The Knitting & Stitching Show, held at Alexandra Palace (affectionately known as “Ally Pally”) in London, is the UK’s biggest event for the textile art, craft and design community.
The impressive grandeur of the Palace, built for Queen Victoria in the late 1800s, is a testament to Victorian engineering brilliance. Palm trees soar to the domed glass roof in the atrium where visitors enter the show, and even before you hand over your ticket, you know this is going to be quite an event.
The show runs for five days (this year, it was from 11-15 October) and 30,000 visitors are expected through the doors during that time. By the time I arrived on the second day, it was late afternoon and the crowds were thinning; plenty of visitors were leaving, laden down with bags from the hundreds of stands that exhibit here. It had been a busy day for the exhibitors I spoke to, and they were expecting even more visitors over the weekend. And it’s easy to see why. There’s something for every crafter – art and craft supplies, knitting, crochet, cross stitch, tapestry, jewellery, patchwork and quilting, papercraft, felting, spinning and weaving … you can even buy sewing machines here!
As this is the Knitting & Stitching Show, you would expect there to be a good mix of stands and exhibitions and there certainly is. Even within the fifteen textile galleries there is a range of crafts, such as Amy Twigger Holroyd promoting techniques for “reknitting”, Hand and Lock exhibiting embellished handbags, Hilary Hollingworth who tells the stories of the Lancashire Witches through stitch and Fi Oberon with her beautiful felted animals. There’s something to suit every taste, and as well as being able to wander around the galleries at your own pace, there were talks at each one at specific times of the day too.
For quilting enthusiasts, winners’ quilts from the 2016 Festival of Quilts competitions were displayed. Nine quilts from the fourteen competition categories were hung for visitors to admire, and for those inspired to have a go for themselves but not quite knowing where to start, patchwork featured in the extensive workshop list.
During the Show, over 200 workshops took place, many hosted by well-known names of the crafting community or by the Guilds and crafting associations who were keen to encourage new members. In addition, more stars of the textile world held demonstration talks in The Creative Living Theatre, The Dressmaking Studio shared dressmaking basics and knitting and crochet drop-in sessions were hosted by the UK Hand Knitting Association (who were recently at the Yarndale festival in Yorkshire). There was certainly no reason to go home without inspiration, knowledge and the materials to put your new- found skills into practice.
Interestingly and despite such a huge range of exhibitors and crafts, just as at Yarndale a few weeks earlier, the trend was again for extreme knitting with giant wools and felting. Felted pictures, felted animals, felted accessories, felted Christmas decorations … they were all there. Some of the felted pictures, such as those created by Annie Brown, were made with the fleece of their own rare breed sheep and it was only on closer inspection that you realised that they were felt at all rather than watercolour paintings.
The show is so big that it can be a rather exhausting visit and many visitors choose to spread their visit over a couple of days, but the beauty of a show this size is that visitors can build their crafting skills and their stashes under one roof, whatever their interests. And with so many exhibitors, there’s always the opportunity to see something brand new and develop new interests too!
Christine Perry is the author the blog Winwick Mum where she writes about family, knitting, gardening, homemaking, and enjoying the outdoors.