Okay, despite the title of this post I did actually have a pretty good time at this show, and really I can only fault it for being way too successful. I’m no stranger to busy events or even popular tourist attractions in London, Paris or Rome. Hell, I’ve even shopped in Ikea on a bank holiday weekend when there was sale on! Admittedly some of these things drove me to drink and/or psychiatric pharmaceuticals and required bed rest the following day, but you get my point: I’ve seen and shopped in big crowds before.
This was infinitely worse. Dear God, it was so much worse…
There is a point at which an event becomes too large, too all-encompassing and this show left that point in the dust.I would rather go to smaller events with a narrower focus (eg just yarn, or just sewing) than deal with a huge mega-mix of crafts squeezed into one oversized venue. Early on I realised I could either experience the event as someone who sews or someone who crochets, but not both. Although I did get some gorgeous trimmings from a stall that (thank God) has a website so I can get a look at all the fabric I missed at the show, I did mostly concentrate on the yarn.
There was no time to browse or take time to consider your purchases. It was a case of buy now or lose it forever, and I just don’t like that kind of pressure. The Main Hall was the worst, and I wished I’d realised this sooner so that I could have spent more time in the West Hall (I only managed a 20 minute dash through here on the way back to the coach). Most of the time it was too crowded to be able to see things properly, especially the demonstrations. I only got to speak to two different stallholders properly to ask questions (one on crochet, one on freehand machine embroidery – these were both in the smallest of the three halls) and this just highlighted to me what a wealth of advice and experience I was missing out on due to the size of the event. It was particularly disappointing that I didn’t get to see any of the award-winning quilts on display either.
Unlike Fibre East that I went to earlier this year, the Knitting and Stitching Show didn’t really feel like it was putting me in touch with a wider crafting community. At Fibre East you get to meet people who are passionate about their areas of expertise and it’s an opportunity to educate yourself on how and where your crafting supplies are produced, and to be inspired by that.
At the K and S Show there were some great ideas and stalls dealing with upcycling and the whole make do and mend culture but they were too busy to really get a look at. Also they were hugely outnumbered by stalls all selling the usual (and easy to source anyway) supplies, where it was all sell sell sell! There were still some real gems to be found amongst the chaos but it felt like blind luck if I found any of them. There were stalls that looked interesting but I didn’t have the time or energy to look at properly, so I just grabbed a flyer or business card with the hope that they also sell online!
There were some stall holders that I recognised as having attended Fibre East as well such as Texere Yarns (great value multi-buys at the show, wide choice of unusual yarn and threads for weaving too), as well as a few names that are familiar to me thanks to magazines and the internet such as Blacksheepwools.com (their stall was like a rugby scrum!) I chose to avoid these familiar names in favour of making new discoveries, and that felt a litte sad in contrast to the friendly and helpful experience I had at Fibre East.
So, would I attend the Knitting and Stitching Show again? Possibly, but it would have to be on a weekday and I would go with a very different set of expectations. I would think of it more as a craft themed shopping mall than craft show full of potential and exciting new ideas.
Roll on next year’s Fibre East!