Last Saturday, my group Sheppey Knit Witz took me to Alexandra Palace, more informally known as Ally Pally, for the annual Knitting and Stitching show. The only prior knowledge that I had of the palace and its shows was friends saying about getting their special needles and yarn and also paper-craft supplies at Ally Pally, and I assumed then that it was a rather special large shop somewhere further north. How wrong I was! As well as having a lavish main building that regularly hosts special-interest shows and concerts, this gem of South London have a great array of animals to see, stroke, and – in some cases – ride. Here is a little of my experience of the show. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos; my camera is on strike.
The first thing that I saw as we entered the first (right-hand) room, was this massive knitting loom. I grilled the poor girl showing it for info, but her tutor had brought it, and he was giving nothing away. I do know that it takes a roving weight wool yarn such as Colinette Point 5, and a skilled woodturner could knock one up with posts about 2 inches in diameter and half an inch apart. The example items that she had made with it were over-sized snoods and basic sleeveless tops.
As well as photographing me having my third go here, she also captured a typical reaction to the loom, some of the cafe area, and the end of the catwalk.
When I managed to tear myself away from the loom (which sadly wouldn’t fit in my shopping trolley), I was drawn to the fabulous mixture of painting and glittery embroidery in Richard Box’s work. I also found him to be a lovely, if perhaps a little reticent, man.
I was so compelled by the work that I forgot my former dislike of embroidery, and purchased the smaller size of his available kits. I am perfectly aware that I may have to try other things before I get to this level, but it is something to strive for.
I had been dying to have a go at silk painting for ages, so when I saw the Essex branch of the Silk Painters’ Guild offering all the materials and advice required to make a special card for £2.50, I couldn’t have got over there fast enough. It is utterly fascinating; you start with a pre-outlined and backed piece, drop in the colour paint you want (the outlines keep colour bleed to a minimum), wait for it to spread out, and keep painting until you have the colour saturation that you want. Then it’s time to get salty; salt is is used to soak up some areas of paint for some interesting effects. You don’t have to do this, though, and can retouch any areas that you dislike the effect of. I preferred the slight dappling effect of the table salt, as the rock salt on such small areas of colour made it look like I had forgotten to colour areas rather than giving effect. And blot the salt off, as blowing it made my leaves a bit pink as the paint on the salt migrated. You are meant to use an iron to set the colour, but I wet and then rubbed the small area of paint below the picture and noticed no lightening of colour. I don’t know how to use our iron, so I have not yet finished this.
On my second time ’round the first room, I watched the demonstrator at the Braid Society with great interest. I am not completely new to braiding, having entwined 3 knitted tubes for a necklace, but this takes a bit more skill. It is so lovely to see people who are more interested in the promotion of their craft than making a quick buck; if you’ve seen the boxed kits about, you’ll know that £1 for a friendship bracelet kit with clear and interesting instructions is a marvel, and they come in a range of colourways that she encouraged me to rummage through until I found just the one I wanted.
There was one more stop to make before I left the first room. It was a quarter to 12 as I approached Make Do & Mend’s area for trying crafts out, and I intended to have a quick look before finding a spot for lunch. Nearly an hour later, the teacher kindly saved my seat for me as I rushed off to down my pasta salad before my sugar level got too low (I would be diabetic if didn’t control my diet carefully, so I was feeling quite ill by this point). I usually have a dislike of sewing, preferring to crochet my pieces together, but I had so much fun here that I wish that I could make it a regular thing.
Having had such fun in the first room, I was unimpressed for quite a while when I went into the left one. That is until I reached Alice Wolfe‘s stand and saw the knitted woodland created with her students, and then completely forgot how to speak for several minutes because I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I managed to ask if I could take photos after a while, and had to stand for a good while longer before I could compliment her on her wonderful work. She is a young and funky designer with a clear passion for and pride in the work, and I wish I had managed to get myself together enough to take a photo of her in her fabulous mohair jumper and to purchase one of the strawberry brooches.
Kevin the stork here probably wouldn’t have fitted in my trolley, either. And I didn’t have enough cash, so definitely a brooch or something else small if I see her again.
And I stayed on a high as I found Toft. I had googled all on the list for the show, so knew that I would be getting my dad socks from here and whichever kit appealed the most. Even the best picture cannot show how lovely these socks are, as they are so finely and expertly hand knitted. I am hoping that even my unenthusiastic father will love how wonderfully soft this alpaca/silk blend is, and I was thoughtfully given one of the lovely cotton bags for it when I said that it was a gift. I need handwarmers at the mo, so I was extremely tempted by the Houndstooth kit. But I had only just started circular knitting at that point, and never used double-pointed needles or much colourwork. I aim to build up my skill with both, and then reward myself with that. I learned only earlier today that the company has been running for just 6 years, and was started when she was just 20. This was quite a surprise, as it runs with a smoothness to be expected from a decades-old company founded by someone with a lot more experience behind them. Which just goes to show how fantastic and deserving of success they are.
