The Woolly Pedlar - upcycling jumpers

Today I'd like to introduce to you Sue, The Woolly Pedlar.

I found Sue a while ago on Facebook and have been following her ever since. She is a fellow upcycler, who takes waste wool knitwear and creates beautiful new products, like coats,


and arm-warmers.

As a child, I remember sitting with my mum, helping her unravel our old knitwear into wool balls that she would then use to re-knit new bigger jumpers for us.  
What Sue does is a little different to this. She cuts the jumpers into pieces that can then be joined together in a beautiful patchwork of complementary colours to create stunning, one of a kind items of clothing. Store bought can never compare to this kind of personal, creative attention to detail.

Not only is Sue rescuing these old jumpers from landfill and transforming them into upcycled designer knitwear, she is so eco-conscious that even the small amount of wool scraps she is left with after cutting up the jumpers, gets saved for someone else to upcycle into rugs using the art of Proggy Matting where traditionally scraps of old clothes are 'pushed' through hessian sacks into small stitches to create mats.

Clothes can often have sentimental value - not the cheap fast fashion of today, but clothes that were made to last, that people have worn for years, and have many memories attached to them. Sue also captures this sentiment in offering a memory blanket service, whereby she can make something like a blanket from loved ones favourite clothing to preserve special memories.

I am constantly impressed and inspired by The Woolly Pedlar; not only by the gorgeous clothing she makes, but also the eco-friendly nature of her whole production process from start to finish. Following her on Facebook also lets you see the warm, friendly soul she is too, and the beautiful corner of the world she lives and works in!

Finally, I had some questions of my own for Sue about what she does. Here are my questions and her very interesting answers!

Q: How is your life different now that you are a 'professional' upcycler compared to when you were a teacher?

The most important area is the reduction of stress and feeling of wellbeing I get from running my own business. I left teaching after my health took a nose dive with stress related illnesses and chronic back pain. I’m now almost pain free and get up every morning looking forward to the day ahead. 
I am much more in control of what I do and can use my creativity unhindered. I also love working from home as I live in the most beautiful place in rural Northumberland, and love to take breaks during the day walking the dog down the lane or just pottering round the garden.
Lastly, I find that all the support and positive comments about my work does wonders for the self esteem and confidence which was at rock bottom when I was teaching. 

Q: Was there a turning point, or particular moment in time that helped you make the decision to change your career and decide to become The Woolly Pedlar? Or was it just a series of events/thoughts that gradually built up?

Yes, I was taken to hospital as an emergency when all my major joints stopped working and I was in chronic pain – that was in 2011 & I was forced to leave teaching after 25 yrs due to ill health. I had to find something I could do bearing in mind my severe physical limitation at the time. I started writing a blog ‘The Bridge Cottage Way’ about living sustainably with what we have and it is from this that my life started to turn around. Through this I started a knitting group and from that the idea came to make armwarmers from recycled knitwear, and the rest is history!

Q: Why do you upcycle? Is it because you personally like it? or do you think you are motivated to do so by the bigger environmental issues upcycling addresses?

I have always been passionate about reducing waste and making do with what we have, reducing the drain on the planet’s resources. I have always bought second hand clothes, or made my own clothes, only buying new when absolutely necessary.

Q: Do you believe you are making a difference in the world?

Yes! We only have a finite number of resources on this planet and I believe we should all do what we can to make sure they last. No matter how small our contribution, we can all make a difference.

Q: Who or what motivates and inspires you?

My mother and grandmothers were all great inspiration to me – they taught me how to make clothes and do crafts such as knitting and patchwork, using up odds and ends of wool and fabric scraps, turning old clothes into beautiful quilts.
I am motivated by all the lovely comments and support from followers on social media and meeting folk face to face.
Creatively speaking, colour inspires me – I love to take photos of colour in nature and use that in my designs. I love my garden, and the flowers and colours in that can be great inspiration.

Q: Do you ever get a negative response to what you are doing with your upcycling business? ( I read your post about the negative comment on Twitter about your empire line dresses and wondered if this was just an isolated one off incident

Yes! Some folk just don’t understand the concept of upcycling or using recycled clothing – I had one comment ‘How much, for an old jumper?’ They don’t understand the time involved in making handmade one off items of clothing, or the other costs involved in running a business. Some folk, usually older men are quite threatened by wacky, colourful clothes with the seams on the outside and can be quite rude – but then again, when you are on a market stall you are dealing with the general public, and whilst there are lots of lovely folk out there, there are always the odd one or two that will say something nasty. You just need to grow a thicker skin and not take it personally.

Q: What's the secret of your success?

I was once told on Twitter that I was an ‘antidote to boring high street fashion’ – I think folk like to be able to find something funky, and one of a kind, made with love for the environment.
I work very hard, and put a lot of time into building relationships on social media. I am passionate about what I do and put a of of energy and time into it.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Sue, The Woolly Pedlar as much as I enjoyed writing about her!

Do visit her website and have a look around at the beautiful clothes she makes and the interesting stories she tells.
And I would recommend following her on Facebook too - always an inspiration to read her goings on and see the lovely photos.

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