The Knitting And Stitching Show – Alexandra Palace October 2017

The Knitting and Stitching show held at Alexandra Palace in northĀ London every October is probably the largest sewing exhibition on the UK calendar, and it’s been running for many, MANY years. I’ve been going since I was a little girl – and I’m now in my 30’s so you do the math šŸ™‚

It’s also branched out into a ‘Spring’ Knitting and Stitching show which is held at Olympia every MarchĀ (my review of last year’s event is here, if you’re interested), but all in allĀ it’s pretty much the same show but at a different venue. I’ve been going to the autumn show for a really long time, and have slowly but surely become less excited about it. Read on to get the full lowdown.

Opening hours, ticket prices and getting there

The Knitting and Stitching show used to be held over four days, Thursday-Sunday, but it’s now been extended to five days Wednesday-Sunday. Opening hours are 10am till 5.30pm (7pm Thursday and 5pm Sunday) so you’ve got plenty of time to take it all in.

Ticket prices are:

One day ticket: Ā£14.50 advanceĀ / Ā£17.00 on the doorĀ / VIP Ā£29

Two day ticket: Ā£24.00 advance / VIP Ā£44.00

Charged on top of these rates is a Ā£1.50 booking fee per transaction for booking online in advance. You can usually find a discount code kicking aboutĀ online though which will often knock out the bookingĀ fee plus a little bit more.Ā If you’ve been before, beware that they’ve changed the tickets –Ā previously, you could book a one day ticket and go on whichever day took your fancy at the time. This year you have to specify the day you wish to go and buy a ticket for that particular day – so make sure you finalise your plans before booking!

Many coach companies do organised trips to this event if you’re not local, we’re in London so we get the overground rail (from Moorgate this year, though last year we went from King’s Cross) in to Alexandra Palace station and then walk up the hill. There are free shuttle buses that run from the car parks up the hill, or you can get London bus number W3Ā (if you’re coming from out-of-town, the buses are Ā£1.50 per journey and payment is byĀ contactless only, you can’t pay by cash).

The venue

We went on the Friday, and arrived early in the afternoon. There was no queue to get in for us, though I saw on Instagram that people arriving for opening time on the Saturday were queuing right around the building!

Once inside the Palm Court entrance, you had the usual affair – cloakroom to store coats and bags if you wanted, people selling show guides, and a little cafĆ© area.

You head on over to the guysĀ taking tickets, and thenĀ walk down the entrance hall which this year displayed some beautiful embroidered handbags.

Toilets and refreshments

The toilets just off the main hall, both female and male, are up a couple of flights of stairs – those that are less mobile might need to bear this in mind as I saw a few ladies struggling up the stairs. There are some accessible toilets though, but you may need to ask for the key.

There’s a few options for grabbing some lunch within the hall itself – but be warned, it’s a tad on the pricey side, as I’m sure you would expect. The majority of people I saw took a packed lunch with them and just found a little spot to rest for a few minutes – if you’re lucky you can snaffle a table, but you’ve really got to be lucky and to be honest you’ll probably end up sitting on the floor.

most importantly… the shopping potential

I do like to visit this show every year, but it’s not amazing. I think it’s too varied – it covers so many different crafts that the stalls-per-craft ratio is really low. If you’re going shopping with a particular craft in mind, eg you’re a knitter looking for wool, you’re going to pass by a lot of the stalls.

Having said that, it’s lovely to be able to go and visit a number of sellers in one place, that might be otherwise geographically spaced out throughout the country. And of course it’s always good to be able to see and feel fabrics and materials before committing to buy, as I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s been caught out with online purchases not being quite as expected.

It’s a little bit dangerous for those of us that are already time-pressed for the hobbies we already have, as there’s a fair few nice things around that try really hard to lure you in to taking up yet another hobby… I was almostĀ persuaded by the beautiful beaded necklace kitsĀ from Spellbound Bead Co – I mean, how pretty are these?!

 

To give you an idea of size, in the main hall there were 15 aisles to walk down, each with a row of between 5 and 8 stalls on either side. There was also two smaller halls branching off from this, but these contained a mixture of stalls and exhibitions/cafƩ area.

