I've been trying a few new sewing related experiences this year. I joined a quilt guild (South West Modern Quilt Guild) which I've loved. I've also aimed to attend more sewing shows so since September, I've been to West Country Quilt show, the 'Stitching, Sewing and Hobby Craft and last Sunday I went to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace, London. This is the biggest show that I've been to and it coincided with a weekend when I was already in London so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Alexandra Palace is an amazing venue. Sited at the top of an enormous hill, the building is magnificent with spectacular views across London all around. I opted for Sunday as it's the quietest of the show days - it ran Wed-Sun with Saturday being the busiest. I arrived at 10am and there was a steady stream of people going in. Although it sells a range of tickets- VIP, with workshops/talks, as well as standard and concessions really it's about the shopping, all those specialist retailers for quilting, dressmaking, general sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch and more under one roof. There's one massive hall with the largest stalls and two smaller stalls which tended to house the smaller independent businesses and textile galleries. There were various discounts for buying online, I got mine from being on the Fashion and Textile Museum mailing list, there is a booking fee though, the total cost is around £12-14 for a basic one day ticket.
It is a money-making machine. If you want to find a specific stand, you'd have to pay £4 for a 'guide', or return to the entry point and study the wall diagram. I made sure I covered every path of carpet and aimed to find a list of people who I knew were there who I've worked with in some way over the years. I saw lots of familiar names from previous shows, like Fabrics Galore with their two stalls covering quilting craft and dressmaking, and The Quilted Bear with a plethora of fabric and quilting/sewing tools. I also saw newer names- Higgs & Higgs had a wonderful selection of jersey, sweatshirt, linen, cotton and more. Stof & Sill had a well-arranged stall, quite limited variety but interesting, well displayed and staff were helpful.
Girl Charlee had a busy stall with a mix of their familiar and new jersey fabrics. I've worked with Girl Charlee several times since they started their UK journey and it's always been a very positive experience. Mark and Ben are both focused on a great customer experience and it really showed when I saw them helping newer sewers match their patterns to the right fabric.
I've worked with The Eternal Maker for many years now and Anna is an experienced stall arranger; there's always so much packed into her displays with a buzz of people around the fabrics, pattern and sample garments.
The Cool Crafting stand looked very inviting and they had obviously sold a lot of fabric, kits and patterns - the wrap dress and its fabric had sold out. I've seen their stall at previous events but toy kits, craft fabrics and trims have been their focus. This time, dressmaking was centre stage and they had beautiful cotton, linen and wool selection.
In one of the side halls, there were some interesting indie style stalls including Frances Tobin from The Maker's Atelier. I wrote about her business early last year for Sewing World mag and she has expanded so much since then with so many more patterns and a successful book. Her stall was beautiful, a palette of caramels and gorgeous patterns. She likes to use an interesting range of tactile substrates like stretch metallics, silk crepes, leather etc.
Grace from Beyond Measure had a lovely stall, packed full of handcrafted sewing gadgets, rolls of wool tweed and an excess of sewing related gifts. It looked very inviting. She had her sister helping her on Sunday, it is a big time commitment running a stall for 5 days plus the set-up and take down, whilst also being away from your family.
Andree of Til the Sun Goes Down sells a dazzling range of original design silks and wool crepes as well as her own pattern range, 'Now and Then' and tempting kits which combine the two. She had vintage patterns and fabrics too and all her patterns were made up in a multitude of samples.
For a huge array of the best known names in sewing, it was excellent. I'm no longer a knitter and I can't crochet but both are well served. I didn't buy much, it was more about meeting some people after a long time emailing and enjoying the experience plus my budget is limited and I was carrying my luggage on the train the next day. I did get some irresistible Homestead Life Cabin Bolt fabric from Girl Charlee which is destined to become jogger style pyjamas. Love the print and it's a slightly drapey cotton/spandex jersey, perfect for lounging and evening quilt snuggling. I also picked up a short Japanese zip and a mini magnetic seam guide from a couple of sewing stalls.
There were a few odd stalls selling sweets or hair clips- the sort of thing that I see a frustrating amount of at smaller shows and are in no way related to sewing or knitting. It's a long week for the stall holders too and I did feel for them although there is a comradery amongst the stalls and it is great for catching up on news about the business. Some traders reported fewer sales or a lower spend by customers than previous years because of the recent Great British Sewing Bee Live event in September, whilst others said they weren't affected. The exhibitions were wide-ranging and interesting as well as a break from the busier areas. I felt like I missed some though with the lack of having a map to hand but from the ones I did visit, standouts included Rachael Howard's Red Work, Diana Harrison's Traces in Cloth which I found rather dramatic to look at, and Amy Twigger Holroyd's reknitting gallery. It was fun, I spent a very happy four hours there and I did get to see all the shops in person that I only ever usually visit online.
Are there any shows that you would recommend?