The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia in London at the beginning of March is one of the two big craft fair days out I commit to every year - the other being the autumn show at Alexandra Palace in October. It's an opportunity to gather inspiration, meet and talk to other makers, learn about new crafts or techniques, and to shop!
Having learned from previous experiences, and knowing my own lack of willpower in the face of bolts of fabric and piles of yarn, I now go armed with a shopping trolley (yes, the kind your grandmother uses) to carry home all my purchases and avoid excessive pain from carrying heavy bags. In the last couple of years it seems like more people have cottoned on to this tactic as you now have to watch your feet as well as where you're going so that you don't get your toes run over, or end up tripping someone with your own trolley!
These events are always exceptionally well organised, and provide plenty of places for a sit down and a piece of cake, toilets (even though there will always be a queue), and well spaced stands so you generally have a good chance of being able to see things. Some stalls are so popular though it can all get a little bit elbows-at-dawn if you happen to hit a busy spell.
The programme of workshops and demonstrations on each day of the show is extensive - this year you could have learned everything from needle felting, beading, crochet, and embroidery, to shibori dying, patchwork, cross stitch, dressmaking, book binding, wire work, and many many more. There were also numerous drop-in sessions where you could have a go at making a quilt block, making a felt teddy bear, knitting a mini hat for Innocent smoothie bottles, or stitch your name to add to the Campaign for Creativity petition. The Creative Living Theatre offered the chance to listen to a number of crafting personalities talking about their work or demonstrating different techniques, and several Great British Sewing Bee graduates were in attendance - I watched Lauren Guthrie adding piping to a cushion cover.
Frankly, it would have been worth getting a two day ticket so you could spend a whole day watching demos and taking part in workshops, and then a second day browsing the stands and shopping!
I went with a shopping list. And I actually bought most of the things on it. Some of it was sensible, useful stuff like knitting needles in sizes I was missing, sewing machine needles, big reels of thread in basic colours... Some things on my list though were more of a loose idea of the kind of thing I was looking for - fabric for some summer trousers, jersey for a couple of tops, yarn to knit a pattern I've been coveting for over a year. I managed to find all these things too, but this tends to be where that lack of willpower I mentioned kicks in. So I ended up buying fabric for two pairs of trousers (lightweight, loose denim in plain and delicate printed versions), yarn for the jumper I wanted from Black Sheep Wools, and another pack and a pattern that I fell in love with on sight. The most gorgeous Liberty print jersey for my top - but also a metre of needlecord and a metre of Tana Lawn from Sewbox - you don't say no to half price Liberty! And a pack of Kona solids charm squares - they're always useful to have in your stash.
Oh yes, I'm incredibly good at justifying these impulse buys!
In all seriousness though, one of the things I most love about going to these events is being able to talk to the stallholders and makers about their products and designs, getting ideas and inspiration, and sharing stories of what I'm making myself. The inspiration side of things can get almost overwhelming. I always end up seeing so many starter kits for different crafts that I think I'd love to have a go at - but then I remember there are only a limited number of hours in the day and I already have plenty to fill my time! One day I'll buy that tapestry city map cushion kit, or the Latvian mittens knitting kit, or any of the other hundreds of things that have caught my eye.
I always love these craft show days, and in fact I think in some ways I prefer the slightly smaller experience of Olympia to the Ally Pally show, where it can feel like there is rather too much choice. I'm hoping to add a couple of different craft shows to my calendar this year, potentially the Handmade Fair at Hampton Court in September, which I hear nothing but good things about, and the Sewing Bee Live event which has been newly announced this year.
Now I just need to find some time to sew and knit all the things I've planned with the things I bought!
With many thanks to The Knitting & Stitching Shows for permission to reproduce their photos - I was having so much fun I forgot to take any of my own!