The big craft shows

Craft shows in the UK – diary dates for the big shows in 2015

In my last post, I wrote about some of the smaller, individual and independent craft shows I have visited and others I’d like to visit. In this post, I’m covering UK craft events organised by bigger organisations. Again, I have included their dates, locations and links to websites.

Up-to-date details of UK yarn and fibre festivals are here.

Knitting and Stitching Shows

5-8 March 2015
Olympia Central, London

7-11 October 2015
Alexandra Palace, London

12-15 November 2015
Simmonscourt, RDS, Dublin

26-29 November 2015
Harrogate International Centre

The four Knitting and Stitching Shows are all organised by Upper Street Events. These shows have the same format but are not identical. Many textile crafts are covered. There are exhibitions, workshops and traders; some of the exhibitions will be at all four shows, some are not. Likewise, some traders will be at all four events, but some only attend one or two.

These shows are big events. Their strength is the quality of the exhibitions and the sheer number of traders. There is a lot to see in a single day. You have to be quite systematic to see everything and if you are planning on going to a workshop, you may want to go for two days. The weakness of these shows is the cost of attending for traders so that many smaller traders cannot justify going to more than one event. That said, they are certainly worth visiting and you will leave inspired.

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show

The Spring Knitting and Stitching Show is relatively small (compared to Alexandra Palace). It takes place at Olympia in London; it is easy and probably less stressful to travel there by public transport. Take a look at my blog posts about the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show 2014 and the exhibitions at that show.

Work by the finalists of the National Fashion Textiles Competition (open to 16–18-year-olds) was on display including this ‘Silk Dress inspired by the Natural World’ by Sophie Prentice, the winner of the competition.

Crochet animals on Toft Alpaca stand

The show stayed open until 7 pm on the first day. This gave me ample time to see the exhibitions, teach a couple of workshops and wander around the trade stands. I loved these cuties on Toft Alpaca’s stand.

The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace

The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace is the biggest of these shows. There are more exhibitions and traders than at the Spring show. One of my favourite exhibitions The Knitted Textile Awards 2014 organised by the UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA). There are two categories: Graduate and Open. Selected work is shown at Alexandra Palace and Harrogate; the winners are announced at Harrogate. Here are a couple of entries in the Graduate Category.

This joyful work is by Amy Green from the University of Huddersfield. Amy’s collection is called Eclectic Vibes and was inspired by natural flora, Romany gipsy cultures and folkloric patterning. She experimented with unusual knitting techniques to combine colour with texture.

Display of brightly coloured knitted fabrics
Cream lace knitted dress

In total contrast, this elegant, fine machine-knitted dress is by Ilona Karkla from Kingston University. Ilona worked with a beige colour palette inspired by the colours of an owl and chose lace patterns similar to feathers.

The Knitting and Stitching Show at Harrogate

My favourite Knitting and Stitching Show is the one in Harrogate. For Mr BK and me, the Christmas season begins when we visit this show. Victorian’s invented most of our modern Christmas ‘traditions’ and since Harrogate has many Victorian buildings it looks so Christmasy when decorated with coloured lights and decorations. And one year, we even got snowed in! Mr BK enjoys bimbling around the town and I have a wonderful time at the show!

I mentioned earlier that the winners of The Knitted Textile Awards 2014 are announced at the Harrogate show. Here are the winning entries of the Open Category.

Knitted dog's head
Large knitted bear wearing a Fair Isle waistcoat

Nicky Barfoot‘s three knitted dog’s heads won the Gold Award in the Open Category. She used colour and texture to create their distinctive personalities, then stuffed and mounted them; a playful take on the world of taxidermy!

Meet Willoughby Brown by Heather Drage. He is over four feet tall, made from sculpted chicken wire covered with papier-mâché, then covered in knitted fur. Heather won the Silver Award in the Open Category.

Festival of Quilts

6-9 August 2015
Halls 7-9, NEC, Birmingham

I visited The Festival of Quilts for the first time last year. It is also organised by Upper Street Events and like most events at the NEC, it is huge! It is a real showcase for any craft used to make quilts such as patchwork, applique, quilting, embroidery and multi-media.

The quilt galleries are professionally curated and showcase the work of well known international quilt artists and groups. The work is inspiring whether you quilt or not!

Blue Harbour by Alicia Merrett)

This quilt, ‘Blue Harbour’ is by Alicia Merrett from her exhibition ‘Mapping the Imagination’. Her wonderfully colourful work was inspired by maps; I love the concept and its execution.

