Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Craft in Focus Sevenoaks November 2012

In just ten days I shall be exhibiting for the first time in Sevenoaks School with Craft in Focus.  I've been to this event as a visitor a couple of times before and loved the atmosphere.

There are around 60 stands at this event which gives you a chance to meet and talk to all the exhibitors.  There's also a lovely cafe area with homemade food so you can ponder your potential purchases over coffee and cake before making your final choice.  I was delighted to find out that Craft in Focus had given me the opportunity to show my wares here and am looking forward to getting to meet a whole new set of customers.

For me, preparation for an event like this is not just about designing and making but also about trying to get to know an area before setting out my stall.  Fortunately Sevenoaks is only about 35 minutes away from Epsom where I live and is home to several lovely National Trust properties which are a perfect starting point to exploring this area.  

We've been to Emmett's Garden a few times because it's open to dogs and has the most amazing views over the Weald of Kent.  

Not too far away is Chartwell with equally stimulating views making it easy to understand why Churchill wanted to settle here and  found the landscape so inspiring. Right in the centre of town is Knole House, birthplace of Vita Sackville West.  According to Wikpedia, it's a calendar house having 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. It's set in a 1,000 acre deer park.  We've not been there yet but I'm interested to explore it.

On Saturday I went over to distribute my remaining flyers and some special offer tickets for the event.  On the way I was wondering whether there were indeed seven oaks in this town.  There were none immediately obvious but I noticed on my car park ticket that the trees were depicted so I guessed they must have existed at one time.  The best information I've been able to find is on a website devoted to the White Hart Inn http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/whitehart/history/.  

It says that the name "Sevenoaks" originated from the Saxon word 'Seouenaca', a name given in about 800 A.D. to a small chapel near seven oaks in Knole Park.  The town has apparently had more than one group of seven oaks planted over the years, some have been felled, some blown down in the hurricane of 1987 but currently has two 'sets', one near the White Hart and the other on the Vine cricket ground.  The strange thing about the latter is that it's really a group of eight after seven were replaced after the hurricane despite the fact one had been left standing.  Does anyone know why this happened?

It was great to find that many of the shops around the town were already displaying posters for the event but I did leave some leaflets at Puddleducks http://www.puddleducksquilts.co.uk the quilt fabric shop at the northern end of the town where I just had to buy a few fat quarters to add to my  stock, including some very pretty lavender coloured fabric which will be used for my textile greetings cards. 

I also found a  really lovely independent shop called Lady Butterworth's http://www.ladybutterworths.co.uk right in the centre of town which had some lovely gifts and encouraged Sarah the owner to come along to the Craft in Focus fair to see if any of us can add to her repertoire.

My final port of call on Saturday was at Kentish Craft Fairs Harvest Fair http://www.kentishcraftsfairs.co.uk in Riverhead organised by the amazing Helen Cook.  Because she too had high quality handmade items (as well as locally produced food) I was tempted to part with some cash and treated myself to a beautiful glass plaque by Ann from SandGlassFusion http://www.sandglassfusion.co.uk  (an early birthday present for me),  some seriously cute Christmas cards based on illustrations by John Butler from Little Blue Zebra http://littlebluezebra.com and some gorgeous handmade soap from Fentons of Kent http://www.fentonsofkent.co.uk which I can't wait to use - the fragrance of the Gardeners' Soap is really uplifting.  

Remember that every purchase you make from a stall at a 'handmade only' event not only helps to support a small business but to keep alive the amazing creative talent we have in this country and helps these skills to be passed on to others.  So come along to Sevenoaks School on 2nd November (after 12 noon) or at the weekend when we'll be open from 10-5.  Find out about the passion behind the creations and buy from the best.  I've kept back a few tickets which entitle you to bring a friend for free so if you would like one just email your address to alison@lavender-heart.co.uk and I'll pop one in the post to you.
Looking forward to seeing you there.

Lots of love as always

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ally Pally Inspirations

Today, with less than three weeks to go to my first major event of the Christmas season what I should have been doing is spending the day making, labelling and packing but instead I somehow found myself driving round the North Circular this morning on my way to the best source materials show for knitters and stitchers in the South East, the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. To be honest, it wasn't totally about spending money on new supplies (no, really!) but the day out gave me a chance to regroup myself (if that's possible) and some new ideas to think about on the way back.

My first port of call was Blooming Felt http://www.bloomingfelt.co.uk.  I've probably said this before but Sarah, the entrepreneurial owner of this company is a personal inspiration to me.  She's built a very well known and successful business in the craft world and I hang on her every word!  

Today she inspired me with some lovely felt ball flowers which I think may appear in some of my mini pictures

and a rather disjointed (literally) person for whom I have some knitty ideas.  (You'll just have to wait a bit for these - a 2013 project).

But I was also on the lookout for a little present for me and Sarah suggested this little kit

which was fortunately marked

I was also lucky enough to snap up the last few of these ceramic buttons which sent me whizzing round to the Alpaca Select stall http://www.alpacaselect.co.uk for some matching yarn.  More knitted corsages on the way!

I find that alpaca yarn is some of the loveliest to work with and this company has a gorgeous range of plain and variegated colours in both pure alpaca and 50% alpaca/50% acrylic.  They're both beautifully soft.

I can never visit this show without calling at the Black Sheep stall.  They always have amazing bargains but you have to be prepared to rummage around on the floor!  Today I was good and limited myself to one purchase which was some pale pink Rowan Siena 4ply.  I have decided, after years of not knitting garments to have a go at a lacy jumper pattern.  If it turns out OK you may see it here, if not, forget I ever mentioned it!  I'll only need a few of the 10 balls in the bag so thinking about what to do with the rest was one of the topics in my mind as I was queuing at Hangar Lane on my return journey.

The stitching part of the show for me was a hunt for some different fabrics and for this I went first to The Village Haberdashery http://www.thevillagehaberdashery.co.uk.  I've been following them on Facebook and joined their survey panel as it gives me a chance to give some feedback on new stock.  Everyone at the stall was really lovely and I picked up three really interesting prints.  Keep up the good work girls!

Of course, I can't resist a bargain and at the New Threads Quilt stall I picked up six lovely fat quarters and owner Meg very kindly helped me to find the perfect thimble for my very sore finger.  Phew!  Find her on-line here http://www.new-threads.com and near Andover which fortunately for me is on the way to my favourite hotel in Somerset.

And finally I found  three pretty ditsy prints at the Fabrics Galore (https://www.facebook.com/fabricsgalorelondon) stand which will be the perfect backdrop for some textile cards I have in mind.

Craft for me is also about trying out new pieces of kit and I found three items to make fabric roses, bows and flowers. Sometimes these things do not work quite as well as they appear to but I'll roadtest these and let you see the results.

I was just about to leave but realised this show wasn't all about spending money so took a wander into the hall showcasing the talents of textile designers.  And who did I find but Clare Beaton!  If you have or have had a young child but you don't know her beautiful illustrations you've missed out and should remedy this situation immediately!  When my daughter was very young I bought her Clare Beaton books as a keepsake because I so loved the textile illustrations. Today I saw some of the original sewn work for these illustrations which have so inspired me and, even more importantly, had the chance to meet Clare herself.  You can find out more about her at http://www.clarebeaton.com.  I bought these lovely Christmas cards as a final reminder of a fantastic and inspirational day out.

Back to work now.

Love as always
Alison xx