A few years ago I went to a Knitting and Stitching exhibtion at Alexander Palace. Even though I got a student discount it was pricey and Ally Pally is a bind to get to. The spring show, at Earls Court, was sparking quite a lot of UK Instagram and blog excitement. This time I felt a bit like “been there, done that”.
However fellow blogger and style advisor Anne Whalley popped into London this week to attend the exhibition, and she and her husband called on us. And as a little gift Anne gave me two tickets to the exhibition. It would have been rude not to make the effort to attend (as Earls Court is a short bus ride from home)!
Anne comes from Melbourne and calls herself “The Pattern Whisperer” – it’s a nice idea. By analysing someone’s body shape we can suggest which patterns will work best. It was interesting for me to meet Anne as she is opposite of me – she has a straight bodyline, whereas I am shaped. And she suits warm colours, whereas I look best in cools. And we both have short hair and wear glasses. Apart from family and our travels, we had lots in common, and lots to talk about. In dressmaking terms we are polar opposites – Anne loves speed sewing and makes the equivalent of three wardrobes a year (she has a stupendous quantity of fabric), whereas I find the 11 garments for the SWAP plus a few experiments is enough to keep me going.
So on Sunday I went to the exhibition with Nana, a friend from work, and we had fun. But I wouldn’t go again. I think the ticket price ( £16) was really pushing it, and compared to my last visit (October 2012)
- there were far fewer stalls – less than a third I would say
- there were far too many stalls selling cheap, mass produced rubbish from India and China
- last time I had lots of opportunities to learn about crafts and textiles – this time it was mainly knitting, quilting and sewing
- the sewing stands were mainly cheapish fabrics (£8 – £15 pm) or sewing accessories
- lots of “indie” pattern sellers – I don’t think there was one in 2012
- the classes were more formal but generally involved a further charge
- very little quality – six years ago I was able to buy wonderful handmade jewellry; vintage textiles, handmade items from Afghanistan, Japan, Nepal, Chile and elsewhere; beautiful leather goods; innovative products. The School of Embroidery brought lovely work along for sale and to see.
Having said that we had fun for a couple of hours (I am not sure how you could spend a whole day there). Most stall holders were willing to talk and we learnt and saw some really nice things.
- How to make pom poms
- Cashmere yarn imported from Florence
- Several version of Frida Khalo cloth
- Someone in the UK who sells Japanese basting thread
- Modern needlepoint kits of capital cities
- How to use a rotary cutter on the Fiskars stand
- How to make braid
- An entertaining young woman who sells kits to knit Latvian mittens for £10 including four very thin needles
- Nice chunky wool cushions
- Classes, nice patterns, alpaca wool in natural colours and a chance to feed the animals
- Fabpad – a new initiative by the University of East London – to do bespoke printing, no minimum run
I spent £4 on some fabric flowers from a woman I didn’t get the details of. She was good fun and told me she had a factory in China churning out these lovely items at rock bottom prices. She says people buy them for children’s parties, and to sprinkle on the bed romantically. These little packs of petals were £1 each, and I got two headbands that I will probably deconstruct. Then I will use them on some of my garments like I did with the sweet-peas.
So, all in all, I had fun, didn’t break the bank, and got home in time for a Mothers’ Day lunch with the family (in the first picture you can just see Ted in a green and blue jumper, hiding under the table).
Thanks for the tickets Anne!
Thanks for the review of your day – I am glad, having read it, that I didn’t treck all the way down. I had thought about going but decided not in the end!
Glad you had a good weekend, looking forward to seeing how you use the petals.
Lovely- don’t deconstruct the headband, it’s a cool Frida Kahlo touch!
I wish I was as discerning – I was completely overwhelmed and bought loads of fabric, half of which I will never use! I met Anne yesterday too – we had early evening drinks and discovered lots in common (for two people who are very different). I like the whole meeting fellow bloggers thing!
Oh Joanne – I just read your post! I absolutely understand what you enjoyed – not least being with the other lovely blog-ladies. I had fun too – really I did – it’s just that I am not really into knitting or patchwork (or making lampshades!). Also I saw on IG that you met Anne too. Maybe one day you and I can meet up? I would really like that.
Thanks for reviewing this, I’ve dithered about going to the NEC craft exhibitions for similar reasons, too commercial and quilting biased and I think it’s £10 just to park.
The American events seem more attractive with interesting sewing stands and major pattern companies in attendance.
Nice to meet Anne too, I haven’t come across her before today, sounds like you’re having far too much fun.
Sounded like a fabulous meeting with another blogger. London must be the central rendezvous station. Happy Mothers Day with your family!
I went to the Olympia show a couple of years ago and vowed ‘never again’. Venue seemed very tatty and grubby then, and it was a pain to get to as the tube wasn’t running to Olympia that day (when a show was on ?!?!)
Ally Pally has always been my favourite – a short train ride for me – and I spend most of my time there looking at all the fabulous artists exhibitions and the amazing work of the textile graduates – sometimes I barely have time to shop!
OK! So it seems there is the super Alexandra Palace event in October and the not very thrilling spring version in Olympia. Many thanks for the clarification Gill.