The Knitting and Stitching show held at Alexandra Palace in north 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 🙂
It’s also branched out into a ‘Spring’ Knitting and Stitching show which is held at Olympia every March (my review of last year’s event is here, if you’re interested), but all in all 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: £14.50 advance / £17.00 on the door / VIP £29
Two day ticket: £24.00 advance / VIP £44.00
Charged on top of these rates is a £1.50 booking fee per transaction for booking online in advance. You can usually find a discount code kicking about online though which will often knock out the booking fee plus a little bit more. If you’ve been before, beware that they’ve changed the tickets – 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 W3 (if you’re coming from out-of-town, the buses are £1.50 per journey and payment is by contactless only, you can’t pay by cash).
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 café area.
You head on over to the guys taking tickets, and then 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 almost persuaded by the beautiful beaded necklace kits 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/café 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 handmade 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 – 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.
Obviously, my views of the Knitting and Stitching show are biased towards dressmaking (mainly) and knitting (a little 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. It’s almost like they should split the show up into a few separate events, so that each one 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 worthwhile 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 holder say that they thought the Knitting and Stitching show had suffered visitor-number wise 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!