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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!

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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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If it’s good enough for Elvis…

All through my life my younger brother has teased me for being a hippie. As a teenager he would mock my Bob Dylan records, patchouli and joss sticks, and now that I have a business upcycling knitwear into alternative clothing, he now mocks my patchwork ponchos! I asked him, sleek Swiss city dweller that he is, if he would like a hooded patchwork poncho, but not surprisingly he declined. My brother is also a huge fan of Elvis, the rock n roll legend. Elvis-&-London

The good looking guy in this photo is also called Elvis. This Elvis is from California, not Memphis Tennessee, and this Elvis has a patchwork poncho.

Through my dear friends and business associates, Austin and Lindsey from Mr Wolf, the children’s shop in Hexham, little London seen here sitting next to her Daddy, got one of my kids’ patchwork ponchos.

540-template  London loves her Tutti Fruitti poncho, and her mummy is sending me lots of amazing photos from California of London, in her poncho. Here she is at The Angels Stadium, Anaheim, Californis. They tell me The Angels won that night! London’s mummy was so pleased with the little poncho that she asked me to make one for her, Elvis and London.

I was delighted to get this order, and it prompted me to add international sales to my shop, hoping that some of London and Elvis’ friends in California might also want a patchwork poncho. I’m told, however, that they are just entering their boiling hot summer weather so maybe it’ll be a while until I get any orders!

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Elvis, Caroline and London took their ponchos on a boat rip recently to Lake Tahore and showed what excellent holiday wear my ponchos are. Great for slipping over beach wear when you need a bit of warmth.

family-beachElvis is in fact an airline pilot, and I’m hoping that he will soon be sending me a photo of him wearing his patchwork poncho in the cockpit of his 747. Wouldn’t that be cool!

So my dear brother, if it’s good enough for Elvis………..

Ponchos for little people, middle sized people and big people can be found online in the shop over at www.woollypedlar.co.uk  in Kids and Babies, Women’s Clothing, and Men’s Clothing.

I’ll leave you tonight with a photo of one of the men’s ponchos I have online – fab for festivals and outdoor parties! This time it is my handsome younger son who is the model.

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Finding Jumpers to Upcycle

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Getting the Work/Life Balance in Order

I started my little upcycling business, The Woolly Pedlar three years ago, and since then I’ve been on a mission to prove that I can run a succesfull business, and bring in a wage to help the family finances. This has seen me often working all week from dawn til dusk and at weekends too.

moonSince the solar eclipse that darkened our garden on Friday, I’ve been very aware of Spring being in the air, and have felt a shift in priorities over the weekend. So, instead of working on a new sweatercoat, or a poncho order I have, I’ve spent the weekend outdoors, and boy has it done me good!

They say that the solar eclipse brings new beginnings and I very much hope this is the case. I do tend to be very driven in whatever I do, and as a result can ‘burn out’ – this is definitely what happened to my teaching career!

So, with Spring in the air and glorious weather this weekend, I’ve spent Saturday sowing seeds in the greenhouse, and Sunday walking in the Lake District which was absolutely stunning.

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We drove to Glenridding, parked the car, and caught the Ullswater Steamer to Howtown. We then walked the 5.5 miles back to Patterdale and then Glenridding, where we were rewarded with tea and cake courtesy of Micky and Jane at Fellbites Cafe in Glenridding. Here is my youngest son, John, sitting on the steamer

 

 

 

 

 

Glenridding.1The views of the mountains and lake were absolutely stunning! I’m feeling it now, mind you, after a winter of hibernating, and need to get my fitness levels up!

I’ll be back upstairs in the woolly garret tomorrow raring to go, but feel that I will be taking more days off over the weekends, and getting my work /life balance much more in order.

 

 

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It’s been quite a day!

It’s been quite a day, and so much so, that I took myself off for a walk in the woods at Allen Banks to calm down!

IMG_1905 compToday at 9am the online shop went live after week of non stop work making enough stock to do it justice.

We’ve pulled out all the stops during January and the shop went live with 87 different upcycled woolly products. There are the cutest baby blankets and kiddies ponchos, ponchos for big people, jumpers, hoodies and sweatercoats. To keep the extremities warm, there are armwarmers and infinity scarves, and for the home, there are the warmers blankets and bedpsread, plus a scattering of cushions.

snow-2All of these have had to be made, which involves looking for jumpers to recycle, washing them, cutting and designing and sewing. Then there is the photographing. They say that a good photograph is essential for selling products, so I’ve had to put down the iphone and get myself a new camera. Mind you, I’m having a lot of fun with it. I had planned to upload photos and descriptions in the evenings this week but soon realised just how long a process this was. It actually took three solid days to get eveything uploaded.

So, with my laptop balanced on my knee, sitting up in bed this morning, and in contact by text with Terry, my webdesigner, we pushed the button!

This is a dream come true! I’m running my own business with its own online shop. Who’d have thought, when I was struggling with chronic back pain and forced to give up my teaching job, that in a few years it would all be in charge of my own little business

I’ve really felt the love and support today from friends and family, both virtual and actual. As I tweeted and Facebooked about the launch this morning the support came pouring in. Wishes of good luck from Amsterdam, Canada, and all over the UK. Fellow crafters and makers retweeting and sharing statuses, and other local businesses in the Hexham area showing support and solidarity.

Thank you one and all, for your love and support – it’s been quite a day! Oh, and there have been quite a few sales too 🙂

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Getting some help

‘Recycled, Upcycled and Handmade by Me’ has been the message on the sign above my stall for the last couple of years, and I’ve taken great pride in the fact that I’ve made everything myself.

However, The Woolly Pedlar brand has gone from strength to strength and I just can’t make enough to meet demand anymore. It’s time to get some help.

Meet Julie, who I met at Brocksbushes Christmas Fair and who is my knight in shining armour. Julie has her own small business, teaching sewing classes and working as a freelance seamstress. I will still be designing my creations, choosing the colours and making my jumpers and sweatercoats myself, but Julie will be joining the Woolly Pedlar team to help with sewing blankets, ponchos and other projects when I need a bit of extra help.

1234883_10151651157005958_129562289_nI’m also enlisting some help in cutting out squares for blankets and ponchos. My patchwork ponchos have been a best selling item this winter, thanks to ponchos seeing a revival on the catwalks. I’ve been over the moon with how popular they’ve been, both with adults and children. The lovely children’s shop, Mr Wolf in Hexham has sold dozens of little diddy ponchos for me. However, this has meant hundreds and hundreds of squares have had to be cut out from recycled jumpers. My lovely daughter Hannah has come to the rescue, along with another couple of students. I now give them a pile of jumpers in a particular colourway, a sharp pair of dress making scissors and a template, with the instructions to cut the jumpers into 4inch or 6inch squares, and pay them by the hour.

When I tentatively made my first pair of armwarmers, I had no idea that in a couple of years I would be employing staff! I am over the moon with how my little business has grown, and am looking forward to 2015, and having a well stocked online shop (announcement about this coming very soon) as well as plenty for folk to choose from at the markets and festivals I will be attending.

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Thanks for reading, til the next time, keep cosy and all the very best

Sue,

The Woolly Pedlar

 

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