What a lovely spring day it is today. I decided this morning to get some fresh air and walk with my youngest daughter as she begins her day testing out a new school. Whilst there is a little nip in the air, it is sunny and warming on the face and a great vitamin D day! Sitting here in my sewing room, typing this post, the sun is coming through the window and I’ve even opened it ajar to feel the lovely spring air. Not sure if this picture shows that enough, but it’s the best I’ve got! Hope you feel in good spirits today too.
This post was meant to be posted yesterday, but my wifi was playing up and after a three hour slog involving unplugging and plugging wires, running up and down the stairs pressing buttons to try and connect, I got fed up and realised it was not meant to be. This morning has a positive feel to it and within 15 mins I got it working. Hurrah!
My post today is, hopeful, a helpful comparison of two craft fairs that I have attended since starting sewing three years ago. The first was the Handmade Fair last September, hosted at Hampton Court in Greater London and the second was last weeks Knitting & Stitching Show, held at the Olympia, West Kensington, London.
Being new to the sewing world, I’m only just finding out about all the events being held for craft enthusiasts and whilst I have knitted for many years, I’ve only ever attended local craft fairs before. I do enjoy a good local fair to see what my local community has to offer and it’s an easy morning or afternoon spent browsing. Is it worth paying the money to go to these national craft fairs though?
Let’s start with the Handmade Fair. This trip came about as a belated birthday present for a dear friend. We decided to made a whole day of it and go out into central London in the evening after the fair had finished. When we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the scale of the fair. Two huge sellers marquees, in addition to food and drink stalls, theatres and activity tents. The cost of the day ticket was £28.89 and this included a theatre viewing, a grand make activity and a skills workshop, which we booked in advance out of the list of programmed options. A lot were already booked up when I purchased the tickets three months before, so it is definitely worth pre-booking rather than booking on the day. We had to ensure that there were no cross over’s with events either as many take place at the same time (i.e. a theatre show might be on at the same time a skills workshop etc.). This took a bit of planning to also ensure that we left ourselves enough time to go and see all the stalls and have some lunch. In the end we decided on the following:
1) A head to head in the theatre between Matt Chapple, winner of the sewing bee two series back and Zeena Shah. This was brilliant as they had a timed challenge to make a lampshade whilst answering questions from the audience. They were both great sports and very funny and personable and their multi tasking skills were outstanding. Who says men can’t multi-task!
2) We did a grand make with Velcro Brand making flower crowns. This was hilarious fun and we came away with fetching crowns which we wore for the rest of the day! Not something I would wear again but it hangs in my sewing room as a fun reminder of our day together.
3) For the skills workshop we decided to do the printing on fabric, which both my friend and I were interested in learning. I have to say the session was very rushed with trying to explain what you need to do to us amateurs and getting something printed. People with more experience would have completed their fabric print within the hour time frame, but for us all we felt was pressure to finish, resulted in my mediocre attempt! I couldn’t tell you how to print on fabric as the instructions were so rushed, my withered brain chucked any references to this experience out within seconds!
All in all, I do think the workshops and makes were OK however, the time frames made it impossible to learn new skills efficiently and it did eat in to our browsing time. If I ever go again I would probably get a day ticket and just pay for one event, likely a theatre session as this was worthwhile.
In terms of the two shopping halls, the variety of craft stalls was outstanding and each stall was a visual eye catcher that just drew you in and made you want to buy everything! Stall holders were so friendly and welcoming and were happy to talk to you without putting pressure on to buy. This only enhanced my spending urge as I wanted to buy something from all of them! The beauty of this experience is that I got to connected with fabric sellers who I wanted to meet in the flesh and see the quality of their products. As being new to sewing and with not living near wonderful dressmaking fabric shops (meagre offerings in my town – great for essentials but variety of fabrics is sadly lacking), I was very nervous ordering fabric on line as you can’t touch, feel or see it’s true colour or drape. Meeting fabric sellers in the flesh gives you the chance to build a trusting relationship. One seller I got to know was Josie from Fabric Godmother and she was just lovely. I have ordered from her online shop a few times since meeting her and haven’t regretted it.
