Well, I survived The Big Smoke! Only just though, I can barely walk today. Not a usual reaction to a day out in London but probably par for the course at the moment. I think I need some vitamins, or a gin and tonic, or both.
The journey itself was remarkably straightforward. Announcements are sometimes a worry, especially when the other passengers stop what they're doing, listen intently and then frown. For me the announcements may as well be in Dutch. Years ago, on a train journey, an announcement was made and everyone started getting off! I didn't have a clue what had been said, it could have been a bomb scare for all I knew. I started to look for someone in uniform and then realised that they were all getting onto another train. So I just followed. Then half way through that journey they started talking amongst themselves about which half of the train they were supposed to be in! Oh bother! Actually that wasn't the word I was thinking of at the time. Through sheer luck I was on the right half of the train. Phew. It's probably about time they started using those running light display things for important messages. Equal access and all that.
It was a relief to be meeting up with friends for the tube part of the route. It's been a while since I was last in London and Kings Cross has changed beyond recognition. The last part was in a red double decker bus especially for Alexander Palace shows.
I know this is slightly un-pc but when I return to my native South I always gain a little hearing back. I no longer have to struggle to both hear and interpret an accent that I have not grown up with. It's so much less tiring on my brain and my eyes. Having said that, groups and with shed loads of background noise are always pretty tricky.
Anyway, on to the show stuff. Wow! This was my first visit and it was so hot and busy that I abandoned any thoughts of taking photos for my blog. I took one or two and then realised it was going to be hard work. I may post those yet if my iPod starts communicating with my iPad like it is supposed to do.
I didn't plan what to see or what to buy. For a first visit I thought I'd just wander and see what caught my eye. It was so nice to see familiar faces. Things I've read about on blogs or seen in magazines. Toft for instance, and Edwards Menagerie, they were all dangling down from the stand waiting to be squished and admired. Very expensive though!
Locally I don't think we are well set up for wool. It's easy to get hold of the run of the mill stuff but I'd have to go to another major city to see more British Wools and undyed wool. Thankfully there were lots of stalls selling British Wool at the show. Some of the show prices didn't look very inviting so I jotted down a few names and will order from their websites as and when I have a requirement.
Jamiesons was a lovely stand. Lots caught my eye and they do woven fabric too. I now have one of their crochet bag kits on my wish list which I think could be lined with one of their tweedy Shetland wool fabrics.
Piiku was a name that I'd not heard of before. The name of the company is an old sheep calling, to bring the sheep in at the end of the day. They are based in Finland and the two women serving were very friendly and polite, they were rushed off their feet too. They sell roving, felt pieces, felt... They have a website that needs clearer photos of what they sell, but it's lovely stuff in all colours of the rainbow. I chose three undyed shades of fleece suitable for spinning (only £2.30 each). M thought I might like a drop spindle for my birthday but it turns out I may be able to borrow one just to see if I can get the hang of it. I bought some of their little felt pieces too, they look like pebbles. One of the women was wearing a necklace made from them and they also had a lovely mat made using the pieces. You could trim a scarf with them, use them for fake buttons, all sorts really. I like the idea of bracelets, because bracelets go with everything!
Drops was another name that I've known about for years but never actually seen or handled. They had a modest stall with several lovely people serving. Such reasonable prices for such a lovely product. By this time I'd seen some lovely shawls, triangular scarves, wristwarmers etc done in beautifully understated stitches, in natural tones with gorgeous colour combinations. The wools displayed with them though were hideously expensive so I gravitated to the Drops stand to buy equivalents. Hence my purchase of just two of their alpaca four ply balls. Only £3 each and all that was required for a triangular scarf made using a slightly larger hook than suggested on the ball band, a simple stitch and fat and thin stripes. I hope I can pull it off!
I also bought some of their aran weight wool, Alaska. I really love 100% wool! It smells divine and like I've said before I'm lucky to be able to wear it next to my skin without a problem. I bought four in mustard and two in charcoal with fingerless mitts in mind. I haven't made any for a while and yet we all wear them. Ella was particularly approving of the mustard colour! They were only £1.60 each!
I like the fact that Drops have such an enormous online resource for free patterns. They have some great designs. Most probably something for everyone.
Collinette do the most amazing arty yarns and are hard to find up here. The two hanks I bought are aran weight again, this is the weight I find most comfortable to work with. The shade is called 'Thunder', it's hand dyed and made in Wales. I'm thinking linen stitch cowl for these. I wouldn't normally be so extravagant but it was a birthday treat and there was no point coming home with armfuls of acrylic!
I bought a Tunisian crochet hook from The Knitting Gift Shop. I've never tried Tunisian crochet but I fancy a go. They also had ceramic yarn bowls and wooden wool stands. There weren't any (as far as I know) stands dedicated to crochet alone but that didn't matter because the whole show was so inspiring and full of wool!
Texere Yarns had quite a bit of crochet going on for their display and they sold Axminster wool for making sturdy crochet bags. Tempting but I thought it would be a bit unkind on the hands.
It was fascinating to see student work from a textile course too. I wished Ella had been able to come because I think she would have been interested. It was more art than textile and that's what I think she would have been inspired by.
I would have to write for hours to explain who else was there and what else was fascinating. There were lots of oversized knitting needles and crochet hooks. I fancied one of the broom handle sized hooks but it was £20! What a wool eater too! The rugs they made were fabulous though.
I haven't been able to make these company names into links using blogger on an iPad but they are very easy to find by googling. It was so valuable to go and see ranges of wool I'd only seen on websites. You get a feel for the product (thank goodness I didn't buy nettle or hemp online, it was so scratchy and yet the description used the word 'soft'!) and you also get a feel for the people behind the names.
If I were to go again I might go with a shopping list. Some of the prices were clearly a good deal whereas others were not at all. It would pay to do some research on product ranges/prices beforehand if you have a shopping list. I would also jot down all the names I particularly wanted to see. I know I missed a few yesterday just based on bags I saw with company names. If you have never been and are going, take plenty of bottled water. It's crowded, it's hot and there are not enough places to sit down and rest. If I hadn't taken water I would have passed out, I'm sure! A small rucksack is the perfect way to carry your essentials and even better if you can put your purchases in it. I took my own food mainly because I can't eat certain things but the food queues were long and mostly the cafes were expensive.
I forgot to mention that there was plenty of fabric for sale, sewing machines, displays of quilts, dressmaking supplies and patterns, embroidery, cross stitch and tapestry. Buttons, threads, appliqué, you name it, it was there for the stitching side of things. Thank goodness I can't sew!
I'm buzzing with woolly ideas. I've made loads of new discoveries. I had a lovely day out with friends. I came home with some goodies. It was one of the best birthday presents I've ever had, thanks Mum!