Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show

I just can’t decide – did I bump into enough friends today?

This morning it was gorgeous. The sky was a clear blue and the sun shone brightly. It felt a crying shame to be cooped up inside, so I leapt on my bike and cycled over to Alexandra Palace for the Knitting and Stitching Show. Alexandra Palace is at the top of a big hill, surrounded by other hills. I might get the bus next time!

Here’s the palace in all its glorious splendour. The views across London are breathtaking, but almost impossible to capture on camera.

The last time I came to this show was 4/5 years ago, and I’m afraid I hadn’t been impressed. When someone offered me a ticket to go this year, I thought it couldn’t harm to go and compare. Had things improved? My memories were of long toilet queues, over-priced sandwiches, and a general aesthetic that I just couldn’t connect with.

Well, the toilets and the catering are still exactly the same! The layout hasn’t changed at all, and the hallways were rammed.

This visit felt much nicer because I knew people there. I went pretty much straight over to go and say hello to Annie at The Village Haberdashery. Here she is putting away a roll of fabric I recently used. She’s working hard with her mum, who’d flown over from the States especially to help. A big shout out to mums!

Then I bumped into So Zo and as we were laughing and getting snapped together, someone else started waving at us, and it was Joanne of Stitch and Witter! Isn’t she blooming?

There was more laughing and chatting and photographing. (Thank you to Ray Stitch, for patiently allowing us to use their bolts of fabric as our backdrop!) I couldn’t believe bumping into friends like this!

So that was the nice part. I wandered off to explore and felt fairly determined to spend money, which means it’s pretty surprising that I left empty-handed. The problem is, I found it all a bit overwhelming. I wandered past someone who said, ‘Some fresh air would be nice!’ – and I have to say, I agreed with her. Why was I banging elbows with others, when I could be out in the sunshine on my bike? So I’m afraid I hot-footed it out. On my way to the exit, I stopped by my favourite section, where people were being encouraged to indulge in the entirely simple task of, you know, making things. Which I thought was rather what the point was about…

So, I don’t think these events are entirely for me. I know others love them, and I totally understand why it makes sense for businesses to have a profile here, but it’s not my ideal experience. Gertie recently hosted an interesting debate about fairs and expos. What do you think? A great opportunity to connect with your creativity, or hell in a handcart?

The bike ride home was all down hill. Wheeeee!

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29 Responses to Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show

  1. Joanne says:

    oh brilliant! That was so funny. It was like spotting celebs and you know my mother-in-law Ann also recognised you! Lovely to see you again and to meet Zoe for the first time. Agree it was packed and roasting – we stayed about two hours in the end. And yes I agree it would be nice if a whole space was dedicated to making things instead of buying things – like Zoe’s Traid stall was. You looked fabulous btw!

  2. Sam says:

    I was there today – didn’t see anyone I knew! – and I felt the same about being overwhelmed. It was too crowded for my liking, and hot. I only stayed a couple of hours and did buy a kit to make some angora fingerless gloves, but I’m not quite sure why. I think I didn’t want to leave completely empty handed.

  3. Marie says:

    I went to this extravaganza maybe 3 or 4 yrs ago and like you I found it totally overwhelming! We’d travelled all the way down from Leicester (with the most horrendous tube/bus journey), so we felt obliged to stay for ages. I found it was too crowded and there were very few stalls I was actually interested in. I think I left with a handful of fat quarters in the end. It’s pretty cool that you got to bump into Joanne and Zoe though, I think had that happened to me last time, it would have made the experience all the better ;o)

  4. We were there on thursday, my friend J met someone there she hadn’t seen for 10 years who was a friend of her late Mum…(they met in the maternity ward originally and stayed friends)…all life is there…including quivet…although unsurprisingly the quiviet stayed there and didn’t come home with us…

  5. MrsC says:

    Wow what a nice bonus 🙂 I have helped to organise, and been a stallholder at, a number of such events and most definitely the best ones are those organised with the creativity of the attendees as the foremost theme. It is so much nicer when most stalls have a make and take of some kind, and when there are talks, events, and happenings to delight. Instead of feeling like it’s just a bunch of shops in a different venue for the day.
    I don’t know how things work in such a big city but here they are mostly organised by volunteers like a guild, so the costs are low and the profits from doorsales and stall holder fees go to a good cause. 🙂

  6. Shivani says:

    I quite enjoy the show, but I’ve perfected my strategy to maximise enjoyment: I go on a Friday, do a few workshops until about 3pm, then enjoy the relative quiet from 3 onwards (when all the coach parties have left). It was very stuffy and quite a Hellish crush when I first got there this time, but from 3pm, it was pretty chilled out.