Courses and extras

The Cocktail Hour sew along was heavily promoted by Vogue Patterns, and they were to host a real ‘cocktail hour’ at the show on the Thursday where people would wear their handmadeĀ outfit and have a drink and a natter. This was cancelled at Alexandra Palace, but is still (for now) going ahead at Harrogate. I personally wasn’t participating in this, but I imagine it was a real disappointment for people who had spent time working on their outfit and looking forward to the event.

Sew Today hosted a ‘pattern classroom’ with lessons covering a wide range of popular topics. There were also lots of paid courses available to book on the show’s website, but be quick – a lot of them were sold out by the time I looked!

There was a VIP seating area within the show, which you have to pay extra for by way of the VIP ticket price. This is a separate area with lots of tables and chairs in it so if you’ve had a hard day’s shopping you can actually have somewhere to sit down –Ā if you’re willing to pay for it. I personally have never paid the extra, but then I’m quite happy to sit on the floor somewhere for a few minutes, or even perch outside to enjoy the lovely view over the city.

In summary…

Obviously, my views of the Knitting and Stitching show are biased towards dressmaking (mainly) and knitting (a littleĀ  bit), but in all honesty I’m not really sure who the show is aimed at – it covers so many different crafts, I feel like it’s lost it’s identity.Ā It’s almost like they should split the show up intoĀ a fewĀ separate events, so thatĀ each oneĀ is a little bit more focussed on a few less things, with more exhibitors of that genre. It’s kind of like ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. It’s the KNITTING and STITCHING show – and a fair few of the stalls fell in to neither category. Especially the factory-made leather bag stalls that I saw at least two of.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (because I say this about EVERY show I go to), they really should not allow Dog’s Trust and Cats Protection to have stalls at these shows. I don’t wish to be called out to as I walk past the stand asking if I’m a dog lover and then do I want to sponsor a dog. No, I want to walk round the show in peace, thank you. It’s like being hassled by charity collectors in the street. I heard on the grapevine that the event organisers still had stands available in the days leading up to the event. If they are struggling to sell all the stands to craft-related vendors, perhaps they should look at WHY. Are the stands too expensive for sellers to actually make any worthwhileĀ profit? Is committing to five days too much for some smaller businesses?

For a long time, this show has been marketed as the premier sewing event in the UK – but its got some SERIOUS competition now from the Sewing Bee Live, which was awesome and very well received by the sewing community (review here!). This year, the Sewing Bee was held at the end of September, just a few weeks before the Knitting and Stitching Show – I hear that for next year they are planning on moving it to June. This would make sense, because there’s hardly anything in between the Spring Knitting and Stitching show in March and this show in October – it’s a little bit weird to have nothing for seven months and then have two massive events within a few weeks of each other.

I did hear one stall holderĀ say that they thought theĀ Knitting and Stitching show had suffered visitor-number wiseĀ this year because of the Sewing Bee. Perhaps this is the competition that is needed in order for the Knitting and Stitching show to up it’s game and shake things up a bit, rather than relying on footfall and ticket sales just because it’s gone unchallenged for so long.

Next year will certainly be an interesting one, to see how or whether this show changes because of the newcomer.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the goodies that were available at the show… if you went, I’d love to hear what you thought of it – whether you went as a first-timer, or a long-timer!

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28 Comments

  1. Janey
    October 19, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Hey! Love your write up and totally agree! I went on Saturday and it was super busy! This was my first visit to this show and had I known how long it would take me to get to Ally Pally from Kent, I might have thought twice! I was a class Angel for two of the workshops and so my viewing and shopping time was seriously curtailed as they both overran! It was so overwhelming and hard to find the stuff I actually wanted to look at in my 40 minutesā€™ shopping time! I was also at the GBSBL and it was much more streamlined and accessible!

    • Sarah
      October 19, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      We made the mistake of going on Saturday last year šŸ˜‰ Weekdays only from now on, even if it means booking the day off work!! We too are South-East and it is a bit of a mission getting all the way through London and out the other side. I did very much prefer the Sewing Bee. Did you buy anything in the end, with your limited shopping time? Do you think you’ll go back again next year or in the Spring?

      • Janey
        October 23, 2017 / 6:19 am

        I scored some tweed to make a wrap, (I canā€™t bear wearing coats!) a pompon maker and a knitting kit for a purrmaid so not a total disaster!! I think Iā€™ll skip it next year, getting there is just too awful and just do the sewing bee, which I think is going to be earlier. Depends where they decide to hold it! But definitely will try a week day!!