The final thought on this fair was the food and drink stalls. My friend and I enjoyed trying the food and particularly the many varieties of gin samples! There truly was a wealth of variety for all tastes.
All in all this is a great fair to go to for any craft enthusiast. The experience in itself is worth going to and it is a full day out. In fact, if doing workshops, I would consider going for two days to really see everything. I would definitely go again in a few years time, but would just pay for the entry only and not attend the workshops.
Turning now to the Knitting & Stitching show, which I went to last Sunday with another dear friend of mine.
Both of us were really excited as we hadn’t spend a day together, minus children, for a long time. After enjoying the Handmade Fair, I was excited to attend this event hoping for a similar experience. On arriving we nearly ended up in a guitar and bass convention as went in the wrong queue, who were mostly men! In addition we found out that the Walking Dead convention was next door with a lot of the cast attending and I was very tempted to gatecrash that to meet Rick! Once we eventually got in, the feel was very different from the Handmade Fair. Effectively it was a conference hall filled with stall holders and a few areas hosting workshops and demonstrations. I certainly didn’t get the WOW factor here, but that wasn’t the reason I came. My friend and I had different craft stalls we wanted to visit, I wanted to get hand-dyed wool and needles for knitting my first ever socks, together with maybe a few more sewing patterns. Fabric was strictly off limits as I have a stash to bust first before buying any more. My friend was looking for felting supplies.
From the get go, we hit the first stall which was a lovely felt supplier called The Makerss, and their little stall and demonstrations were a delight. My friend kitted herself out with all her supplies straight away, even going back again for more before we left! For me I found a lovely yarn supplier called The Loveliest Yarn Company, who were absolutely charming and gave me so much help and advice on knitting my first socks with double pointed needles. The hand-dyed yarn I bought is so soft and gorgeous, it was so difficult not to buy more! They even threw in this lovely project bag! Can’t wait to start my socks!
In addition I got to meet Jules from Sew Me Something, who was lovely and bought a couple of her patterns.
I also popped to Sew Over It and Guthrie and Ghani to have a browse also. I also met the girls from Trend Patterns and loved their madness and fun and the patterns are gorgeous. Looking forward to their spring/summer releases soon. I also bought a rag tool kit, from the lovely lady at Ragged-Life, to use up my scraps of fabric to make a rug.
Other than that, I found the show a little underwhelming and some stalls feeling more market stall in their offering. There is nothing wrong with that, but I wanted an experience that I wouldn’t get locally and this just didn’t do it for me. I also found some stall holders impatient and a little unwelcoming, which certainly won’t get me spending on their stalls or looking them up in the future! This resulting in us whizzing around the stalls by early afternoon, ready to leave by 2pm. We did enjoy Lauren’s sewing with knits demonstration and I’m sure other demonstrations were really good, but that wasn’t the reason we went.
Also I can’t comment on the workshops as I thought these would be similar to the Handmade Fair and decided not do book any. I may be wrong, so if any of you did go to the show and attended a workshop, please let me know your thoughts.
The sculptures and displays were very interesting to walk around and immerse yourself in, but all in all, it wasn’t anywhere near the scale of the Handmade Fair and I don’t think I would be going again. However, the day ticket cost £11 with a discount code and a day out with my lovely friend, feeling very pleased with our purchases. The bonus being that as we left early, we popped to Liberty before heading home. Now that’s a great end to a crafty day out isn’t it?!
All in all, both events had similar offerings, but on different levels. If you want a wonderful day and craft experience, go for the Handmade Fair. If you are just wanting to have a browse at a large craft fair and live an hour or so away from the Knitting & Stitching show, it’s a nice day out. Otherwise I wouldn’t travel any great distance to attend as a local craft fair in a nearby large town will offer you something just as good.
What are your thoughts on these events and are there any others you can recommend? Please do let me know, after all this is just my opinion and I would love to hear yours. xx