Last Saturday was my annual treat - a trip to the Knitting and Stitching Show. My favourite because it combines excellent exhibitions with shopping. I have been going to Alexandra Palace for years but this was my first try of the NEC show. At first I thought I had come on the wrong day - getting off the train at Birmingham International, it was a 10 minute walk through endless corridors and escalators to reach the room, and in that time I only saw one other person (also looking for the K&S). To be honest, seeing that huge place deserted in the middle of the day was a bit spooky; presumably there were no other halls in use. If I had found that out beforehand, I would have taken the car and saved myself a couple of hours travelling time (and about half the train fare). Still, it was well worth it once I found the hall. No photos to share, I'm afraid, as there were 'no photography' signs all over the place but I have added to my postcard collection.
I always enjoy going around the graduates showcases - my absolute favourite this year was "The System's Erupting" by Felicity Clarke. She has used cables and wires and plugs inside knitted tubes or wrapped with vivid yarns to create an installation in which all the electrical 'gubbins' are literally bursting out of the wall and rising up in a giant tangle.
Another personal choice was "Memories Are Made of This" by Carol Quarini, part of the Divergence Exhibition by the Westhope Group. This is 3 long narrow panels suspended from perspex rods which represent the degeneration of memory. The first is a complete length of large scale lace, the shapes representing nerve cells in the brain. The second is begining to break with clouds of silk paper replacing the shapes. Finally, there is just the cloudy background with a few last threads of memory. I found this a very poignant visualisaton of gradual memory loss.
Now, I always like a bit of audience participation, so I had to join in with Alfreda Mc Hale's interactive installation "Seeking Pearls". She has collected thousands of old and unloved buttons, spools of thread and skeins from old collections, and preserved them by bottling them into jam jars, preserving jars and even the tiny glass jars that herbs are sold in. There are dozens of these stacked on shelves like an old-fashioned sweetshop, and visitors are invited to take one, empty the contents into a large bowl of buttons and refill it with their selection from the bowl. You could then mark it with a sticky star, so no-one else will touch it, and replace it on the shelf. So the collection is gradually rearranged and the buttons have been appreciated and chosen once more. It brought back old memories of spending wet Sundays tipping out my mother's big bag of beads and sorting through them, loving the colours and the feel of them and the different shapes and sizes.
Finally, it was good to see one of my favourite charities at the show. The Sailors Society exists to combat the isolation of seafarers and give practical support through a network of centres and chaplains. They regularly distribute woolly hats knitted by volunteers (about 20,000 each year) and were holding a wonderful display of entries to their recent competition to make an outrageous hat that no self-respecting sailor would want to wear. I like to occasionally knit hats for them to keep my hands busy while my daughter is in gym class (or swimming, or dancing or whatever) so I handed one in while I was there.