A New Chapter Begins for The Woolly Pedlar

A new chapter begins for The Woolly Pedlar, as I become a part-time upcycler and textile designer, part-time childminder, and part-time student of Creative Writing.

In the last blog I wrote about my search for a new Woolly Pedlar to take the woolly baton and carry on the race to recycle waste wool knitwear. I’ve had a fair few folk interested in the business, and had a few enter into more serious discussions. However, for their own good reasons, all have decided that The Woolly Pedlar is not for them. The reasons for selling the business were that I was hoping to go to Newcastle University to do my MA in Creative Writing, and I was about to start childminding my granddaughter.

Childminding has now started, and I have Daisy for two days a week on average. She is a little poppet, and I am loving my Nanny days. She’s just turned one, and is so much fun!

I did apply to Newcastle University and was thrilled to hear this week that I have an unconditional offer, starting my MA part time in September. I’m very much looking forward to a new chapter beginning, with a focus on creative writing. I promised myself many years ago, that I would be writing by the time I was 60, and so with three years left to go, I look forward to fulfilling my dream

As for the Woolly Pedlar, I have decided in the absence of anyone to take over the business in the short term, to continue with it on a part time basis, making what I can, in the time I have available. I’m not at present going to be booking any major events or shows, and am not taking any orders.

I will continue to collect waste knitwear from some of Hexham’s charity shops, and look forward to making some new designs. This lovely jumper was found last week, and I’m collecting knitwear in similar colours to make a range of jackets and accessories with it.

What I make will be presented in a Facebook Market on a given night, once a month, with a code word being released at a given time. The first one will be on Friday 1st March at 8pm.

This sweatercoat will be going in to the upcoming market, and this week I will be making armwarmers and waterfall shawls from the left overs in the same colours, which I’ll add to Friday’s market.

Anything left after two days, from 3rd March will go onto the website.

It would have been such a shame to let the Woolly Pedlar fizzle out, and so I do hope you will join me over on Facebook for the monthly market, and continue to buy from the website.  Thanks for following and reading this update. If you’d like to sign up to the newsletter you can do so on the homepage of this website or by using this link:  NEWSLETTER



Scope Step Up to the Plate with Recycled Wool Textiles

My quest for recycled wool textiles to recycle has taken many twists and turns over the last five years. I’ve bought from vintage sellers, knitwear factories, charity shops and have had donations from folk having a clear out. Recently I have lost two of my major suppliers. Hawick Knitwear went into administration at the beginning of the year, and one of my second hand wholesalers no longer has knitwear available. I wasn’t exactly panicking, but I needed to find new suppliers!

Hawick knitwear while it lasted was a wonderful find. I bought boxes and boxes of beautiful garment panels of the finest lambswool and cashmere. However, large groups such as Pringle pulled out of manufacturing their knitwear in Scotland, and Hawick was forced to close.  I searched for other knitwear factories and was shocked to find how few remain. Even Edinburgh Wool Mill tell me they no longer manufacture in the UK!

I have approached many of the textile recycling companies that get their stock from the ‘Cash for Clothes’ culture, but every time have drawn a blank. Batley in Yorkshire is home to several textile recycling depots, but they all tell me their clothing is not sorted here, is not for sale and is shipped abroad.

I have looked into the exporting of our second hand clothing and have discovered that there are mountains of our discarded clothing flooding the East African markets. Local textile manufacture and traditional textile skills are dying out as a result. Today, East Africa imports roughly $151 million worth of castoffs from Europe and North America, mostly collected from nonprofits and recyclers, each year*. That is a staggering amount of clothing. (*taken from ‘Ahead of the Ban on Used Clothing’ by Ecouterre).

The Guardian reports that ‘a massive 351m kilograms of clothes (equivalent to 2.9bn T-shirts) are traded from Africa alone.  The top five destinations are Poland, Ghana, Pakistan, Ukraine and Benin’

I have contacted the depots where our rejected second hand clothing end up and each time I have been met with brick walls.

So, thinking out of the the box, I approached the then manager of Scope, Hexham, Sheelagh,  to see if we could collect knitwear that was going to rag on a regional basis. This was a couple of years ago, but when taken to a higher level, there was not a great deal of enthusiasm.

Not satisfied to leave it there, I picked this up again recently, and sent out a random tweet on Twitter asking for recycled knitwear & tagging Scope in this. One of the big wigs of Scope picked this up and asked Sheelagh, now the area manager if there was anything Scope to do to help. Doh! We’ve been banging on for a couple of years about this.

I was delighted when Sheelagh invited me to speak at the meeting of the area managers in Newcastle this week to see if we could get the on board with collecting knitwear regionally and in some small part, stemming the flow of discarded clothing to East Africa.

I had ten minutes to get my message across – armed with laminated sheets explaining about the type of wool knitwear I use, and a few samples of my work, I went to the front, called order, and started my talk.

Result! They are all on board. Scope has stepped up to the plate and this week Scope will begin collecting waste wool knitwear on a regional basis to be recycled, upcycled and kept in the local economy.

Good news indeed! Thank you Scope.


Take Two Boring Blue Jumpers. Design Process

I love a felted wool jumper! When I’m on a jumper gathering mission, and a shrunken jumper turns up, it means another sweatercoat could be in the making. I find my shrunken jumpers in the rag bags destined for waste by the charity shops in my home town of Hexham, and rescue them for upcycling. You see, a good, strong jumper can form the bodice and starting point of my sweatercoats, and are a very welcome find indeed.  The other week these two rather boring felted jumpers showed up, and I’d like to show you what I did with them in this week’s blog.


After giving them a good wash to check for further shrinkage and to get rid of the eau de charity shop that sometimes pervades, the first task is to place them on a suitably sized mannequin to see where the waist lies.  I then take my scissors to them, chopping off at the waist, round the neckline and down the middle.  The finished size of the sweatercoat is determined by what size the shrunken jumper is. It’s all very serendipitous!

I also need to then decide what other jumpers are going to be put with them.


I found this stripy scarf and thought I’d upcycle it into a waistband, and let it dictate what other colours were to be in the coat. I’ve got a workshop full of shelves of recycled woollies, and was able to pick navy, brown and turquoise blue jumpers to add. The tie belt is a nice addition which helps to cinch in the waist.
Sometimes the hardest dilemma is which colour thread to use. I like my seams on the outside for added texture and contrast, and in this instance I used a very light brown, beige thread which seamed to contrast well with the blues, and especially the navy wool.


The full swirly skirt is made by cutting triangular shapes from the sleeves and the hem and hood are made from strips cut from the main body of my recycled jumpers. So, this is what I did with the first boring blue jumper on the left.


As the resulting sweatercoat was fairly small , I had to enlist the help of my daughter Hannah to model it! Thanks Hannah 🙂

The process was exactly the same for the other jumper, a larger size, but I decided to stick with all dark blue jumpers and use a contrasting jade thread with these.


So, there you have it, two boring blue jumpers, destined for waste by the charity shops as they had shrunk, given a new lease of life by upcycling them into wool coats. Ecofashion at its best!

If you’d like to see these and other sweatercoats I’ve made, then head over to the shop on the website, and go to Women’s Clothing, Sweatercoats.


Thanks for reading. See you next week 🙂