British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2017
This was my view on last Thursday afternoon as I got out of a taxi at Alexandra Palace and looked across the London skyline. I’d travelled down from Warrington earlier that morning to meet up with Lucy, Emma (one of the Yarndale organisers) and Fiona from Yarn Etcto go to the Knitting & Stitching Show and the British Knitting & Crochet Awards presentation. We’d managed to meet up without mishap at King’s Cross Station and after a quick stop at our hotel to drop our bags off, hopped into a black cab for the drive across the city.
It’s quite a view, isn’t it? I like that there’s so much greenery in London, you could be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing but brick and glass here but it isn’t like that at all.
That pointy building over on the right is the Shard and close by are other famous London landmarks that I normally only see in TV programmes or on the news. I always feel as if I’m on a film set when I go to London; I have to make a conscious effort not to walk around with my mouth hanging open like some kind of country bumpkin!
I wrote about Alexandra Palace itself last year when I was here so rather than me repeat myself, have a quick look at last year’s post if you want to know more about the building that the exhibition was being held in. It’s a very grand building and I’m glad that it gets used as much as it does; there’s something going on there all year round.
I do like the grandeur of the entrance hall very much; those palm trees make you realise the sheer scale and engineering brilliance of that glass roof.
It’s completely different inside the exhibition halls, though – I don’t think the Victorians had suspended ceilings quite like that! You can see from this picture that the Knitting & Stitching Show is nothing like Yarndale. No sheep, no pens, and although I recognised some exhibitors from the Yorkshire festival, there were many more that I didn’t know.
On the way into the Show, I stopped by the organising team’s office to say hello (we had spoken beforehand about my visiting) and was given this to wear.
Ha! Me, Press! I did feel a bit of a fraud with it on at first, to be honest, but soon realised that it made a big difference with exhibitors when I was talking to them and taking photos once they knew it was for my blog. You’ll be pleased to know that I resisted the temptation to run up and down the aisles shouting “Hold the front page!”.
So what was there to see at the Show? With any show, we always notice more of what interests us most. One of the main features of the Knitting & Stitching Show is their textile exhibitions, but my attention is always taken by yarn, bright colours and anything to do with animals.
There were lots and lots of felted animals. I’m a
bit of a huge sucker for penguin so I made a beeline for this pretty trio. They were made by Fi Oberon, one of the UK’s leading needle felters, and her stand was full of beautifully lifelike little animals. Sadly, the light in Alexandra Palace isn’t always the best for taking photos and some of the others didn’t turn out so well, but you can see more of her fabulous animals in her book and YouTube video.
There was more felt at Annie Brown‘s stand. Her felt pictures are like watercolours, and are made from fleece sourced from rare breed sheep, some of which are owned by Annie and her husband. It’s only when you go to shows like this one that you see things like this, and it’s only by talking to Annie and her husband that I know about their rare breed sheep, which made me think that coming to shows like this isn’t just about adding to our stashes, it’s about educating ourselves as well. Or that’s my excuse, anyway!
I’m still not convinced that I want to have a go at felting, though – I’d much rather leave it to the experts!
This is more up my street; I am not incompetent with a sewing machine and I like these festive wall hangings.
They remind me of the pictures in the old issues of the McCall’s magazines that I have. I used to spend hours poring through them when I was young; they’re American and seemed to offer a lifestyle so very different to the one that I had. I felt quite nostalgic when I spotted these!
There wasn’t as much hand-dyed yarn as at Yarndale, and there were far more fabric-related exhibits and exhibitors than Yarndale too (which you would expect as this is the Knitting & Stitching Show and Yarndale is about yarn). I do love quilts and patchwork and I have tried this in the past, but I think I am too impatient and fabric is not always as forgiving of impatient people as yarn is, so I am a Quilt Appreciator instead of a Quilt Maker these days.
There was time to say a quick hello to Black Sheep Wools, my local yarn shop who always have a huge stand at these shows, filled to bursting with yarns, blanket packs, their “yarn dive” (whole packs of yarn in an enormous pile to rootle through) and cross stitch kits …
and then it was time for the awards presentation. This was the first speaker – Nicky Jones from the Crafts Council, which is the development agency for contemporary crafts. And that’s the back of Debbie Bliss’s head on the left. That’s when it struck me that I was in a room with some of the most well-known names in the craft industry such as Debbie Bliss, Jane Crowfoot, Lucy Attic … and whilst I have been lucky enough to be in that situation before, it’s certainly not one that I take for granted or have got used to!
