Fibre East 2017; a woolly fair in the heart of Bedfordshire

Fibre East 2017 featured for blog

Hello! I’m back to my blog after what seems like (and actually is) ages. I’ve been pretty quiet on social media as I got ill in July then busy with preparations for Fibre East 2017. My first yarn show as a seller! I’m back now, its a new month so I hope to get some balance back in my crafty and my real life.

It will be nice to get back to some things that I really enjoy but haven’t had time to do – blogging, crochet and my Etsy shop, which was closed for a week while I was away. I also need desperately to do some ‘domestics’ but to be honest, after the yarn fair I am absolutely knackered so that can wait until tomorrow.

How come I was at Fibre East 2017?

I wasn’t supposed to be there as a seller and I hadn’t even intended to go as a visitor to be honest. It was a series of events that provided the opportunity to have part of a stand, shared with Halifax Spinning Mill, who spin my woollen spun yarn. The mill had paid for the stand and were going to sell some of the wool for Black Bat, a company hit by illness earlier in the year. I was invited to share the stand and sell and display some of the yarn that the mill spins and that I have been dyeing over the last year.

It is normal for exhibitions like this to charge a fee per stallholder and also to charge an entry fee to the public.

This is the Mill’s stand, which took up most of the space and I had my yarn across the side. It all went very well together…

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

OK, I thought, Fibre East will be good practice for Yarndale 2017… but it turned into a major event in itself. I am glad that I’ve done it though as I have learned a lot and, come September, I will be a lot better prepared.

At Yarndale, my son is helping me and the major advantage will be that we will have two cars to transport all of the ‘stuff’. I can see why people hire a van! My Kia hatchback was crammed to bursting for the trip down and a friend had taken some of the bigger things – table tops, shelves and display boxes – in his van the day before.

Fibre East 2017 packed car

Fibre East 2017 packed car

I set off on Friday morning but the traffic down the A1 to Bedford was very slow for about 40 miles so it took me about three hours. My preferred option when staying away is Airbnb, and I went and left my small case of clothes etc (all I could squeeze in between the yarn) there before heading over to Redbourne School in Ampthill where Fibre East is held.

Set up was until 6pm on the Friday and the weather wasn’t that brilliant. We had several spells of heavy rain and Friday and Saturday night were very wet with a howling gale and horizontal rain. So much for July summer weather.

As my stand at Fibre East was in a marquee, that did make me a bit worried but everything seemed OK and pretty watertight so there were no major disasters.

This was my first time setting up and by just before 6pm when I had to stop, it was looking OK. The sign worked well, I’d taken my wool blanket and some shawls to hang up and some charity shop finds of a crochet tablecloth and some vintage doilies to show off the yarn. And, of course, nearly every possible Ikea box and wine rack in their Leeds store…

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

Helen Kurtz, AKA @josiekitten on instagram and on her blog gave me loads of help with the set up and showed me where tea and coffee for the exhibitors was available and generally offered a lot of moral support too. We are both Stylecraft bloggers and share an interest in wool, fibre and spinning and Helen helps out as a volunteer at Fibre East. It was lovely to have a friendly face on hand and once the stand was done, we headed over to a nearby village to have a meal in the pub there as its the ‘local’ of Sandra of the Cherry Heart blog. We were all driving so it wasn’t a raucous evening by any means but it was really good to chat together, have a nice pub meal and relax after all the hectic preparations, driving and setting up.

The big day! Fibre East 2017 opens

The next morning I was up early and over to the school first thing, at about 7.30am. Mostly to check on the rain but also to fuss and faff on the stall a bit more before it opened to visitors at 10am. Everything had survived, including the sign and although my card signs were just a bit damp due to the condensation rather than being rained on, the weather on the day was dry and clear and it soon got quite busy.

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

As this was my first event, I did have a few panic moments. Getting my card reader to work with my phone was a challenge, even though the signal was good. I might need to have words with the company that supplied it…

But apart from that, everything went smoothly and it was lovely that so many people who have seen my blog or podcast came to say hello and stayed to chat and even came back for a few extra visits later on to see how I was doing. One lovely lady even went and got me a coffee!