I also knew that I was going to go to Spellbound Bead Company for advice on making the leap from stringing beads in patterns to learning stitches and making designs. The lady I spoke to was so wonderfully helpful that I think I might have got a bit weepy. She said that she isn’t patient, but couldn’t have been more so with me. She helped me identify that both this Square Stitch and the Double Spiral kit teach the method as you go and are perfect for beginners and impatient people, and that if I run into any problems with it I can give them a call. Now that’s what I call service!
I have visited the Laughing Hens site many times, so it was inevitable that I would not only find their stand (a homing device seemed to activate for the ones that I most wanted to visit), but find just the right purchase. Having tried felting knitting (learn along to come) 2 days before, I was overjoyed to find the luscious rainbow-hued Wash + Filtz it! Big Colour, a new yarn from Coats. The included slipper pattern is in German on the ballband (which lead to me admitting that I can pretty much just say ‘hello car park’ there), so I thought it a nice touch that they included them in English where other companies make you scour the product’s site for them. I will definitely be buying from this company again, and strongly suggest that you at least take a look at what they have to offer.
Having been given some shrink plastic and having limited use of kitchen apparatus, I needed a heat gun. This one is made Papermania, a brand whose products I have used many times and that I instinctively trust to be the best quality possible for the price (I’m so easy to please, lol).
In my exploration of sites, I found one jewellery designer selling the Wonder Knitter, and was intrigued to find out more about its application for making jewellery. Clover is also a brand that I’ve used several times and found to be reliable, and this nifty little product is no exception. To the untrained eye, it is a knitting dolly; but it offers so much more than that, the automated wrapping and interchangeable heads for different thread thicknesses make it unique and a joy to work with. It’s like having an abacus and then upgrading to a pocket calculator.
The Knitting and Stitching show can still be caught at other locations this year if you missed the fun, and returns to each annually. I was told that we will be going again next year, and just the thought gets me excited all over again
Left on the List
I didn’t find everything that I wanted at the show, because I ran out of time and money. Here are the items that I didn’t manage to get, and why I wanted them.
Worsted weight 100% cotton I tend to use mainly American patterns, and fell in love with these washcloth patterns on knitty.com. Worsted weight (heavy dk to me) is the standard there and required for this and many such patterns, so I thought I’d try to get the proper stuff. I will be ordering it from Great British Yarns when I have a bit more money and a bit less stash.
Adjustible knitting loom My friend started me off with a knitting loom, and I love it. I was hoping to expand on what I can make with an adjustable loom, as I want one that can do many things because storing several is just not practical.
Ribbon My friend is making fabulous Sculpey designs, and this one requires mesh ribbon with decorations down the side, preferably blue or pink (or rainbow because she loves that). I could not find a scrap of mesh or even any ribbon nice enough to give her.
Mohair tops In my experiments with felting, I found that mohair is the lightest and fluffiest thing I’ve used and is perfect for making little massage orbs
1kg+ Hoopla Yarn I had an idea for using this, but had sadly misread the prices on the site and hadn’t got enough money therefore.
Star pony beads I love stars, and wanted to make more jewellery with chunky beads
Vellum I had fun with a cardmaking kit using vellum, and looked forward to creating more layered looks with it
Glitter glue See above. I now got some by Papermania on 3 for 2 at The Range. I went in for yarn, and came out with papercraft supplies. Their ads are inaccurate, they don’t have aran yarn and I did need it.
Button packs There are so many fun things you can do with buttons, and I wanted to try making Christmas tree earrings
Beads I always need beads, and was especially looking for other colours of miyuki delicas, my fave kind
Needle felting kit Having tried and loved wet felting, I wanted to try this. I needed a needle pen, mat, and applique mold, but could only find the first 2 so left it
Funky fabric had no time for a proper rummage, but am sure that it was there
Decopatch stuff I planned to get a large box and supplies to decorate it direct from the company, but didn’t see the stand
Small basic sewing/patchwork kit I thought that my sewing skills were rubbish until the lovely ladies of Make Do & Mend boosted my confidence, so kept the money for a badly needed phone upgrade.
There wasn’t enough time/money for…
Make Do & Mend I had planned to go back and try the other 2 sewing projects if I had time
Colinette Receiving their Mulberry wrap kit and a kg of Point 5 gave me first the reason to learn to knit and then the sumptuous yarn that knitted up quickly to get me started, so I have a lot of love for this company
Fyberspates Their Scrumptious yarn really lives up to its name. I was fondling some glittery orange stuff that I had every intention of buying when a sudden pressing need to visit the smallest room hit me, so I dashed off at a speed that would have impressed Uisain Bolt
Texere Always great items at great value for money, I’m sad that I only had enough time here to ask for directions; which were very precise and detailed