        • Sarah
          October 24, 2017 / 8:05 am

          At least you got some good stuff so the trip wasn’t a total washout. What is a purrmaid??? Sounds very interesting, I’m guessing there’s cats and mermaids involved lol. Like you I think I’ve had enough of the K&S show now and will definitely head to the Sewing Bee instead. They are holding it in June so I hear, not sure on venue yet but given the interest they had last year I’m hoping they are going for a larger venue next time! Then it can hold even MORE stalls!

  2. Pam Bailey
    October 19, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    I think I will always have a lovely time at knit and stitch, but like you I do think there was too much filling in with leather bags, cats protection and sweets!!! I saw a stall selling massage things to help sore hands which seemed a bit weird, perhaps not with all the sewing!!! You are right there were stalls up for grabs just the day before. I know some of the traders say the stalls are getting so expensive at these shows so they are unable to make a profit. It would be a great pity if they priced people out of the market.

    • Sarah
      October 19, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      I feel like that’s where they are heading – pricing people out. Especially if visitors go to the Sewing Bee show instead and the sellers can’t recoup their stand fees. It would be really sad to see that, but I think that they’ve been without competition for so long that they kind of got comfy with their status. I’ll probably go again next year, purely out of habit because I’ve been for so many years running now! But I do *really* wish they’d do away with the Cats Protection and all the other stands that are not knitting or stitching related… that’s what annoys me most. You pay enough for the entrance ticket so the organisers should make sure that the exhibitors are selling what you’ve come there to browse.

  3. Sally
    October 19, 2017 / 9:23 pm

    I went this year, last time I went was a few years ago when it was at Excel? I go to the Festival of Quilts every year, generally for 2 or 3 days as it is huge. The K&S show is much smaller than FoQ so perfect for a day out.
    I went this year to try out overlockers so to have all the big name machine companies under one roof was great.
    I agree with you the mix of crafts does mean that several stalls will be of no interest to those going for just knitting or stitching. Having charity stalls, handbags stalls, clothes, jewellery and chocolate stalls was very annoying, but they seemed busy enough so others clearly appreciated them being there.
    I loved the area in side hall where the live demonstrations were, the demos were great and being able to see close ups on the TV meant you didn’t need a front row seat.
    I don’t think I would be tempted to go back to K&S every year, the travel and entrance costs being one factor and the lack of quilting stalls being the other.

    • Sarah
      October 19, 2017 / 9:40 pm

      I’ve never been to the FoQ, it must be absolutely HUGE if you can spend 2/3 days there! I wish there was an equivalent for dressmaking!! These shows do have the advantage of bringing everyone together under one roof, so like you say if you’re looking for an overlocker you can literally walk from one stand to the next and compare machines. How do the ticket prices compare to FoQ? If I had to travel a really long way to get to the Knit and Stitch show then I probably wouldn’t bother every year either, it’s such a shame as it’s the main show of the year and could be something to really look forward to.

  4. cat golden
    October 19, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    woa…who makes that fabric of the cities, the picture of the pillows?
    I assumed this was a knitting show in the beginning. But I can see how it is has no direction…
    Cat

    • Susan Monro
      October 20, 2017 / 7:35 am

      I’m with you Cat – who is the maker or supplier of that dpfabric of the cities?

      • Sarah
        October 20, 2017 / 8:26 am

        They are really beautiful aren’t they! You can buy the stuff to make them at http://www.hannahbass.com šŸ™‚

        • cat
          October 22, 2017 / 9:43 pm

          Thank you!

    • Sarah
      October 20, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Ah, those cushions are beautiful aren’t they! They are actually tapestry you can buy the kits from hannahbass.com šŸ™‚

  5. Anne Styles
    October 19, 2017 / 10:26 pm

    I have been going for years but last year I wasn’t so enthralled and thought twice about going this year. However I did go and like others thought it lacked purpose and a lot of people I normally shop with were missing. Talking to Rosenbergs at their monthly sale at Trumpington on Weds they said how much the cost had gone up for the stalls this year and that five days was hard. Apparently they are going back to four days next year. Not sure I shall bother again, apart from the bag and clothes stall I got rather fed up with being knocked and bruised by backpacks, walkers and wheelchairs. That may sound mean but sometimes it felt as if the able bodied were being penalised just because we don’t move out f the way fast enough!

