Hobbycraft’s Spring & Easter Craft Preview

Last week, I went along to Drink, Shop & Do near King’s Cross in London to preview Hobbycraft’s new Spring and Easter craft collections. Ever since I started blogging, it’s been an aim of mine to attend a Hobbycraft event, as I do buy a lot of my supplies from there, so I was thrilled to get an invitation.

Hobbycraft Spring Easter Blogger Event_Shelley Makes-3419.jpg

I tagged along after work and was greeted at the door by the Hobbycraft team. They’d split the Drink, Shop & Do floor into various stations so that you could try your hand at different crafts, and learn more about their upcoming range expansions, from sewing supplies, knit craft, Easter craft, and baking.

Sewing Machines

My first stop was the sewing machine station where a helpful seamstress named Amy sat me down at a sewing machine for the first time, and showed me how to do some basic stitches. Some of you might recall that I was bought a sewing machine for Christmas a few years back, and am ashamedly yet to use it, as I wasn’t really sure where to begin, so I was really excited about this opportunity.

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Beginner’s Knitting at Tea and Crafting

As you may remember, one of my new year’s resolutions was to try my hand at new crafts, so I was really excited to attend a beginner’s knitting workshop with Tea and Crafting in Camden last month.

Beginner's Knitting with Tea and Crafting

On the morning of the workshop I felt excited, but also quite nervous. What if I was all fingers and thumbs, and it was like using chopsticks? I’m shamefully bad at using chopsticks…

Tea & Crafting Knitting I Workshop

I was the last to arrive, and took my seat around the table with six other ladies. My session was run by Natalie, whose hands you may have seen in many of Wool & The Gang’s online video tutorials, and whom I met for the first time at The New Craft House kit launch party last year.

Tea & Crafting knitting Workshop III

Natalie gave us a cup of tea and a biscuit alongside a reassuring introduction to knitting and what we’d be covering in the session. Over the course of two and a half hours, Natalie taught us how to cast-on, cast-off, and how to knit three basic stitches – knit stitch, purl stitch and rib stitch.

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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!

Shelley Does… Hobbycrafts!

You might remember a few weeks ago I told you my excitement at getting tickets to Hobbycrafts at the ExCel centre. Well, today was the day, and my sister and I boarded the train to London.

Fabrics

Hobbycrafts is a fair for ‘avid crafters’, although with no major brands present, it does have quite a ‘market’ feel – complete with the sharp elbows of fellow bargain hunters. Be prepared!

Hobbycrafts stall

The stalls were selling craft supplies from beads, paper, cross-stitch, knitting needles, thread, and ribbon, through to fabric, with multiple stalls (decked in bunting) selling stickers and stick-on gems.

Knitting

Some of the arts & crafts supplies were a bit kitsch (or as I called it, ‘quiche’, before I refined my crafting lingo), however I wanted to talk about some of the stand-out stalls!

Sewing workshop

The best stands were interactive, offering sewing machine tutorials, or the opportunity to sit down and knit. Everyone was pleased to talk to the stall owners and learn from their expertise.

My Favourite Stall:

My favourite stand, hands down, was Decopatch.co.uk, which had a shop section but also a sit-down craft section where you could ‘try before you buy’ and have a little fun being creative!

Decopatch.co.uk

I’ve never done decoupage before, or even really considered it, but everyone at the crafting table looked very content as they played with different patterned papers and made decorative figurines.

Decopatch.co.uk

There was a lot of choice of things to decorate so you really can choose something personal to make a thoughtful gift – from a letter of the alphabet, to a jewellery stand, to a chair.

I imagine that a deco-patch café would be great for birthday parties, like a ceramics café!

My Second Favourite Stall:

My next favourite stand, ironically, was where the stall-holder told me abruptly ‘no photography’, as I was drawn in by the most gorgeously scented dried flowers and potpourri – NaturaLeigh. In the stall-holders defence, someone had just stolen some of her goods, so she wasn’t the happiest bunny!

Roses

The dried rose-buds and lavender mixes were to be used within scented ‘home-furnishing’ kits. They also sold natural heart-shaped soaps which would make lovely gifts or favours.

I only bought one item at the fair – a mini alphabet stamp set, and was tempted by some pretty gilded scissors. Despite a few quality exhibitors, I’m not sure if I’ll head back to Hobbycrafts next year.

I think it’s probably aimed at a slightly older crafter, and I would have liked more inspiration on specific craft projects, not just products. Many of the stalls were quite samey, which was a shame!

If you went this year, tell me, what did you think?