Yesterday I had a bit of a trip out and over to Manchester to the Christmas handmade fair. This is the first event of its kind and is a spin off from the Handmade Fair started by Kirstie Allsopp at Hampton Court Palace in September 2014. That’s been running for two years now but as Manchester is nearer to me, this seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl – and to see Lucy of Attic24 chatting with Kirstie.
Unlike other crafty fairs, this one offers entry plus workshops and live theatre demonstrations. When I booked my ticket last month, I was looking through the workshops on offer and the grand theatre presentations that could be included and whose name should I spy there but the lovely Lucy of Attic24. She was the first in the grant theatre on the Saturday morning. So I booked for that but decided to leave the workshops to see what was still available on the day.
The train over to the west side of England is a bit slow and chuggy but it was lovely to see the views over the pennines, which were sprinkled with snow. I daren’t take any pics at this stage though because my phone is very prone to run out of charge at the moment. When we got into Manchester it was a glorious sunny day with brilliant blue skies and, for about the first time this November, a bit nippy. I knew I would need those fingerless mittens!
The fair was at Manchester Central, a big convention centre. I had met up with a fellow Bagalonger, Joanne and her daughter Lucy who had been waiting for the same train at Selby and we walked through the city together and then had a coffee while we were waiting for everything to open.
The first thing we saw were the Christmas trees displaying all the snowflakes that people had been making for the HomeStart appeal. These looked so good but my dodgy phone wasn’t really behaving very well so the photos don’t really do them justice…
The theatre event with Lucy from Attic24 was at 10am, so we started to queue for that rather than looking round first and ended up on the front row!
Lucy and Kirstie – on stage!
The setting was really nice with many of Lucy’s blankets on stage and the lights were dimmed so that it was like sitting in a living room listening to the chatting. Well, if you ignored the giant screen above! This is why the few pics I took are not that good as I didn’t use a flash but they sort of capture the moment.
I knew from seeing Lucy at the Cooper’s knit at natter a couple of weeks ago that doing this event was taking her way out of her comfort zone but she didn’t show it. She as very calm and chatty and shared the stage with Kirstie very successfully.
Lucy explained that she had trained in textiles and had been a stitcher and maker before having her family. Having her first two children close together and moving to a new town (Skipton in North Yorks), turned her life upside down and she learned to crochet and started a blog to basically make friends and get in touch with like-minded people interested in crafting, crochet and colour. The fact that the blog took off and became enormously popular was quite a surprise.
For Lucy, the interest in crochet is always focused on the colour of the yarns she uses – and mostly on making blankets that are used on a daily basis by her family. The granny stripes, ripples, the harmony blanket and the granny square blankets she has made over the years are bright and cheerful and, as she stressed, because most of them are made from Stylecraft Special DK, they are hard wearing and washable. It raised quite a few giggles when she explained that she loves bright colours and uses them because they lift her spirits – but also because they don’t show marks…
Kirstie spoke about her love of crochet blankets which goes back way before the current upsurge of interest in crochet began. Although Kirstie is featured on the video for the Homestart Snowflake appeal crocheting with Sarah Jane from Bella Coco, doing crochet isn’t her thing. The blankets that she has used with her children have all be bought but are no less special to her because of that. It was obvious that she is drawn to crochet blankets because throughout the chat, she was stroking and looking at the blanket just to her right – Lucy’s original granny stripe.
Lucy explained that making a crochet blanket makes them even more special, as they contain not just the memories that are build up by using them, but also the memories that get woven into the during the stitching and making process. Although Lucy herself doesn’t make any of her blankets to sell, she is admiring of people who are makers and one question from the audience brought up the problem of parting with a large crochet project, which can be quite difficult when you have put not only your time into it, but a bit of your soul too.
Its only during the last couple of years that Lucy has started to make a living out of her crochet – something that many people aspire to – so it was encouraging that even she has found it difficult, despite being so well known. It is a problem that handmade items can never be sold for what they are actually worth if you take into account the time that it takes to make them. A granny square blanket with 130 squares probably takes well over 50 hours of time – charging the minimum wage still puts that blanket way over what most people are prepared to pay.
Although Lucy and Kirstie chatted for about 40 minutes, it went by in a flash. It was really interesting to hear Lucy explain some of the thought processes and planning that go into putting together a new blanket and how this has changed over the years. Now that she does many of her blankets so that the yarn required can be put into packs, this adds a new layer of complexity. The problem of people running out of yarn and not finishing one of the blankets is a real worry, so the use of each colour has to be planned and checked so that the end result looks great and it works for the rest of us.
Review of the rest of the handmade fair
I really enjoyed seeing the theatre chat and after another coffee I went off to explore the Shopping Village. I have to admit that this wasn’t really what I was expecting and Joanne, who I met up with at the workshop on needle felting a Christmas bauble, thought the same. There weren’t that many stalls and most of them were selling their own handmade gifts. Apart from a couple of nice fabric stalls, none were really selling crafty supplies – certainly no where near as big and busy as the Knitting and Stitching shows in either Alexandra Palace or Harrogate (which is on next weekend!).
To be honest, after an hour or so I’d been round everything twice so decided to hop out and into Manchester to get a sandwich and look round the very busy Christmas market that was just a short walk away.
In the afternoon I signed up to do one of the workshops – which was good – but I don’t think needle felting will be something I’ll be desperate to do again!
At about 3pm I started a meandering walk back to the station, taking the time to explore Manchester city centre which is HUGE and absolutely crammed with Christmas shoppers. An exciting and busy day, but it did make me glad I live in a small village and that I am a savvy internet shopper!
Don’t forget that you can still enter the competition that is running on my blog this weekend!!!!