I was pleased that the singles of the new Fabulous Four base went down particularly well with lots of lovely feedback and comments. I must admit, even I am in love with the yarn and the colours…

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

My packs of stitch markers also went well and I sold quite a few of the stitch marker charm bracelets that I’d made. These will definitely be going to Yarndale and I’ll be making some for the Etsy shop too.

The other thing that sold well were the “I’m a basket case” kit that I put together with the help of Nicola and Carinne from my local Crochet and Chat group. I’d lost a lot of time through getting ill and they came over and spent an entire afternoon getting those kits together. I found the basket very useful at the show and while I was away and it held my yarn perfectly. I’ve started a shawl using one of the laceweight singles skeins – but I’ll talk about the baskets and the shawl in a blog post later in the month.

Fibre East 2017 basket kit

It rained again, very heavily on the Saturday night and I was glad I was in a dry studio flat, not camping on site like a lot of the vendors… But Sunday was bright and dry for the entire time the show was open and it was again a busy day with lots of visitors and lovely people to chat to.

I had a big visit from some fellow podcasters… Sam of Betsy Makes, Sandra of Cherry Heart, Chrissie of Chrissie Crafts and Emma from Potter and Bloom. They were all very kind and bought some of my yarn and then came back later to choose more yarn as a swap/giveaway. They will supply me with something for a giveaway in return, which will be really exciting.

Fibre East 2017 Podcaster visitors

Fibre East 2017 Podcaster visitors

Fibre East 2017… until next year… perhaps

At 4.30pm, it was time to pack up and that was full-on! Everyone wanted to get away quickly but the rain decided to come back with a vengeance and it poured down. We all got soaked to the skin and I loaded everything in the car as fast as I could, and then dismantled what needed to go in the van. I’m so glad I decided to book an additional night and once that was done all I needed to do was drive 5 miles to a hot shower and bed! I really couldn’t have faced a 3 hour drive at that stage.

Now I’m home and have more-or-less unpacked I’m reflecting on how it went. To be honest, I failed to break even and actually made a loss when I take into account the accommodation costs (which weren’t expensive at £45 a night), the petrol, the stock, the display equipment and the food I ate when I was away (one pub meal and two supermarket ready meals!). I am absolutely in awe of the crafters who do this many weekends of the year to make a living and I understand very well why they choose to camp in the rain rather than book a B&B or budget hotel. I think it must be incredibly hard to make a profit at a yarn show, even a big one and you really have to love these events and treat them as a weekend away.

It was physically tiring, with all the packing up, loading up, driving, unloading and setting up and then taking everything down and unpacking once home. But it was mentally and emotionally draining as well as there was a lot of worry about the weather, the stock, what people thought and if any of what I had made was good enough… This was less intense on the second day as so many visitors had been so nice on Day 1 but will I do shows regularly? I’ll need to think on that some more and maybe decide after Yarndale.

I’ll be back with a podcast maybe next week but I’ve more blog posts planned this month to make up for me going awol last month 🙂 xxx Kathryn

Fibre East 2017 Crafternoon Treats stand

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13 thoughts on “Fibre East 2017; a woolly fair in the heart of Bedfordshire

  1. Grace says:

    You have to remember that the cost of the display shelves etc. is a ‘one-off’ and you won’t have to take it into account next time …… if you were lucky enough to be able to sell from a friends stall this time too, hopefully that will offset some of the cost. I thought your stall looked lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed squishing your Yarn. Love the podcast too.

  2. Julie.C says:

    Thank you for sharing pictures with us what an adventure this was for you, and being ill too. Your stall looks really good and I like how you displayed your name the letters stand out really well.
    I hope you try and rest up now you are back x

  3. Angie says:

    Makes for interesting reading. I have not been to a yarn festival, was temped this year but in the event was poorly so didn’t. The other off putting thing is the entry fee. I don’t get why buyers should be paying to shop? Perhaps I am am not getting something there I don’t know. I also think i would find all that yarn overwhelming and would find it so hard to choose that I would come away with nothing.