  7. Anna says:

    I went yesterday as well and was left completely overwhelmed too and I found it just too busy. I will go again next year, but will probably go on the Friday or Sunday when it’s less busy. Love your pictures though!

  8. Miriana says:

    Glad I opted to stay home and do some gardening. I dislike anywhere that charges me to go into a hall and buy things!

  9. ooo I went on the Thursday, I really enjoyed it but it was too hot and I kept nipping out for air. I could have done with more time (after my train was super late) and next year I will make sure I do have more time. I did look out for bloggy people but didn’t see any, thoguh I was excited that I saw Mr X Stitch!

  10. Michelle says:

    We have a quilt and craft show here in Canberra, and I usually have an obligation with the quilt show. But I honestly lovel craft fairs. After years of attending them (I have travelled interstate to go to them, but mostly because they were also held with a quilt show) I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

    1. Go alone. Nothing worse than going with someone, no matter your shared interests or love, to find you don’t get the time to see everything you wanted to see.
    2. Plan. I go to the website beforehand and work out which retailers I have an interest in, and the workshops I want to attend.
    3. Take a notebook or be willing to take notes on your phone. The number of times I’ve been to workshops only to forget what the technique, or who the shop that was selling that template was! I tell you. Mind = sieve.
    4. Be prepared to amble around and not buy the first circuit around. For me craft shows are all about the inspiration. I take a break, go outside in the sunshine, have a cup of tea, and go back in for the kill, with my purse. He he!
    5. Demos at the stalls are worth hanging around for. I have come across some brilliant techniques and tools by standing at the stall and watching the shopkeeper show a group something.
    6. Often the things you are inspired by at craft shows are not what are for sale. A shopkeeper’s skirt. A certain display and how it’s styled.
    7. If you get overwhelmed, take a passout and a break.

    But other than that, I realised these shows aren’t for everyone. We have limited resources here in my town, even if it is the blinking capital of our nation. So when the circus come to visit, we have to pay attention.

    Loved your photos! So bright and happy.

  11. Nessa says:

    Psst…Karen, I noticed Joanne is wearing the same tunic as you had on in the photos from a day out with your Mum – I’m not a wardrobe stalker or anything (but then, maybe we all are, just a wee bit?). I only noticed because I too have the same tunic! I thought it would be blue when I bought it online, but was happy it turned out to be grey upon arrival. Shhhh.. I was so thrilled with that line of clothes but I have had to keep it hush hush so that none of my friends would get them too! But blogger friends are different, it’s pleasing to see so many of us have an eye for design!

  12. madeinoxford says:

    Okay, I am going to admit to epic geekiness here, but as a librarian, I decided to take a very organised approach:

    1. I ordered the show guide and when it arrived, I went through and put all the stands I wanted to visit into a spreadsheet, giving each a number and leaving space for notes
    2. On the show guide, I wrote the numbers onto the plan so that I would know whether or not an aisle had someone I wanted to go and see.
    3. I printed a version in number order, then a version in stand order.
    4. On the day, I went through the halls systematically, ticking off my spreadsheet as I went. If I saw something to buy, I noted it down along with the price.
    5. Once I got to the end of the hall, I got a coffee (had to stand to drink it – honestly, so ridiculous!) and worked out what I was *actually* going to buy. I wrote those onto my ‘stand order’ list.
    6. Then I worked my way back up the hall, only stopping where I wanted to buy things.

