The Handmade Fair 2015 – tickets on sale!

After half a year of anticipation, I was over the moon to hear that tickets were once again on sale for the second of Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fairs at Hampton Court Palace.

The Handmade Fair 2015

My sister and I attended the inaugural event last September, and have been keenly awaiting tickets for the 2015 event ever since – which promises to be just as good, if not better!

As soon as I received my discount code from the Hobbycraft Club, I was on the phone to my sister asking her to consult the schedule, for at the Handmade Fair you can book yourself onto your choice of workshops. Last year, we attended the Mollie Makes mash-up, attempted ‘world pom-ination’ with Rosy Nicholas, and make chandelier ear-rings with The London School of Jewellery.

Picnic benches

This year the programme did not disappoint, with plenty of variety for keen craft-bods, and craft newbs alike. In the Super Theatre, you can observe masterclasses in everything from bread baking to upcycling. In the Grand Makes tent, you can try your hand at tibetan poetry bunting making, and block printing, and in the Skills Workshops you can learn new crafts spanning Papercraft, Textiles, Upcycling, and Seasonal Workshops. New to the skills line-up this year is the Wedding workshops, which includes everything from stationery marbling to creating DIY flower crowns.

Making floral hair pieces

Whilst it’s lovely to sit around in the sunshine at Hampton Court and grab a coffee, last year we found that ‘busy is better’, and as such, this year’s schedule is more jam-packed than ever. Here’s our proposed line-up (providing we can book additional places at the Skills workshops on the day):

10.00 – 10.25: GRAND MAKES: Wirework with Lucy Elisabeth
11.00 – 12.00: SUPER THEATRE: Chiara Perano and Calligraphy Sign Writing
12.30 – 13.30: SKILL – Upcycling: Upholster a drop-in seat with the Ministry of Upholstery
15.15 – 16.15: SKILL – Wedding: Flower Crowns with Kitten Grayson
16.45 – 17.30: SKILL – Papercraft: Lino Printed Stationery with Zeena Shah

Believe it or not, this still leaves time to book additional workshops (don’t worry, Origami, I’ve noted that we can squeeze you in after lunch). But on top of all this, there’s also the excellent shopping villages and stalls packed with craft suppliers (by golly, did I spend a lot last year!).

In the shopping tents

In conclusion, I wanted to spread the word that The Handmade Fair is back, and urge you to book your tickets if you haven’t already done so, as it’s set to be another genuinely brilliant event.

Pop the date in your diary now: Friday 18th – Sunday 20th September. Will you be going?

The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace

On Friday, my sister and I headed to The Handmade Fair at the beautiful Hampton Court Palace. Running over three days, we were excited to attend the opening day of this inaugural craft event!

The Handmade Fair

We kicked off the day with the Mollie Makes Mash-Up in the Super Theatre, where Mr. X Stitch, ‘the Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery’ and Deadly Knitshade, ‘one of the country’s fearsome guerilla knitters’, went head to head to debate which craft was the coolest – knitting or stitching?

Kirstie at Mollie Makes Mash-Up

Considering that both crafts notoriously have a ‘fuddy duddy’ reputation, both craftsbods were keen to set the record straight. In a series of playful rounds, they took it in turns to present some of the coolest and quirkiest works in their field. After each round, the audience voted. As Kirstie said from the outset, “If you don’t like things that are interactive, then you’re going to have a miserable day!”

Picnic benches

Without fuss, Kirstie Allsopp introduced the sessions in the Super Theatre, and chaired the discussions with some of the famous talent such as Cath Kidston. We spotted her a few times walking around in high wedge heels, or my favourite spotting – driving her crew around in a golf buggy!

Just before lunch, we attempted #WorldPomination with Rosy Nicholas in the Grand Makes Tent, who showed us how to make pom poms using the latest gadget. I can safely say it is very easy, and also quite therapeutic, as you sit there winding wool around the pom pom device. After a long day, my sister and I looked at our pom poms (tied to our bags) with pride. Simple things!

What use are pom poms you might ask? Well, I plan to use them for gift wrapping, and to make decorative pom pom garlands. My sister wants to create Christmas tree bauble-esque decorations. The soft-wool pom poms also make fantastic stress balls, or, as my sister and I quickly discovered, they make a fantastic (less painful) alternative to conkers, if you enjoy abusing each other.

Origami flowers

In the afternoon, after a yummy duck wrap, we sat down to a chandelier-earring making Skills Workshop run by the London Jewellery School. It served as a great introduction to jewellery making, introducing the tools you use such as round-nose pliers, and how to do basic joins. Though I’m not sure I’ll wear my creation, I now undersand what I should be doing for next time!

On top of the full experience package (£29) we signed up for an additional 30 minute calligraphy workshop (£10) in the afternoon. In hindsight, I would have loved to book a place on the upcycling workshops run by the inspirational Out of the Dark and Annie Sloan – perhaps next time!

Elsewhere on site, there were a number of exhibitors to explore, including a Hobbycraft tent, where you could buy a huge range of Kirstie craft kits (from candle-making to sewing projects), and Women’s Institute wool. After buying my pom pom maker with glee, I was drawn in by a fascinating felting demonstration – the lady made it look genuinely easy, and said that it was easy. Who knew?!