The second speaker was Rowena, a volunteer from the charity Knit for Peace. What I found most interesting about her speech was that she said that Knit for Peace recognise that charity knitting is a two-way process – there are the obvious benefits for those who will receive the knitted items, but there are also benefits for those who are doing the knitting in that they feel they are part of something bigger than themselves, they know they are helping someone and it gives them a reason to knit. I know this is the case with the Yarndale Sock Line socks as people have told me so, but there are other charity knits around the year that will also provide the same well-being opportunities, whatever peoples’ views on the charity effort itself, and it’s easy to forget that.
Naturally, I was having such a nice time chatting that I completely forgot to take any more photos during the evening so can’t show you my cheesy grin with my award – we’ll all have to wait until Let’s Knit release the photos! I can show you the award though – third place for Favourite Knitting Blog! I am so pleased with this, I really am!
On the Friday morning, Lucy and I decided to leave the crowds behind (and boy, isn’t London busy?) and we headed past King’s Cross Station to the canal where we could walk all the way to Camden Market. I took this picture because I liked the juxtaposition of the new building with the old gas towers … but as we got closer we realised that the building inside the old circle of the gas tower was new. The iron structure has been kept and the buildings inside have replaced the old structure in a new development called Gasholders, complete with a small park inside one of the structures. This is what I like, finding places like this rather than zooming past in a taxi or on a tube train.
Almost opposite the gasholders was a lock-keeper’s cottage. Old and new on opposite sides of the canal.
A lock is a device used for raising and lowering boats between stretches of water on a canal. The boat goes into the lock on one side of the gate, the gate is closed behind it and then water is drained out of the lock so that the gate on the far side will open and the boat can pass through. It’s quite something to watch a boat going up or down with the water levels at a lock. At one time, a lock keeper would live at the side of the canal lock and would come out to raise and lower the water levels when he was needed (much as petrol pump attendants used to fill up the petrol in your car), but these days the boat owner will open and close the locks themselves (just like we use the petrol pumps ourselves).
We continued walking. It seemed strange to see the brightly painted house boats moored on a canal next to drab concrete buildings. Some had chimneys and bags of coal stacked on the roofs, others had solar panels and bikes strapped to the sides. Lucy is much more familiar with house boats, walking past them most days as she does in Skipton, and we chatted about how cosy (or not) they must be in the winter with a good portion of the boat below the water line.
Believe it or not, these space age buildings are apartments. I’m not sure that I’d like to live somewhere that looked so much like something out of a sci fi movie, but I guess that when you’re inside you can’t see what the outside looks like!
Another few minutes’ walk brought us off the canal towpath and into Camden. It’s a vibrant place, full of tourists and shops selling things that they think tourists want to buy (pretty much anything with the word “London” printed on it 🙂 ). We were fascinated by these shops with their giant murals on the walls.
And look at this for eco planting! This building was enormous and was covered with plants.
Not much further on, we found ourselves at Camden Lock Market.
It’s right on the canal side and the food stalls are all arranged around the canal.
Further over, there’s a whole range of stalls selling everything from vinyl records to t-shirts, candles to wooden watches … we had a lovely time just wandering about and taking it all in.
You wouldn’t expect to be short of somewhere to get a hot drink at a place like this, and not only did we get that, we got such pretty hot drinks! Lucy’s coffee had a very autumnal-looking leaf and my hot chocolate had what I think looks like a tulip on the top. I love patterns on the top of my hot chocolate, I’m easily pleased like that!
We took our drinks back to the canal side – it was so warm in London on that Friday morning, Lucy was in a sleeveless dress! I was brought up never to leave the house without a coat at this time of year, but I’d carried it around all morning. It felt like late summer, never mind October!
Once our drinks were finished, we retraced our steps back along the canal to King’s Cross, stopping just long enough to pick up our luggage and some sandwiches for our train journeys home before saying our goodbyes and heading for our respective stations.
It was such a good fun couple of days, thanks again to everyone who voted for me so that I could go!
Many thanks to The Knitting & Stitching Show for my show ticket and my fabulous press pass!