The Stitching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show was held over 20th – 22nd April at the Excel centre in East London. Ticket prices were £8 in advance or £10 on the door and the show was open from 10am to 4:30pm on the Thursday/Friday and until 5pm on the Saturday. I have attended this show previously and because of this received two complimentary tickets in the mail, and as I entered the hall I saw that lots of others had received the same free tickets. Immediately this struck me as odd – were visitor numbers so small that they have had to resort to giving away free tickets? Why? Was this a warning sign? It turns out it was.
The show was hosted in the Excel the same time as a gaming exhibition and also the expo for the London Marathon – the race was the day after. So naturally the centre, and all the trains heading towards it, were chaos.
The show was held in hall S9, which despite being a hall of quite some size, only allowed the craft show to take up about two-thirds of it while the rest remained empty. Of the area that the show occupied, about half of this was taken up by the refreshment area and workshop/craft displays, leaving the other half for actual stalls. Disappointingly, there were only five aisles to walk down, with maybe 10 stalls down along each side. I was definitely expecting a greater number of stalls.
The layout felt so cramped, the aisles were so narrow you could hardly move, and several times I was just standing in the middle of the aisle waiting to walk down further but couldn’t get anywhere. This did not make for an enjoyable experience, and for my husband who doesn’t like crowds it became almost unbearable.
Despite the small number of stalls, there were still a handful that were totally unrelated to stitching, sewing, or hobby crafts. These annoy me at the best of times at shows like these – you’ve paid your ticket price to visit stalls that are directly related to the subject of the show, if you wanted to buy sweets you could go to any high street for free. The same goes for massage cushions. There were also a couple of ready-to-wear stalls selling bags and ladies clothing. Given the small size of this show, there really was no room for stalls like these – I would definitely have preferred to have a handful more craft stalls instead.
There was only one stall selling food and drink – but to be fair, there were several cafes literally just outside the hall where you could grab lunch or a drink. There was a guy stamping people’s hands so that you could come and go from the hall as you pleased, so it was quite easy to nip out and get lunch and return back to the show. However because there were so many other things going on in the Excel at the same time, these were so busy you would have to be really lucky to get a seat. Below we have the seating area within the exhibition hall, and the very long queue for a cuppa…
Bearing in mind that the show covered a lot of crafts, and the fact that there were not a lot of stalls in total, if you were going with focus on one particular craft you would have been in and out of the hall very quickly. I would say there were maybe five quilting stalls, a couple of knitting ones, and the rest were a total variety of pincraft, beading, ribbon craft, wire craft.
One thing I did notice at the show was a lack of ‘quality’ wools – I don’t think there was a single ball of fibre at this show that was made of actual wool. It was all acrylic and novelty wools. If you are a serious knitter looking to make quality garments, this is not your place to come to buy your materials. There was however a good selection of knitting haberdashery.
There were a handful of workshops going on, dotted amongst the stalls and they seemed to be quite popular. There was a small additional charge to participate in these and you had to pre-book in advance, which is usual practice.
At the back of the hall was a small exhibition area where you could view completed works such as quilts, tapestries and outfits that features in The King’s Speech.
My only purchases from the show were four quilting cottons (of as yet undecided fate) that I bought because I thought they were pretty rather than for actual need, and a few metres of an embroidered denim that will be turned into a summer dress. I saw no stands selling sewing notions such as Gutermann threads, or zips, or buttons.
If you live close-ish (ie within half an hour’s easy travel), and you can get your hands on a free/discounted ticket, and have nothing better to do, it’s worth a visit to wander round. I got round the whole thing in just over an hour.
If you’re paying full price for your ticket, or you’re travelling a considerable distance to get there, don’t bother. Save yourself for one of the Knitting and Stitching Shows instead – the ticket price is only a couple of pounds more but the size and quality of the exhibition increases dramatically.
Compared to the other London shows, this is tiny, and there really is no comparison to the other major players in the London craft show world. If you’re going on a hardcore mission to buy craft supplies, you will likely find yourself coming away disappointed and/or empty-handed.
Sadly, I doubt I’ll returning again.
Did you attend the show? What were your thoughts on it as either a first-time visitor or returning one?