    That sounds like more work and less fun than it actually was! Because I felt in control – which at 11.30 in the middle of a crowd of people was no mean feat – I could relax and enjoy things without getting overwhelmed. Also, I took a workshop in the middle of the day which helped break things up. But I think for shows of this size, if you’re interested in more than one thing, planning stops your head from getting completely turned around!

    On the other hand, it sounds like you had a nice time seeing people and saved money, so maybe I should be adopting your approach instead ;D

  13. jill ballard says:

    Hi there
    I visited the exhibition on Saturday (armed with a nice picnic that included wine, posh crisps and sweeties) I remembered that Ally Pally catering sucks! I went with my 22 yr old daughter who loves a good push round the shops! It was lovely to see her becoming interested in textiles and she bought some ‘tatto style’ fabric to try and make herself a dress. I was deterimined to buy a few treats as it was a rare girls day out. I do understand the mixed feelings on these shows..are they just market stalls flogging their wares or do they offer more?
    We enjoyed the day, it is nice to be in a place were everyone has a common interest and although busy everyone was friendly and the stall holders cheerful and helpful. We don’t have many sewing, fabric places (only john lewis) where we live, so it was good to buy from some new traders, also getting their web adresses for future purchases.
    We enjoyed the hand knit fashion show, featuring items made with Rowan and Paton and Sirdar yarns too.
    Best bargain buys: £6 goodie bag from Sew magazine stand, with the latest copy of the mag (£5.99 normally), a new Handmade Magazine,worth £6, a Simpicity Runway Dress pattern, wooden knitting needles, and 2 balls of yarn, and an instructional DVD!
    1 metre of Cath Kidston jumbo floral printed cord £10
    2 metres cotton lawn £12
    1 metre wool skirt fabric £4.95

    Jill – Cambridge

  14. Awfulknitter says:

    I kind of knew what I was letting myself in for – I’ve been to something similar at the NEC in Birmingham. (In fact, I think that the Sewing for Pleaure and Hobbycrafts shows might be a bit bigger.) I went along mainly to keep my mum company – so I don’t know how I managed to spend so much money! It was horribly busy, and by the end I just couldn’t be arsed with any more browsing. But for both of us the main appeal is the choice (she’s a quilter, I’m more of a knitter). Neither of us live close to shops that have a decent range of stuff for our hobbies, so my mum was over the moon at the choice of quilting fabrics, and I had fun getting stuck into a huge pile of discount yarn and coming out with some lovely half price stuff. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more for garment sewers (this is something I want to get into more) – there were like, three or four stalls selling non-garment fabric, and about two selling patterns! And there was an awful lot of stuff not to my taste (OMG, the old-school ugly cross stitch kits in infinite variety!) and a certain amount of that sense that people are buying for the sake of buying, which I find a bit depressing.

    I’m not mad keen on these kind of events – they are really tiring. And the lack of seating and decent refreshments makes it feel like such a chore! Do they not know that happy, well-fed, and well-rested people spend more? But until a decent yarn/haberdashery/fabric-ery opens up near me, it’s a good enough substitute.

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  16. i was feeling jealous (well i am about you meeting up with annie, zo and joanne) but it doesn’t sounds like too much fun. i think i’ll save a day pass and go for goldhawk road instead! but snap! i have the very same orla kiely tshirt as you. one of my favourites!

  17. Catherine says:

    Oooooh so jealous that you met so many people … I was there Sunday. I love the exhibitions more than the sales, but living in the sticks access to buttons and fabrics (let alone choice of same) is pretty thrilling to me 🙂 having said that I only bought buttons, sock yarn and an exhibition catalogue for “curiouser and curiouser” … Too much fabric in the attic to justify more fabric purchases!!

  18. Zoe says:

    It was ACE to see you, albeit briefly. Seeing you and meeting Joanne, and seeing a button stall run by a lovely lady who sometimes sells at Craftaganza made the whole hellish weekend much more pleasant. I bet cycling down hill from Ally Pally was lots more fun than the ride up! Hope to see you soon lovely lady xxxx

  19. Peggy says:

    How fun to see the show from your view. I’m the “Mum” in the picture at The Village Haberdashery and we were too excited and busy to get around much. I found the show and people to be a lot of fun. Thanks for the shout out!

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