The quilt competition categories are Fine Art Quilt Masters; The Quilter’s Guild Challenge; My First Quilt; Art Quilts; Contemporary Quilts; Traditional Quilts; Group Quilts; Two Person Quilts; Pictorial Quilts; Miniature Quilts; Quilt Creations; Young Quilter/ Embroiderer; Schools & Groups of Young Quilters. If you are interested in entering any of these categories take a look at the criteria.

Read my blog post about the Festival of Quilts in 2014.

Quilts UK

14 – 17 May 2015
Three Counties Showground, Malvern

Aesculus x carnea, Red Horse Chestnut

May means Malvern since I’ve been visiting Quilts UK for many years. Malvern is another picturesque town in a beautiful area. Like Harrogate, it is a Victorian Spa town, and like Harrogate, it has large grassy commons alongside. And in May the Chestnut trees and Red Buckeye (a close relative) are in full bloom!

At Quilts UK you may take photos, but not publish them, so if you want to see the quilts there you must visit. Again this event showcases crafts used in quilt making. Now, if the Festival of Quilts sounds a bit overwhelming Quilts UK may suit you better. It’s smaller and in a calm location at the foot of the Malvern Hills. Again there are quilt exhibitions and competitions which include: Theme (which will be “A Symphony of Colour” this year), bed quilts, large wall hangings, small wall hangings, journal quilts and feature displays of work by individual quilters or groups of quilters.  Read my blog post about Quilts UK 2014.

Quilts UK is organised by Grosvenor Shows who also organise the following quilt shows – the Spring Quilt Festivals at Ardingly, Edinburgh, Duxford and Exeter; Springfields Quilt Show, Spalding; the National Quilt Championships, Sandown Exhibition Centre; the Great Northern Needlecraft and Quilt Shows, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate; the Scottish Quilt Championships, Royal Highland Showground, Edinburgh; the Kent Autumn Quilt Festival, Kent Showground, Maidstone, Kent; and the Autumn Quilt Festivals at Duxford and Malvern.

Hobby Crafts • Art Materials – Live • Crafts for Christmas • Cake International

5-8 November 2015
NEC, Birmingham

A few years ago I visited this event and decided that it wasn’t for me. Most of the traders at Hobbycrafts were selling things for card making and scrapbooking. There were lots of stamps, punches, dies and card toppers. Now I like card making, but I like to make my own stamps rather than use someone else’s design. And if I want to sell my cards, I know there will be no copyright issues. So, most of the products on sale were not for me.

There are workshops; I did a mini-workshop where I used a die cutting machine for the first time. This was easy to use, but again you have to buy dies rather than create your own. Then, as I was walking around, I saw an electronic die cutting machine, possibly Cricut, which could be connected to a computer, so that you can print and cut your own designs. What a fabulous idea! Did I buy one? Well, no because I don’t make enough cards to justify the cost, but I imagine many keen card makers would make good use of one.

With hindsight, I think I would have preferred one of the stitching events organised by ICHF, but I had the time to go to this event so I went.

Other craft events organised by ICHF

  • Cake International and Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts at EventCity, Manchester.
  • Hobbycrafts and Stitching, Sewing & Quilting at the SECC, Glasgow.
  • Fashion, Embroidery & Stitch, Hobbycrafts and Sewing for Pleasure at the NEC, Birmingham.
  • Cake International and Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts and Fashion & Embroidery at ExCel London.
  • Weald of Kent Craft & Design Show at Penshurst Place, Tonbridge.
  • Chilterns Craft & Design Show at Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames.
  • Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts at Westpoint Centre, Exeter.
  • Crafts for Christmas and Hobbycrafts at the SECC, Glasgow.
  • Art Materials – Live, Hobbycrafts and Simply Christmas at ExCel, London.

The Handmade Fair

18-20 September 2015
Hampton Court Palace, Surrey, KT8 9AU

The first Handmade Fair took place in 2014. The tickets are quite expensive but include a workshop and a demonstration. A friend who went had a fabulous time and thought it was good value for money.

I suspect that the Handmade Fair will do well; it is in a great location and it had a lot of publicity because it was “organised” by Kirstie Allsopp who has a big media profile. However, I know a lot of people who are put off by the association with Kirstie; she does give the impression that she is responsible for the current popularity of crafts. Anyone who has been to any of the shows mentioned in this or the previous post will know that these are extremely busy events and have been so for a number of years and that there are more and more craft events every year. Mainstream media does tend to ignore or patronise craft, so it’s great to see Kirstie’s programmes on television, along with The Great British Sewing Bee and Mastercrafts. However, these programmes are there because craft and DIY have become popular, not the other way round.

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