On Friday, my sister and I headed to The Handmade Fair at the beautiful Hampton Court Palace. Running over three days, we were excited to attend the opening day of this inaugural craft event!
We kicked off the day with the Mollie Makes Mash-Up in the Super Theatre, where Mr. X Stitch, ‘the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery’ and Deadly Knitshade, ‘one of the country’s fearsome guerilla knitters’, went head to head to debate which craft was the coolest – knitting or stitching?
Considering that both crafts notoriously have a ‘fuddy duddy’ reputation, both craftsbods were keen to set the record straight. In a series of playful rounds, they took it in turns to present some of the coolest and quirkiest works in their field. After each round, the audience voted. As Kirstie said from the outset, “If you don’t like things that are interactive, then you’re going to have a miserable day!”
Without fuss, Kirstie Allsopp introduced the sessions in the Super Theatre, and chaired the discussions with some of the famous talent such as Cath Kidston. We spotted her a few times walking around in high wedge heels, or my favourite spotting – driving her crew around in a golf buggy!
Just before lunch, we attempted #WorldPomination with Rosy Nicholas in the Grand Makes Tent, who showed us how to make pom poms using the latest gadget. I can safely say it is very easy, and also quite therapeutic, as you sit there winding wool around the pom pom device. After a long day, my sister and I looked at our pom poms (tied to our bags) with pride. Simple things!
What use are pom poms you might ask? Well, I plan to use them for gift wrapping, and to make decorative pom pom garlands. My sister wants to create Christmas tree bauble-esque decorations. The soft-wool pom poms also make fantastic stress balls, or, as my sister and I quickly discovered, they make a fantastic (less painful) alternative to conkers, if you enjoy abusing each other.
In the afternoon, after a yummy duck wrap, we sat down to a chandelier-earring making Skills Workshop run by the London Jewellery School. It served as a great introduction to jewellery making, introducing the tools you use such as round-nose pliers, and how to do basic joins. Though I’m not sure I’ll wear my creation, I now undersand what I should be doing for next time!
On top of the full experience package (£29) we signed up for an additional 30 minute calligraphy workshop (£10) in the afternoon. In hindsight, I would have loved to book a place on the upcycling workshops run by the inspirational Out of the Dark and Annie Sloan – perhaps next time!
Elsewhere on site, there were a number of exhibitors to explore, including a Hobbycraft tent, where you could buy a huge range of Kirstie craft kits (from candle-making to sewing projects), and Women’s Institute wool. After buying my pom pom maker with glee, I was drawn in by a fascinating felting demonstration – the lady made it look genuinely easy, and said that it was easy. Who knew?!
There were also two large shopping tents – East and West, which, unlike many of the craft stalls at Hobbycrafts (ExCel), were full of genuinely unique sellers and businesses; the quality was great, and the stalls looked fantastic. There was something for everyone, and it wasn’t over-crowded. All the exhibitors were pleased to talk to you about their work, and there was a fantastic sense of pride. One lady joked, after the many hours of prep, sweat and tears, “I don’t really want to sell any of it”.
Near the entrance, visitors could stop by the Mollie Makes cafe (a media partner), where they could sit down with fellow crafters for tea, cake, and a bit of craft chat, and sign up for a special taster subscription of Mollie Makes. I did, and can’t wait to get reading. Also, the event show guide in itself (£5) is like a craft magazine, with some cool tutorials in there – worth a buy!
Further up the field, Etsy Business School were on hand with a series of talks on how to set up an online shop, how to get the most out of social media, and how to take beautiful product photography. Although I blog and craft for fun right now, it was great to see so many people with a keen interest in selling and promoting their wares. I also fell in love with Etsy shop Neon LDN.
Unlike Hobbycrafts, the fair was also attended by brands who did a great job of engaging the crafting audience. LUSH, for example, had an on-stand fresh flower hair artist, Harriet Parry, who taught visitors how to create fresh flower floral hair pieces using beautiful flowers, as used in LUSH products. As you’d expect, the stall smelt great, and everyone left looking great too.
I knew in advance of the show that I had better take a lot of cash, as I had a sixth-sense that there would be some amazing wares to buy. I wasn’t wrong. I left the show with a bag full of cotton from Sconch, pom pom makers, and a super-cool tool called a gyro-cut, which is effectively a scalpol, but that you can create effortless curves with. Again, the mind boggles!
Overall, there was a lovely, chilled out atmosphere all day. The fact that the workshops were ticketed meant that there was no competitive pushing or shoving, and everyone was helpful, like-minded and supportive. All in all, we had a really great day out that has given me the confidence to pick up some new crafts, affirming the event slogan – “Everyone has a craft they can do!”
Considering that we attended the first day of the first ever show, my sentiment is overwhelmingly positive. I think it will be onwards and upwards for Kirstie’s show next year, and no doubt the exhibitors will have some learnings to take forwards to make it even bigger and better. It really was a fabulous job done by all, and a very enjoyable day – as Kirstie would call it, ‘a triumph‘.
If you plan on going next year, my advice would be to take lots of cash (I had to sit down for a good ten minutes working out if I had lost some money or spent it – I had spent it), and do come prepared for the elements. As with the Hampton Court Flower Show, with the show taking place outdoors, you are of course slightly reliant on the weather, so be prepared for rain or shine!
Same time next year, Kirstie? Pretty please!