I had a thoroughly enjoyable Thursday morning with Mari, The Great British Housewife, exploring the first Hobbies and Crafts show at Bluewater. We would have been first through the door but we’d have had to elbow a few old biddies out of the way and apparently that isn’t the done thing. Fortunately, there was so much space inside that it really didn’t matter. Which is not to say that there wasn’t lots to see: there was. It is the kind of event that you could go back to day after day and find something different every time.
There were exhibitors in every craft you can think of, including some I’d never heard of. I mean, marquetry doesn’t spring to the forefront of your mind, does it? What did spring to the forefront, mainly because it was literally the first thing you saw, was the most epic creation I have ever seen in wool: a mermaid’s grotto, filled to bursting with knitted fish, seal life, and seaweed,coral and jellyfish, and dozens of other sea creatures. Made over five months, it took the best part of two days to construct and is the work over 2000 knitters, under the guidance of Ann and Alison Murray.
No sooner had I moved on from the woollen masterpiece than Mari and I met Wendy Dolan. Wendy, aside from having enviable talent, is bloody lovely, and quite an inspiration, managing to do her diploma whilst pregnant with her second child and then mix family life with making and exhibiting her textile masterpieces. I fell in love with her clever use of fabric, sewing and paint. I wanted to run away to her week-long workshop in Spain. Mari wouldn’t let me.
Instead we found ourselves sitting down with the ladies of the Bromley– and North-Kent-Embroiderers Guilds. And actually threading a needle to contribute what, in my case at least, was the dodgiest daisy ever, to the World’s Longest Embroidered cloth. It was over 600 metres long (you’ve no idea how much it weighed), so I’m confident that no-one will ever see my hiccup of embroidery. Nevertheless I can say that I contributed to a Record Breaker. That was worth the entry fee of £8 alone.
As were the Downton Costumes. That’s right, costumes from the actual show. I had no idea they would be there but I could have stared all day. In fact staring is all I could do because I tell you now, those costumes are tiny. Dainty. Utterly beautiful and make me want to watch the series all over again.
We wandered up and down the rows of exhibitors, being alternately stunned by exhibited works and amazed by the bargainous prices of the products for sale. We wanted to sit in on the pastel workshop, the watercolour masterclass, the die-cut machine make and take. I could have attended every talk, sat through every fashion show, but what I really needed was a cup of coffee. Which was no problem because, on leaving, you could collect a free pass to come back another day.
And once you were exhausted, bursting with imagination, and loaded down with purchased goodies, you could retire to the relative tranquility of one of the dozens of restaurants and coffee shops in Bluewater before heading home. Or do a bit more shopping.
The Hobbies and Crafts/Creative Stitch Fair is on at Glow Bluewater until Sunday 5th February, but if you miss it, don’t worry: it’ll be back in September.