  I have made sweatercoats now for four years as The Woolly Pedlar in many combinations of colours. Here is the Eco Wedding Sweatercoat that is made soley from ivory wool sweaters. I have added a maribou feather trim and it has some sweet embroidery on the cuffs. It took months to collect enough ivory sweaters, and white certainly didn’t look right at all!

As I write this, the eco wedding coat is still for sale, but head over to the Sweatercoat section of the shop to check out this and all the other sweatercoats that are still for sale.

 

 

Christmas-2014

The starting point for making a sweatercoat for me, is always the bodice. This needs to be thick enough to take the weight of the full skirt, and so preferably made from a felted wool jumper or cardi. If is is too lightweight, then it will not hold its shape. I use a mannequin and place the bodice on it, finding the natural waistline and cut it off there. The waistband then needs to good and thick to really keep the shape of the coat. To give an even more cinched in wasit feel, then add a tie belt. This is all explained in more detail in Katwise’s tutorial.

IMG_0260 comp After the waistband is on, I add the full skirt, made up of panels which I often cut from the sleeves of jumpers,  and then the hem lines – the more of these you add, the fuller and longer the skirt.

I then make the hood. Now, I find that hood are a bit like Marmite. You either love them or you hate them!

 

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I have made my fair share of wacky, pointy hoods, but I do get asked to make sweatercoats without hoods. For some, the coat is wacky enough, but the hood is just one stage too far! For others, the longer the hood, the better. Though I do warn folk when going to the loo to lift the hood over their shoulders! Sorry to be gross!

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I do, therefore make sweatercoats with collars like this, but as with all my creations, what I make very much depends on what I can find, old jumper wise. For that reason it is all very serendipitous, but it keeps it exciting!

After the hood is made, add a button band, sleeves and pockets, and after all the ends have been sewn in by hand, you have your sweatercoat!

I’m heading off to Woolfest soon, and am hard at work making lots of new sweatercoats for this year. Woolfest is held in June, the 26th – 27th to be precise. It is set in stunning scenery on the edge of the Lake District at Cockermouth and is held in the Farmer’s Mart.  When I get there, I will be given an empty cattle pen that has been hosed down, and then have the afternoon to transform this into my stall. This is last year’s stall, though I’m pleased to say I will have double the space this year.

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I love Woolfest! It is a gathering where wool is celebrated in its every form, and has a very high class of exhibitor. If you are coming to Woolfest, do come and say hello. You’ll find me in row K at the far side of the Mart.

 

IMG_0850 comp This was the sweatercoat that caused the biggest stir last year. I’d posted a pic on the Woolfest Facebook page of this sweatercoat and there was something of a rush when the doors opened on the Friday morning! I made a mental note to self – #makemorenextyear!

So, with this in mind, I’ve been busy collecting piles of jumpers in lovely, bright colourways, as well as monochrome, in blacks and greys. My only problem is there are not enough hours in the day, or days in the week!

 

Whenever I make a new sweatercoat, I generaly list it for sale online, on this website in the Women’s Clothing/Sweatercoats section of the shop.  I also show it on all the other social media, You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram – just search for The Woolly Pedlar, but make sure you spell it right! There are 2 l’s in Woolly!
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I don’t generally take orders for sweatercoats, as it is so hard to predict what jumpers I can find, but if you do have a special request, then get in touch, and I’ll see what I can do.

Thanks for reading, and if you fancy making yourself a Katwise sweatercoat, then go for it! Let me know how you get on, and I’d love to see a photo of what you make, and as Katwise says, if you do end up selling them, then best of luck –  just give me a mention from time to time 🙂

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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.

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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.

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Looking Back on 2014

This has been the third year since giving up my teaching career for self employment to become an upcycler of knitwear, and I’ve had the most wonderful year. I’ve been off round the country in my van to some great festivals and events, met some inspirational people, developed new designs, and have begun to stock some local shops with my woolly wares. I’ve also launched this new website, which, in a few days will see my the addition of the online shop.

