Wow, what an amazing experience.

I just got back from Handarbeit and Hobby (H+H) in Cologne, Germany.  It was an amazing trip. H+H is billed as the largest craft trade show in the world, and it didn’t disappoint. And the cathedral in the center of Cologne is no slouch either.

H+H Show German Cathedral

Sometimes trade shows are held in pretty ho-hum places. I wouldn’t characterize Cologne that way. Situated on the Rhine, Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany. The centerpiece of town is its Cathedral, Koelner Dom. A world heritage site since 1996, the cathedral is the largest gothic church in Northern Europe with it’s spires being second only to Ulm Minster, 1also in Germany. It is a wonderful example of High Gothic architecture. Construction started in 1248 and it was hit fourteen times during WWII. It remained standing even though much of the city was flattened. The pictures I saw were truly fascinating, but I digress.

H+H Show Ottomon

For those of you who have been to TNNA or Quilt Market here in the United States, this show is orders of magnitude bigger. Two buildings, four floors and lord only knows how many square feet, this place is huge. This year alone there were, “432 exhibitors from 42 countries present, 16,000 trade fair visitors their latest innovations, trends and product lines.”!  But, statistics are dry, right? I like to think of H+H as the Consumer Electronics Show of the craft world. My benchmark? There are booths with restaurants inside of them for goodness sakes!

H+H Show Arm Knitting

H+H Show Needlepoint Buildings

While there are vendors at H+H for almost every type of craft you can imagine, the lion’s share are focused on needlecrafts: Sewing & Quilting, Knit & Crochet, Embroidery & Tapestry.  Within each of those broad categories, you can find goods for both the retail and professional consumer. As an example, there were embroidery supplies you might find at your local shop as well as equipment that a manufacturer would need at a production facility. I met with mills and talked about shipping tons of yarn, yarn shop owners with stores no bigger than a living room and consumers who were just searching for something pretty to put on needles. It was fun, exhausting, exhilarating and eye-opening.

H+H Show Patchwork teepee

H+H Show amigurumi

H+H Show Knitted Butcher Shop

What’s it like to walk the floor? I am used to walking up one row and down the next. Not so here. The floor is designed around booths, not the other way around. So if a company wants a 5000 square foot booth they can configure it as 100 x 50 or 250 x 20 or 125 x 40 or whatever they want. Then the other booths fill in. It makes for a more interesting floor plan, but a map is important. I got all turned around more than one time. Luckily, there were small gelato stands one could run to for a snack and a little help!

One of the highlights of the weekend is the fashion show. OMG, it’s is amazing. They run it 4 times a day to a packed house. Here, take a peek:

Critters of all sorts were on display in several booths. And there was an amazing deli case of cheese. I almost walked right by the first morning thinking I would stop by later to pick up lunch. The displays here were so creative that I am thinking about bringing them back here. They were bold and inventive. Many of the shop owners I spoke to said they were inspired when they came here and I certainly was.

I have exhibited at H+H for three years now and it seems to be getting bigger and better.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Beth Casey owns Lorna’s Laces, a hand-dyed yarn company based in Chicago, Illinois.

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