Our party was me, Mum and our friend Sam. We travelled up to London on Friday evening and stayed overnight at the “Covent Garden” Travelodge on High Holborn. On Saturday morning we travelled two stops on the Piccadilly line to Kings Cross. It was easy to leave our overnight bags in the left luggage and within 10 minutes we were on one of the four trains an hour that go to Alexandra Palace Station. We had understood that there were courtesy buses from the station, but we went out of the station following the signs to Alexandra Palace and there were no sign of the buses.
This is my only niggle about the day – a sign to where the buses were (at the front of the station!) would have been helpful! So we toiled up an enormous hill, stopping frequently to admire the view. I had to – I’m quite badly asthmatic and only the thought of wool kept me pushing on up that hill. I wasn’t joking when I said to Sam on Friday ‘never walk when you can ride’ (referring to using an escalator over the stairs!). Yesterday was a cool but sunny and hazy day, and London was spread out in front of us; although the views were amazing, on a clear day they would be spectacular. I need to confess now that I failed to take a single photo yesterday, so it’s power of imagination all the way in this post.
As we got to the top of the hill, with Alexandra Palace on our right, we joined a steady stream of women heading towards the entrance of the show. I remarked to Sam that I thought he might be the only man in the place. I was wrong, but there weren’t many! Before we entered the fray we had a drink and visited the loo. I was impressed that the management had re-designated most of the men’s facilities for female use, meaning that there were no queues at all during the day to use the loo. Equally impressive is that although it was very busy, queues for the various food outlets were fast moving and it was possible to find somewhere to sit down.
The show is basically lots and lots of stands selling stuff! I had said to myself – and to my companions – that I wasn’t going to buy anything I could get in my LYS Marmalade Yarns, or yarn that is cheap & easy to buy online. I also had a budget – £150 from my savings account – while I do know £150 is a huge amount of money, it doesn’t go that far when buying lovely yarn, so I wanted to make sure I *really* wanted something before I bought it.
I’ve decided I’m just going to mention the stands what we liked or we bought something on, or that stand out. There were a lot of stands that I didn’t visit – ones covering sewing, embroidery, cross stitch, quilting, leatherwork etc.
Almost immediately on entering we came across the Toft Alpaca stand with the Edward’s Menagerie book & animals displayed. It was fabulous and we all said we wanted to come back at the end and revisit.
My first purchase was a pair of socks for D. He loves alpaca socks and these ones from UK Alpaca were just the job:
Sam fell in love with the stuff on the Redhound for dogs stand. Though I’m not sure his lurcher Bentley would appreciate a pink and cream knitted jumper… I adored their knitted Christmas snood/ cowls for long dogs. And their website is gorgeous! I think I might buy this bed for Mollie to match our new sofa. Anyway I digress!
Immediately after that I got sucked into a stand of a company I hadn’t heard of. But the colours were just gorgeous. Natali Stewart hand dyes yarn and textiles. I bought a skein which is 70% silk and 30% seaweed! It feels glorious. I know these colours are not quite my usual palette but I love them. (This was my most expensive purchase.)
Then we met Martin Storey on the Love Knitting stand! Without wanting to gush he was very very nice but also impossibly cool to look at! He was wearing a very pale grey cardigan with Fairisle elephants in white which was just fab. It’s Raveled here but his version was cooler 😄. Sam bought his book and had it signed!
And then after that, we found ourselves on the Baa Ram Ewe stand and met Rachel Coopey! I just love her sock patterns inspired by the books of Terry Pratchett, so I bought her new book of sock patterns. Which she signed! She was also incredibly cool. With, I think, pale blue hair – oh how I wish I could have pale blue hair! Who says knitting isn’t cool?!
We walked around a lot then until we found ourselves on the Knitting4fun Needles stand. They had every kind of KnitPro needle you could ever want! Sam invested in an entire set of KnitPro Nova Cubics! Cubics are the square needles that are apparently easier on your hands, and the Nova are the metal version – I was mildly envious but I’d like to try them before committing so he has said I can borrow a pair to see if I like them! I think I’d go for the composite wood rather than the metal though. Though having said that, a couple of friends are using the KnitPro Karbonz lightweight carbon fibre and nickel plated brass DPNs and say they’re fabulous.
We saw the Stylecraft stall where Lucy from Attic 24 was meeting lots of her fans. She certainly has an eye for colour and her colour packs were being carried by lots of people. I’m not a Stylecraft snob, I’m making a blanket for my godson in it, but I do think some of her work would be so much more lovely and hard wearing in a wool based yarn. Imagine Coast in Rowan felted tweed for example. That said, it is good that at the more affordable end of the market that companies are investing in designers. Sam and I remarked that we felt she must have been involved in the new Stylecraft colour palette as we think it has definitely improved.
After lunch we visited quite a long time at the Eden Cottage Yarns stall, where although we squished, we couldn’t quite make up our minds what to buy. Definitely a brand to make a garment out of. Mum then spent a while choosing some gorgeous green fabric, with brown spots, to make a dress out of, though unfortunately if can’t recall the name of the shop.
We admired the Millamia stand and after chatting to the two women proprietors, I bought their winter accessories book – full of gorgeous chunky cowls. I liked their very neutral palate and minimalist stand a lot.
We were then in our stride and I bought this gorgeous skein from an Indian yarn company. I have no tag, so I can’t tell you where it’s from unfortunately, but it’s hand dyed, beaded, light laceweight.
And just over the way was the Colinette stand. I haven’t come across their stuff much but when I do, I love it! Their stand was awash with colour and texture. I very nearly bought one of their gorgeous throw kits but stopped myself as I have the CAL to complete! Maybe another time! However, they had a large bin full of underweight sock yarn skeins they were selling for £2 each. It would have been rude not to really…
At the Sublime stall Mum fell in love with this jacket on a mannequin:
(This photo is from the Deramores website) and bought the book it’s in, the Second Luxurious Tweed DK Sublime book.
By this time, the hall was packed, (I think a lot of coach parties come at the weekend) and our feet had been run over by push-along old lady walkers and shopping trolleys several times, plus we were tired, so we decided to whizz back past Toft Alpaca for Sam to buy a pattern, and where I bought this gorgeous teddy for granddaughter Emily for Christmas:
You can’t see this bear’s adorable black hand (on the left) in this picture. These bears are made from the by-product of the alpaca meat industry in South America. As a vegetarian I struggle a bit with that, but I do wear leather shoes, and better that everything is used. This is a very practical teddy as it’s fully washable and the fur will fluff out again as long as it’s not artificially dried. You can see his cute black hand here:
And a pompom for niece Jess to go on a pink hat!
Leavings, we found the courtesy bus (yay) and travelled home safely.
To sum up, I had a lovely time and enjoyed myself a lot. You have to be prepared for crowds, including the usual rude people who don’t think about other people at all! I think if you also did fabric crafting, there would be masses for you to look at. Sam and I spent quite a lot of time walking past stalls we had no interest in to find the ones we wanted to see. I was also hoping for more unusual hand dyers and brands I hadn’t heard of. However on reflection I imagine stands at this show are more expensive and possibly I’m more likely to find them at Unravel or Yarndale or Wonderwool. I don’t think I’d come to this every year – next year I’d like to try another of the yarn events! My other tip is know what you are prepared to spend and what your criteria are (I set mine out above) and stick to them! I was well within my personal spending limit (under (£100!) before we got back to Toft Alpaca and even afterwards was under it! I’m inclined to think that anything designated as a Christmas present isn’t included in my knitting related spending….
I think this is the longest post I’ve ever written! I hope you have enjoyed reading it.