I’m back at home after a nice, busy little break in London. It’s good to go off and explore something different, but I still adhere to the old saying “East, west, home’s best”.

Today I’m going to write about the first adventure I had planned for my holiday – my trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace on Friday 7th October 2022. This venue is always good as it sits with a stellar view over London. The show layout is spacious and, though there have been years where it is ridiculously crowded, I found the attendance level about right this year. There were a few times when I needed to walk on from a crowded table and return later, but they were only occasional.

It’s quite a few years since I last got down to the October show and this trip really cemented my impression that it is not really a knitting show. Once upon a time it catered more for the knitting community, but now its main focus is on needle arts: quilting, embroidery, dressmaking. This is very obvious in the trading side of the show, but also extends to the exhibition areas. Nowadays there are a lot of yarn-specific shows spread around the country through the year so I think the problem is that the knitting community has gone its own way and doesn’t buy into this type of mass-audience gathering.

Bearing that in mind, the show overall did not provide me with the knitting inspiration that I would have liked, which is not to say that it was anything less than a good day out. Sometimes it is good to go, to see, and to come back wiser. There was just enough knitting content to make the visit worthwhile, although this was mainly in the form of independent hand-dyers. I would say that the knitting inspiration that was there came from the ability to stop and chat with these creative people. Two in particular stood out for me.

Pigeon Wishes had a stand full of lovely fabrics, but I was particularly drawn to their selection of buttons. The stall was staffed by Megan Valero and Duan YuHao, and I had a lovely chat with Megan about the jumper I was wearing and about her own plans to knit garments. She was very interested in trying to knit garments flat and seam them as she wanted to try her hand at some vintage patterns. I was more than happy to encourage her in that direction. I was lucky enough to find three lovely sets of buttons, one of which I think should work well for my bright pink cardigan.

Pigment and Ply was a proper knitter’s stand where it was all about the hand-dyed yarn Theirs was just the most inspiring booth of the whole show. I commented to the lady staffing the stall that it was like walking in to the perfect Christmas. Not that it was themed or coloured in a Christmas way, but the whole aesthetic was rich and sumptuous – the colours and textures I’d love as a backdrop to a Christmas feast. They have an online store from which I will pretty much definitely shop in the future.

I could have brought every single colour of wool on her stand and been happy, but I limited myself to two 100g skeins of 100% merino superwash sock yarn in a colour combination named “Moonlit Witch”. As I was waiting to pay, another customer commented that these were very much my colours. I want to knit this yarn into a big, cosy, lace or cabled scarf. Although that’s not usually my type of project, I can imagine it being the most perfect accessory and I would be hard-pressed to find a coat that wouldn’t work with these colours.

My other yarn purchase was a single skein of superwash merino/nylon sock yarn from Bow Fiddle Yarns in a fetching plums and greys combination named “Tickle my fancy”. It’s a nice, durable yarn destined to be a pair of socks. This was definitely a yarn company which benefitted from being viewed in person. I’ve taken a look at their online shop and I think it would try my patience, but their dyeing is really quite lovely. I was impressed by the fact that as well as the usual 100g skeins, they do some of their yarns in 150g skeins suitable for larger projects like shawls.

Miscellaneous other items which caught my eye included a very nice range of pottery yarn bowls, and a couple of stands which had the Namaste Makers’ Train Case. This latter is a knitting case inspired by the type of boxy carry-on travel luggage popular in the 1950s and 1960s. If I’m honest, these vintage-inspired items always make me think of buying an actual vintage one and repurposing it! I was very tempted to pick up a set of Lykke knitting needles, but in the end they didn’t make it into my bag. This is one of the expensive knitting accessories brands which have crossed my radar over recent years. Something about them in the virtual world has failed to attract me, but seeing them in real life was a different matter and their indigo stained needles were incredibly attractive.

Which brings me to the point of these shows – that you can see and feel the products, your senses are engaged in the selection process, and seeing things together helps to hone your taste. It reminds you that online shopping only works to a certain point. It may replace the live experience, but at the cost of something which you can’t put a price on: the immersive experience of your craft. We do not live in this world as brains and eyes only, we need more than that to flourish.

At the end of the day, the Knitting and Stitching Show did not provide quite the inspiration that I had hoped for, but perhaps it did provide the inspiration I need.