Saturday 13 October 2018

Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Fair 2018

For all of us in the stitching community there's nothing quite like the big Ally Pally Autumn Fair. There are lots of other craft fairs, but this is the big'un, and I, for one, always feel like I'm missing something if I'm not able to go.

This year I got an early ticket for Thursday morning. I rocked up 5 minutes before the official opening time, and the place was already pretty much full to capacity already. I'm a bad girl who likes to come by car so that she can transport her swag bag (day's shopping ... wicked 😈) home with minimum muscle strain. I was able to find a space in the free car park, but only just ... .

A chum, who trolleyed in on a late ticket that afternoon (after 3 p.m. entry), told me that it was fairly civilised when she was doing the rounds, but I'd have to say it was a bit too much of a push when I was there.

Still - gripes about how many of us there were apart - it was a great morning out.

I loved the menagerie of Toft Crochet Animals in the foyer. They were lovely on so many levels: fabulous muted colour palete, sweet, sweet animals and totally impossible not to smile at. 

As always I was blown away by the skill on display at the Royal College of Needlework stand. Take a look, for example, at this exquisite piece by Millie Byrne: a floral display inspired by the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. 

Or, how about some woolly sushi? This fun piece was made by Sarah-Jane Dennis. 

And then, on another stand, there was this Sprialing Out, Sankey Mandala by Dawn Hemming, which was for sale. Exquisite! I love those colours, and the skull motif. Fabulous crafts(wo)manship, and perfect for Halloween!

There was a stand displaying needlework, crafted in commemoration of the First World War, which contained many tributes that were very personally linked to some of the young men who had fallen in battle. 

This lovely tribute made many of us pause to read and reflect. It was stitched by a lady called Betty Byford, who called in "In Rembrance": In memory of an uncle I never knew. It's so touching to see that a century after his death, he's still being remembered. Poor chap.

And, as always, I came away with my very own bag of treasure. Wanna see some of my buys?

How'd you like this amazing self-striping yarn? Isn't it lovely? It's by Regia, and, without doing anything clever at all, it miraculously knits itself into stripes as you go. I'm in awe. A very nice lady (who was just a normal civilian like myself - and had nothing at all to do with the Regia stand) told me that the trick was do draw out the end from the centre of the ball, and start knitting with it. Then, when you get to sock #2, you make sure that you start off at the same point in the colour-repeat sequence as you did for sock #1, and the two will match - stripe for stripe - perfectly. 

I met a really lovely lady called Sue Hawkins who was selling the most exquisite needlework kits. Her colours are sublime - muted fire colours - worked in stranded cotton on 18 point canvas. I loved absolutely everything she was selling, but in the end managed to settle upon two little kits. I normally work larger stitch canvas (12 point) with tapestry wool, so it'll be interesting to see how my eyes hold up with this challenge. 

There were a number of people selling really exquisite fabrics, but I bagged a couple of metres of these happy alpacas. Aren't they handsome? I'm not totally sure what they're going to end up as, but I'm just loving the tapestry-type texture of the fabric. They came from a company called Fabricking, who operate out of Leicester, but can also be found on eBay. 

I got loads of sewing sundries from the Quilted Bear. They had a huge collection of things that went well beyond the world of quilting into the domain of more general stitchers like myself. I'm always messing around with patterns, so I got a few dressmakers' curve rulers to help my pen flow. I've also been on the hunt for silk pins. I don't sew with silk very often, but I always put anti-static linings in my skirts. My normal pearl-headed, common-garden pins often feel like gateposts with this more fragile silk-like fabric. These babies are only 0.4 mm in diameter - as against a normal pin girth of 0.6/0.7 mm. I think my previous problems may have been made worse by the fact that some of my pins are a bit blunt. Maybe I need to use one of those tomato pin-cushions filled with metal shavings to sharpen them up a bit.

I also bought some thread conditioner. Have you ever used this stuff? Apparently it helps prevent your thread from snagging and knotting. In the old days people would have used beeswax, but I read in a stitching forum that Thread Heaven, a synthetic substitute, was easier to work with. And then I saw another brand, Thread Magic, and bought that too. 

When I'm cutting out pattern pieces I like to weigh the pattern down with curtain weights, and then use a rotary cutter (coupled with my largest cutting mat to save the dining room table 😇) to get an accurate cut-out. I find that the fabric gets less distorted that way than it does when I use pins and conventional scissors. I've been using an Olfa cutter that takes a 45 mm blade for a while now. I like its design and dimensions, which feel very comfortable in my right hand when I'm working. I snagged a replacement straight blade, and another marvellous-looking blade that will produce a pinking shears anti-fray edge.

I salivated over the super-sophisticated sewing machines in the way that is my habit at these events. I've had the same very basic mechanical (Toyota) machine since forever, which has a very limited repertoire of stitches, so I could easily be seduced into upgrading to something computerised. I've been impressed with the reviews for the Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist, but sadly - or perhaps luckily for my bank balance - Singer didn't have that particular model exhibited. Next time ... .

Anyway Ally Pally runs today and tomorrow, and if you find yourself with a few hours to spare it's well worth the effort.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

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