    • Sarah
      October 20, 2017 / 8:09 am

      Really interesting to hear your thoughts as a fellow long-timer Anne… I think a lot of people are now thinking twice about going. You’ve summed it up perfectly – it lacked purpose. I did wonder whether the stall cost had increased now that it’s a five day show, and five days is a really long time to do a show for, especially when shopper numbers are declining and there’s a risk that the stall fee might not even be recovered. I will definitely be seriously considering whether I go next year, which is really sad because I’ve been every October for I don’t know how long. No I don’t think you sound mean at all – I actually had to jump out of the way of a mobility scooter that was charging down one of the aisles!

  6. Gillian Brown
    October 19, 2017 / 10:59 pm

    I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show on the Wednesday. My second visit as I also went last year. I live in Norfolk and travel to the show with a local coach company. They had one coach going on the Wednesday and two on the Saturday, all fully booked so the show is popular here. They had, as far as I know, no trip to the Sewing Bee Show.

    My interest is sewing. I do not knit. I like the opportunity to browse the stalls for supplies and get to find suppliers I have never heard of. I donā€™t book any of the workshops. Travelling from Norfolk by coach means that I have no control over arrival time and there was a queue outside the building. I put this down to the bag searches in place this year. I did sit and watch Wendy Gardiner demonstrating how to make a simple make-up bag. Visiting alone (none of my friends are interested in sewing) I took a packed lunch as I know from experience that there is a lack of seating and I have nobody to save me a seat or look after my bags while I buy refreshments. I really donā€™t mind having a few ā€œdifferentā€ stalls so long as the majority are related to sewing or knitting.

    Overall, I enjoyed the show. It gives me a day out browsing sewing supplies which makes me happy. šŸ˜Š

    • Sarah
      October 20, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Ah, you’re from Norfolk – I’m originally from Suffolk! When I was younger me and my Mum used to get the coach there too, like you say the trips were always fully booked and very popular. Perhaps the coach companies are waiting to see how well the Sewing Bee did before committing to laying on coaches etc – maybe next year? That’s why I keep going back year on year – because at the end of the day, like you say, it’s a day out browsing sewing supplies. I don’t usually come back with much though, sadly. Ah, yes I forgot that the bag searches were new this year and you’re correct that this was probably the cause of the queues. If you get the chance next year, I’d definitely go to the Sewing Bee show if you’re able – there were SO many sewing stalls! Did you find it busy on the Wednesday? On the Friday it was pretty quiet.

      • Gillian Brown
        October 21, 2017 / 8:42 am

        Wednesday did seem quiet but easier to browse.

  7. October 20, 2017 / 5:09 am

    Well I’ve never been tempted, and now even less so! As I assumed, way too expensive, way too unfocussed. I’m only interested in dressmaking, quilts are nice to look at but I wouldn’t be bothered to go to a whole show of them either…as for all the other stuff, meh, not my thing either. I’ll stick with online and jaunts into Brum I think!

    • Sarah
      October 20, 2017 / 8:21 am

      Yeah, I wouldn’t bother making the trip. You’ve got more choice on the markets near you! It’s pretty to look at, but not worth a long train journey and an expensive entry ticket šŸ™

  8. October 20, 2017 / 7:55 am

    I went to the one in Ireland for the first time last year, as I wanted to pick up a dressmaking shears and earnest wright were to have a stall so I wanted to try theres (I have been looking for a proper shears for the past few years). I never felt the need to go before as I figured it was a selling show and all stalls – and I generally have what I need. the one in Ireland last year was smaller due to sterling exchange. The stalls were arranged higgledy piggeldy and once I got my shears and some discounted thread I was done. Its seems a real money event (I believe stalls cost a fair bit) and everything is squished. I had also gone up to see if there was anything ‘new’ and was looking for the more unusual like arm knitting yarn or handbag supplies I have to buy on etsy – but everything seemed the same as I could pick up most places…. I am delighted to have gotten the shears tho!