IMG_2298As I’m writing this, it’s -4 outside and very cold and frosty, but I’m casting my mind back to the summer. We had a gloriously hot and sunny summer, and I had a superb time travelling up and down the country with my van and stall. One of the highlights was the Green Gathering. The Green Gathering is held in the grounds of Piercefield Park near Chepstow and is a festival, where hedonism takes a back seat and like minded folk gather to celebrate, live and learn about eco issues. My upcycled creations went down a storm and despite the hot weather, I sold many a sweatercoat and jumper. I’ve sent off my application for the Green Gathering 2015 and hope very much to be there again.

 

IMG_2115Another prestigeous event in the woolly world is Woolfest, over in the Lake District, and I was delighted to have my application accepted for this. Held in the sheep and cattle Auction Mart in Cockermouth, this is a gathering of folk who are into wool in all its various forms, from sheep and alpacas, fleeces through to spinners, weavers, dyers and crafters of wool. It was the ideal venue for The Woolly Pedlar. It was quite a challenge to turn an empty cattle pen into a good display space, but with the help of my husband, some roofing latts and dust sheets, we built this stand, which I was really pleased with. I’ve applied to Woolfest again, so fingers crossed that I’ll be there again next year!

 

 

 

10846009_701481213253981_7689212052773473609_nThere has been quite a debate this year amongst my customers over the necklines on my jumpers. Some love the pointy hoods, other aren’t so keen. I’ve listened to everyones’ comments, and have taken them on board. I’ve developed this style which I’ve called the ‘Bardot’ neckline as it can be pulled down over the shoulders. It’s made using the bottom rib band of a jumper, sewn onto a wide neck. I was particularly pleased with this little number, which didn’t hang around for long, and sold at Hexham Christmas Market.

Ponchos are back in fashion, and I can’t seem to make them fast enough. I’ve developed a range of patchwork ponchos that go from a tiny 18-24 month size, right up to a large adult. I’ll continue to make these, as they have been one of my best sellers this autumn and winter.

 

IMG_0991  I’m a huge fan of the ‘Shoplocal’ movement and rarely venture further than my home town of Hexham for my shopping. We have a quirky little street in Hexham, called Market Street, and whilst some of the town is looking a bit shabby with empty shops, Market Street is definitely on the up. We have lots of high class independent shops there and I’m thrilled to be stocking Mr Wolf’s with my children’s ponchos and baby blankets. Following a request form a customer I’ve also designed baby legwarmers for use with slings to bridge the gap when trousers ride up, and they can also be found there.

My thick wool blankets and bedspreads are now being sold in the eclectic Robinson-Gay Gallery which can also be found on Market Street. Sarah, who runs the gallery with her husband, a craftsman in wood, has hand picked some beautiful art, and her gallery is well worth a visit.

The year came to a close with one of my favourite events, the Hexham Christmas Market. It was so exciting to see customers coming to the stall wearing their Woolly Pedlar jumpers that had been bought the previous year, now coming back for more. Thanks to all those who stopped by, bought and chatted.

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Jane and Lucy sporting their new ponchos at Hexham Christmas Market – thanks for all your support this year, girls

As well as working on the new website, I’ve also got my head around Mailchimp, and am now able to send out a newsletter direct to your inbox. Whilst social media can be great, not everyone is a fan of it, and Facebook can be fickle at times, so I thought an emailed newsletter would be useful to keep folk informed about new products and where I’ll be selling my woolly creations. To sign up for the newsletter hit the subscribe button on the website’s home page: http://www.woollypedlar.co.uk/

I’m told that a blog post should be kept short and sweet, something I’m not very good at! I could go on, and talk about so much more, but I’ll leave you now, and get on with the day. I would like to say a big thank you to all who have bought from me this year, and to those whose support and encouragement has helped me on my journey. Running my own business is a steep learning curve but a most enjoyable one. Bring on 2015!

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