    What I would be far more likely to do, is to enjoy the experience of looking and touching all the yarns, writing down or taking cards from favourite exhibitors and then leisurely ‘stroll’ around online shops and take time to pick without feeling rushed or worried by everyone around me. The entrance fee would probably make me feel this was a bit wasteful though as it is not cheap to get in.

    Also somewhere big like Yarndale would be likely to just irritate and bother me with all the people getting in the way! I would think overall doing a yarn show helps to raise a profile and bring yarn to the buyers attention, which are good reasons for doing it for time to time, but what a lot of work and worry that you have put in!

    It is hard to find good places to sell handmade items of any kind. I think often markets/craft fairs cheapen the products and make it difficult to ask for reasonable prices. I have a local shop which seems to be the perfect environment though and gets a good price, although not when you consider that the profit will be split between maker and seller. Online shops seem to be a good fit for me as buyer and the best solution when I was selling handmade. True handmade by one person is always going to have natural limitations of sales due to limits of production. That is not a bad thing for a part time business. i am sure you can sell all you currently make due to your high online social media profile. Unless you want to do these shows and it’s probably fun once in a while, I’m sure you will do fine without all the work involved doing them regularly.

    Anyway I hope you feel less stressed now and get to put your feet up and relax after your hard work and excitement. It’s always a pleasure to hear or read about your yarny ventures and makes.

    • Crafternoon Treats says:

      Hi Angie Thank you for a very insightful comment. I agree that paying a big entry fee is probably something that limits the number of people who attend yarn fairs. When you bear in mind that the organisers also charge a hefty fee to stall holders for actually having a stall its clear who is in the win-win situation isn’t it? At Yarndale the cost of my stall will be £320 and its only the second size up from the smallest. That’s why me and my son are driving back and forth everyday from home even though its 1hr 15 mins each way. The cost of a B&B on top of the fee would make it impossible to break even. I am trying to make Crafternoon Treats my full time occupation and while I have grown the online sales, the cost of new yarn to dye, new equipment and all the consumables is quite high. I suspect I will scrape by but its a precarious occupation… getting ill with food poisoning in July really put a dent in things and sadly going to Fibre East didn’t really work to make up for that. But the experience has taught me a lot and that is useful in itself xxx Kathryn

  4. Rosemary Abbott says:

    I came to fibre east for the first time on Saturday and really enjoyed it. I bought some of your lovely little stitch holders. I don’t like ordering online but now I have seen your stall I am more confident that your products are good Rosemary

  5. josiekitten says:

    Your stand looked lovely Kathryn. I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos of it. I think we were too busy chatting each time I came by! Your thoughts on the show are really interesting to read. Good luck getting everything ready for Yarndale.

  6. Lu says:

    Hopefully, over time, your costs amortized over 10 shows, work to help make a profit at the shows. I was thinking it might be like open houses. You might not sell more yarn but you create more and different customers for your Etsy shop. Sounds like it will be great to have your son’s help next time as it also seems like Yarndale is super busy.

  7. Barbara Susanna Nelson says:

    I have read every word. Scrutinized each picture. Good Job girl. I almost feel a little bit of me was there with you. I so enjoy your pods. I will be traveling in England in Sept. nowhere near you. I hope that I can find a fair or two. I live in the States. Oregon in fact. Thanks again K. You do a superb job.

  8. Nicola Newington says:

    I know what that’s like albeit on a smaller scale. I attended a local Farmers and Crafters Market for a summer, a couple of years ago. And I barely broke even too, so I didn’t repeat the experience.

  9. Louise Carway says:

    Wow, sounds like an amazing weekend. Hopefully help from your son at yarndale may make the difference. I used to take a trade stand to large horse shows to promote the horse charity I worked for (I would do 10 a year Inc 2 inScotland and 1 in Dublin) and they are exhausting.

    Wish I had been able to attend the show, all reports have been favorable.

    Looking fur ward to the next podcast once you have recovered a bit.

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