I don’t know about you, but convenient as online shopping may be, I like to see (and touch!) a new yarn in person before I buy. Not only is it hard to judge texture from a photograph, but even the colour may be different in real life from that shown on your computer screen. So, mostly I buy yarn in local shops, but their stock is inevitably limited, so it’s nice to go somewhere you can see many new brands of yarn – and of course buy some!

Photo 08-10-2014 15 08 55I went to British Wool Weekend in Harrogate last month, but that was very small, and I wasn’t able to make Yarndale, so when I saw that the Knitting and Stitching Show was coming to Alexandra Palace I jumped at the chance. After all, the train line from Cambridge to London goes right past Ally Pally, so it’s probably my closest big show. I left it too late to book in advance, and tickets on the door were limited, so I decided to go on the very first day, as soon as it opened. This turned out to be a great idea, as the show wasn’t too crowded and of course all the stalls were fully stocked.

I’d been very organised: I had a budget I wanted to stick to, plus a shopping list of yarns and buttons for upcoming projects, samples of yarn for button-matching and even a buttonband swatch for one cardigan. With the aid of much patience, I managed to get everything on my list, including some gorgeous aran weight Donegal Tweed from Craftspun, and beautiful buttons from Textile Garden. But did I stick to my budget? Yeah, not so much…


Clockwise from top left: Rowan Purelife sweater pack, Natali Stewart lace, Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran sweater pack, Baa Ram Ewe Titus mini-skeins, Debonnaire sock, DROPS Nepal, Craftspun Donegal Tweed, Tall Yarns sock lace.

There were just so many beautiful yarns, not to mention must-have items like a KnitPro zipped case for my interchangeable needles, which tend to slide out of the fabric case I’ve been using. And then there were the half-price(ish) sweater packs. Two huge piles of them around the Black Sheep stand, near the middle of the largest exhibition hall. I trawled through them, picking up and discarding one after another, before eventually settling on one pack of Rowan Purelife recycled cotton/silk mix in a lovely marled lilac, and one of Debbi Bliss Rialto Aran in a glorious blood red.

So yes, my stash has ballooned as a result. I worked out I bought enough yarn for:

  • 3 cardigans
  • 2 lace shawls
  • 2-3 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of gloves

Which might not sound like much, but when you consider that a) I’ve only been knitting seriously for about six months and b) I had to carry all that stuff back on the train, it was plenty, believe me! I’ve had to buy two more 24 litre storage boxes so that I have space for the sweater packs – I now have four of these boxes for my “clothing” stash, plus two under-bed boxes for yarn destined for gifts and household items (plus miscellaneous leftovers). As a result, whilst I’m not exactly going on a yarn diet, I’m going to limit myself to smaller purchases – no more sweater quantities until I’ve knitted at least one!

I don’t regret the extravagance, and I certainly don’t regret going to the show. In addition to being able to purchase new yarns, I was also able to stop and chat to several of the stall-holders, including Tracy and Kari-Helene from Purl Alpaca Designs, who gave me some really useful tips on how to adjust the Isis Tailcoat pattern to suit my (lack of) height. I also met Monica Russel, whose wellie toppers I’m making for my nephew and niece for Christmas (sssh!), and was able to ask her about an error in the printed pattern.

I’m thinking that next year, though, I’ll seek out more knitting-oriented shows – as its name suggests, The Knitting and Stitching Show has a lot of exhibitors focusing on embroidery and needlecraft. Whilst there was a fair selection of yarn stalls, there was almost nothing for the spinner or would-be spinner – I couldn’t find any spindles for sale, and whilst several stalls were selling roving and/or tops, most of it was aimed at felt-making. But now I know how useful such events are, I’ll definitely be heading to one of the big knitting shows such as Yarndale or Unwind. I just need to knit down my stash a bit before I dare go!