    • Sarah
      October 20, 2017 / 8:32 am

      Yay for getting the awesome shears! That’s the one good point of the show, you can get all the sellers in one place so if you’re looking for a sewing machine/overlocker/scissors etc you can see most brands all under one roof. There was no order to the stalls in London either… if you wanted all the knitting stalls you had to walk round all three halls to find them! Yes I think the stalls are very expensive, and like Anne said below the cost seems to have been increased because the show is now five days. I really don’t know why they have increased it to five days – its WAY too long for such a small event. I always like looking for the unusual things, but agree that there was nothing ‘new’ – I would have loved to have seen some Brooklyn Tweed yarn (I love that stuff!) or even some stretch lycra fabrics (I make bras from this) – my husband has just started dabbling in leather bag making but there were no decent supplies available for that either. At least you got your shears and that made the day worthwhile! šŸ™‚

  9. Ann
    October 20, 2017 / 8:14 am

    I went to the K & S show for the first time this year, and I definitely won’t be going again either!
    I went on the Saturday and it was a case of way too many people crammed into small spaces. It was virtually impossible to see anything on the stalls as most were two people deep. Walking around was difficult due to the crowds and finding a table to sit down for drink/food was impossible. If the “big” shows like the Ideal Home Show can manage to keep control of the numbers admitted, then I fail to see why the K & S Show failed so miserably.
    Altogether a ghastly experience.

    • Sarah
      October 21, 2017 / 10:32 pm

      Ah, sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience, especially as it was the first time you’ve visited! I hope you didn’t have a long journey to get there. We’ve been on a Saturday before and it’s usually really busy, like you say you can’t even get to the stalls through the people. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to get a table for lunch, it’s always a packed lunch sat on the floor. They used to have a little seating area for packed lunches but this seemed to disappear a couple of years back. I’m really thinking twice about going next year šŸ™

  10. Bren Holmes
    October 20, 2017 / 9:52 am

    I’ve been visiting the K&S show every year for a few years now; I go on the coach trip organised by my local quilting shop. I was underwhelmed this year and agree that the show has lost its way. I object to the stall selling nail paraphernalia for a start! I did purchase a few things that I’d have otherwise ordered online, thereby saving the postage costs, but that was more than outweighed by the cost of the trip. The stalls have become very expensive for the businesses, so many of the smaller enterprises have been priced out. It was the small, newer, businesses that I particularly wanted to see. One of the former stallholders I met at a workshop told me last year that she could no longer afford the exorbitant costs that are skewed towards new entrants to the show to the detriment of those of longer standing, but still small. This is leading to a lack of variety for me, as I like to be introduced to new ideas within the fields of knitting and stitching. I probably won’t bother next year. I will, however, try the GBSBL

    • Sarah
      October 21, 2017 / 3:38 pm

      Ah, yeah those stalls that are totally unrelated really annoy me! You pay a fee to get in, so I expect to see stalls that are related to the theme of the show. You’re right that the stall prices are totally out of reach for the smaller indie businesses, which like you would be the ones that I would want to see. I too bought a few things, saving postage costs – but nothing exciting, and the entrance ticket price was definitely more than the postage I saved! I’m looking forward to next year’s GBSB, I hope they increase the size of it based on this year’s success!

  11. October 20, 2017 / 9:58 am

    I agree with your sentiments about who the show is aimed at. I went last year and as a (novice) dressmaker I felt it was more knitting and crafts than dressmaking related stalls. I went to the Sewing Bee and that – although not as big – was aimed much towards our market and I loved that.
    Earlier in the year there was also the Hobby and Craft (name?) show at London Excel which I felt is pretty much like the Knitting and Stitching show but half the price for the same stalls.
    Can I also add for all of these how terrible the websites are, especially those which have workshops, I find it really frustrating to navigate and use! Is it just me?

    • Sarah
      October 21, 2017 / 3:40 pm

      It’s not just you! I tried to browse the classes, based on the day/time and type of craft, but found that I had to wade through everything in order to pick out ones that might be suitable. I gave up in the end! I too went to the Stiching, Sewing and Hobbycrafts show – it’s coming up again next month, which I’ll probably nip to but only because it’s in my end of town. I wouldn’t make a long journey to get to it. I too loved the Sewing Bee show and am really excited for it next year!!

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