Last week the fall edition of The Knitting and Stitching Show took place at Alexandra Palace in London and as the organizers phrased it, they gave this edition of the show (which has been around for more than 30 years) “a refresh.”
With a new layout and expanded offerings, this four-day show is considered the go-to show that spans a variety of textile disciplines, including knitting and crochet, quilting, sewing, fabric collage, fashion and dressmaking, cross stitch, traditional and creative embroidery, weaving, and stumpwork just to name a few.
Upon entering the Palm Court Foyer where one purchased tickets, an impressive menagerie of more than 400 crocheted animals were on display, courtesy of crochet artist Kerry Lord and Team TOFT. Each day I fell in love with a different monster, breed of dog, dinosaur, bird, or sea creature.
These creations were also flanked on each corner by a gigantic crocheted animal, such as this adorable duck that stood an impressive seven feet tall.
Twenty exhibits were on display in the Textile Gallery covering a variety of textile disciplines, and one of the first to greet attendees was “Tea Flora Tales and Textile Landscapes” with mixed media artist Cas Holmes. Known for bringing up issues around the environment and preserving natural habitats through her art, she showcased her most recent landscape work, combining fabric, paper, found materials, with hand and machine stitching.
Cas Holmes smiles with her work, “Medway Gap” that graces the cover of her recently released book, Textile Landscape: Painting with Cloth in Mixed Media (affiliate link) published by Batsford.
Whereas Cas’s exhibit delighted, neighboring Jenni Dutton’s haunting exhibit, “The Dementia Darnings” left many viewers in tears in its raw honesty. Inspired by photos of her mother, Jenni chronicled the progress of her mother’s dementia by creating 15 large-scale portraits in wool and thread, each portrait gradually becoming looser in stitch (and a little bleaker), portraying the loss of memory.
Emily Tull’s exhibit, “10 Years of Markings and Unmarkings” showcased her hand-stitched thread paintings partially inspired by her (admitted) obsession with ripped wallpaper and peeling paint. She, too, sees a lot of value in recycled materials (a reoccurring theme of the show), and lately uses plastics among other nonconventional materials in her pieces.
“Little Piece of Someone They Hide”
A noticeable theme in several exhibits was the effects of war. The Embroiderers’ Guild showcased their 100 Hearts Project, many of the hearts depicting aspects of war to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI.
The Graduate Showcase has always been a fun exhibit to view, as it features recent graduates from textile programs throughout the UK who bring a fresh perspective to stitching. Libby Vale, a graduate of Hereford uses stitch to raise awareness of human rights, explore political issues, anxieties, and wishes.
With her HARM chair—entirely free-motion machine stitched—Libby works out her feelings of sadness on how social anxiety isolates some of the most vulnerable people in our society. She began by posing on social media, “What keeps you in your chair and not mixing with others?” She received so many responses, they consumed several pages worth on her social media page. She then compiled and free-motion embroidered these comments to create and upholster this chair.
Approximately 300 vendors offered everything from fabrics and felt to yarn, dressmaking, patchwork, tapestry supplies, and embellishments. The organizers also offered new show offerings and experiences such as Artists in Action, The Creative Theatre, a crafting village, knitting and sewing lounges (with comfy couches), and plopped in the middle of the vendor area, a champagne bar (which I enjoyed one afternoon).
Having both attended and vended at this show in the past, it appeared very healthy and crowds were enormous with packed aisles and long queues at the entrance every day I went. I didn’t notice as many mixed media textiles on display as I have in the past (i.e. stitching with soft metal, stitched book arts and the like), but I could have missed them, as the show was so sizable.
The next edition of The Knitting and Stitching takes place November 8-11, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.