Hobbycraft tent

There were also two large shopping tents – East and West, which, unlike many of the craft stalls at Hobbycrafts (ExCel), were full of genuinely unique sellers and businesses; the quality was great, and the stalls looked fantastic. There was something for everyone, and it wasn’t over-crowded. All the exhibitors were pleased to talk to you about their work, and there was a fantastic sense of pride. One lady joked, after the many hours of prep, sweat and tears, “I don’t really want to sell any of it”.

In the shopping tents

Near the entrance, visitors could stop by the Mollie Makes cafe (a media partner), where they could sit down with fellow crafters for tea, cake, and a bit of craft chat, and sign up for a special taster subscription of Mollie Makes. I did, and can’t wait to get reading. Also, the event show guide in itself (£5) is like a craft magazine, with some cool tutorials in there – worth a buy!

Further up the field, Etsy Business School were on hand with a series of talks on how to set up an online shop, how to get the most out of social media, and how to take beautiful product photography. Although I blog and craft for fun right now, it was great to see so many people with a keen interest in selling and promoting their wares. I also fell in love with Etsy shop Neon LDN.

Unlike Hobbycrafts, the fair was also attended by brands who did a great job of engaging the crafting audience. LUSH, for example, had an on-stand fresh flower hair artist, Harriet Parry, who taught visitors how to create fresh flower floral hair pieces using beautiful flowers, as used in LUSH products. As you’d expect, the stall smelt great, and everyone left looking great too.

Making floral hair pieces

I knew in advance of the show that I had better take a lot of cash, as I had a sixth-sense that there would be some amazing wares to buy. I wasn’t wrong. I left the show with a bag full of cotton from Sconch, pom pom makers, and a super-cool tool called a gyro-cut, which is effectively a scalpol, but that you can create effortless curves with. Again, the mind boggles!

Overall, there was a lovely, chilled out atmosphere all day. The fact that the workshops were ticketed meant that there was no competitive pushing or shoving, and everyone was helpful, like-minded and supportive. All in all, we had a really great day out that has given me the confidence to pick up some new crafts, affirming the event slogan – “Everyone has a craft they can do!”

Origami flowers

Considering that we attended the first day of the first ever show, my sentiment is overwhelmingly positive. I think it will be onwards and upwards for Kirstie’s show next year, and no doubt the exhibitors will have some learnings to take forwards to make it even bigger and better. It really was a fabulous job done by all, and a very enjoyable day – as Kirstie would call it, ‘a triumph‘.

Fresh flowers

If you plan on going next year, my advice would be to take lots of cash (I had to sit down for a good ten minutes working out if I had lost some money or spent it – I had spent it), and do come prepared for the elements. As with the Hampton Court Flower Show, with the show taking place outdoors, you are of course slightly reliant on the weather, so be prepared for rain or shine!

Same time next year, Kirstie? Pretty please!

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2014

On Thursday I was fortunate to be invited to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show (8-13 July 2014) with my sister, a Garden Designer at Chessington Garden Centre. Having visited Chelsea a few times, I was excited for my first visit to the Surrey-based Hampton Court equivalent!

Luckily we managed to avoid the rain, so could enjoy the gardens at leisure! Hampton Court Flower Show is more spaced out than Chelsea, so there were lots of opportunities for ice-cream breaks and Pimms stops. The general vibe was very relaxed, helped by the lively jazz band stand.

The flower show was split into three sections – Escape, Grow and Inspire – providing inspiration on design and planting, as well as featuring conceptual pieces focused around the seven deadly sins. I very much enjoyed the interactice elements, such as in the Royal Horticultural Society Garden which allowed you to view different garden specimens under microscopes – great fun!

My favourite gardens were the NSPCC Legacy Garden, designed to mark the 130th anniversary of the NSPCC children’s charity, Hedgehog Street – sponsored by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, and the Lest We Forget Garden, designed by Steve Mann to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War – a poignant reminder.

The NSPCC Legacy Garden:

The NSPCC Legacy Garden was a clever design, telling the story of the NSPCC’s continued presence through the ages with the use of dated pillars, which seperated sections of the garden like a timeline. Each section was designed to reflect a different era, taking visitors on a journey through the decades, with different toys (old bears to Lego), paving and planting to demonstrate its lasting legacy.

Hedgehog Street:

The Hedgehog Street garden, which won Best Small Garden, was designed to raise awareness of the small changes that visitors can make in their gardens to encourage hedgehogs and help stop their decline in numbers. Split into three different suburban styles, each garden had one thing in common – hedgehog-friendly holes in the garden boundaries to allow hedgehogs to roam between them.

Hedgehog Street

Lest We Forget Garden:

The Lest We Forget Garden was reminiscent of a World War One trench, complete with a dug-out, grow-your-own vegetables and barbed wire. Though you’d hope your garden never looked like this, Hampton Court provided a great forum to encourage visitors to remember those who fought in the war, in the style of a Rememberance Sunday service, and so it was a thought-provoking piece.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable day – lots of inspiration, access to experts, and entertainment! I will definitely go back next year, and hope that one day I can leave with my arms full of plants!

Did you go, and what did you think?