Recently, on a lovely sunny Sunday, I took my Mum along to The Handmade Fair 2015 held at Hampton Court Palace sponsored by Mollie Makes and Hobbycraft and hosted by the lovely Kirstie Allsopp. I attended the fair last year and I had high hopes for this year so I thought I would share my thoughts about the Fair and share a few photos I took.
The first difference I noticed from last year was the location of the Fair itself. Although still advertised as Hampton Court Palace, it was more in the field opposite. In my opinion this was an improvement as it was much better for parking and if you travelled by train then the station is also closer. The Fair seemed more compact in layout which may be due to a change in location but it also felt easier to navigate. The only downside I would say about it moving is you don’t actually get a glimpse of Hampton Court itself like you did last year.
As I’m a bit of a fussy eater I took my own lunch with me, but we both commented that there was much more variety and choice of food on offer this year than last year so you certainly didn’t go hungry. Mum opted for the lunch menu at Hotch Potch Vintage where we were entertained by the talented Haywood Sisters and ate quiche from vintage china.
The main highlight of the day for me however was attending the various workshops we had booked as part of our experience ticket. You can just buy an entrance ticket and then book any workshops on the day but if you book early enough in advance you get a better deal and can pick a Grand Make, a Skills Workshop and a talk in the Super Theatre.
Last year Mum and I had hoped to attend the calligraphy skills workshop but it was booked out so we were pleased to see it scheduled again this year. Claire Gould is excellent at her craft and she managed to get everyone to practice the basic line skills before trying their name, this all came after the nip had to be stuck in a potato first!
We had to rush off from the skills workshop to get to the Super Theatre where Kirstie was talking with Fiona Cairns about making the wedding cake for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and also giving Kirstie a lesson in sugar craft. Kirstie is not a skilled cake decorator. It was incredibly funny watching her attempt to make a mini handbag out of fondant icing, we saw her later in the afternoon and were chatting about it and she said it just confirms that she doesn’t practice beforehand so she can experience it from a beginners point of view.
The final booked session we had for the day was with Jane Means learning how to make a ric rac rose which would be added to gift wrapping. Although I found it fun learning a quick new skill, I did find this session a little disappointing. Jane talked for what felt like ten minutes of a 20mins slot all about her business and so we hardly had time to make something. A few people sitting close to me who had booked the Grand Make on the day (paying £5) said “oh is that it” when they had finished and didn’t find the session value for money – I would’ve felt the same.
Something I did think though with the various workshops was how similar the line up was to last year and how it is great for dipping your toe into a new craft for a quick session but it might be better if the programme was shaken up a little and try some new things. If we go next year I would be tempted to just get a day ticket and then book any sessions that grab my attention on the day.
As with last year there were two shopping tents, or villages, which was an easy way to pass the time. However I felt that firstly they were too packed and hardly gave any room to move around, in particular at lunch time; but also there were so many fabric stalls. I like fabric as much as the next crafter but it would have been nice to have a bit more variety, perhaps paper crafting or stationery need to be added. One tip I would say though is going on the Sunday meant some sellers gave great offers towards the end of the day. In particular was the stall selling craft storage (I didn’t catch its name) who ended the day giving shoppers a big plastic bag and you could fill it as much as you like for £10 – and so I did!
There were a few other stalls and tents dotted around from brands such as Sizzix, Janome, Mollie Makes, Hobbycraft and Craft Asylum and some ran short taster sessions; but the biggest difference I noticed to 2014 was the lack of the Etsy tent. In 2014 Etsy had a series of workshops across the three days focused on small business owners and how to make the most out of Etsy but also selling your crafts. I felt it was a real shame not to have this opportunity this year and feel that the Handmade Fair, whilst great as a day out, could perhaps support the independent small businesses a little more with these type of workshops.
Overall both Mum and I did enjoy The Handmade Fair 2015, it was nice to have a day out together in the sunshine and indulge in some crafts. I think it’s a great day out if you want to have a bit of a dabble, try something new and spend a lot of money. But perhaps next year the Etsy tent will return!
Did you go to the fair this year? If you did I would love to hear what you thought of it or what workshops you attended. Let me know in the comments.