Beyond the comfort zone - 'The Handmade Fair' post

In my previous "life" I was used to travelling throughout the UK for work, and was no stranger to meeting lots of different people - I'm not at all shy (but do tend to talk too much when nervous) - and didn't think twice about heading off somewhere and doing something different. So it came as a surprise to find myself driving to The Handmade Fair* in Friday's rush-hour with an anxious feeling in my stomach. I realised I was stepping out of my comfort zone for the first time in years! 

For starters, it was the first time I wasn't around to take my children to school and to pick them up. It was also the first time I'd left the dog all day. Realising I was completely reliant on others made me feel completely out of my comfort zone. I know this might sound unremarkable to mums who work outside the home all the time, or maybe you remember...

Secondly, it's been YEARS since I've driven in busy rush-hour traffic. I know the area well enough and passed two of my old homes to get there, but I've become accustomed to a tiny West Sussex village and walking everywhere (47 miles last week). Multiple lanes of hectic traffic and aggressive driving was totally out of my comfort zone!

As a punctual person, I realised pretty quickly that the two hours I'd allowed for the "1hr 12 min" drive was nowhere near enough, and this could have pushed me over the edge and ruined the start of the day. Chanting the phrase from my notebook charm as a mantra - "it is what it is" - I calmly continued the journey. Then got to Hampton Court, drove straight past the entrance to the car park (pre-booked for ease and punctuality!) and got stuck in more traffic getting back to it! Urgh! It is what it is. It is what it is.....

The 5 minute walk to the entrance, through the morning mist, was something else. There was a tangible feeling of excitement from the groups of visitors, several dressed up in vintage clothing. If you have ever been to Hampton Court Palace, you'll know what a spectacular setting this is - it was Henry VIII's favourite palace for a reason. 
The Handmade Fair
Different tickets had been available to pre-order - VIP and standard - and there was already a queue for each. (I heard one lady complaining to an exceptionally calm and composed attendant that she was special too, everyone is special even if they can't afford more expensive tickets - "of course you are, madam" - and she should be able to go in the VIP area too. "Errr, no.") Waiting with the press for Kirstie to arrive, I could see why the VIPs had paid more - and this is a tip for future events - they had an exclusive area for use throughout the day, a goody bag filled with samples and marketplace discounts (I got one too - some lovely stuff), champagne, plus entry to workshop/events and seats at the front of the Super Theatre. Good value if you can afford to pay the extra.

Perhaps Kirstie had been stuck in traffic too - shortly after she arrived, she was whisked off to meet someone and then quickly off to open the first event.  No time for mingling. This post was very nearly called "The Day I Almost Met Kirstie Allsopp"... but I did get to within a couple of metres of everyone's favourite crafting celeb, and can confirm that (a) she is as gorgeous as she looks on TV, and (b) she is just about the only woman in her 40s who could carry off this awesome headpiece and pompom shoes...
Kirstie Allsopp at The Handmade Fair
Yes, I wish I'd had the chance to speak to Kirstie, but the rest of the day more than made up for it. Here are some of the highlights...

- The Mollie Makes Mash-Up event where Deadly Knitshade/Lauren O'Farrell (of Whodunnknit, which I've followed for some time) and Jamie Chalmers (Mr X Stitch) battled for the public vote on behalf of stitchers and knitters/crocheters everywhere. I wasn't sure quite what to expect but found this to be a really fun and educational start to the day, and I will certainly be perusing Jamie's website as a result - lots of fascinating things and a whole new approach to what is typically seen as an 'old lady' craft. (Who knew that people embroider something and then sew some graffiti over it - like this?)
- Visiting the Rowan tent where Sarah Hatton, Susie Johnson (rocking a petticoat skirt), Stuart Hillard and Jane Crowfoot were based (I talked too much). Sadly Kaffe Fasset wasn't there on Friday *sob* and I'm seriously envious of those who got to meet him at the weekend.
The Handmade FairThe Handmade Fair
- Some very interesting meetings during which plans were made and plots hatched. Exciting times are ahead, and I can't quite believe some of the opportunities that are opening up and which will most certainly take me beyond the boundaries of what's currently 'comfortable'.
- I got to meet Lara Watson, editor of Mollie Makes and even got a "selfie" (I follow her on Instagram). What a lovely lady!
- There were LOTS of vendors I hadn't seen before, selling wonderful handmade items and yarn, haberdashery and all sorts of supplies. (I'll be including some of my favourites in a separate post, although I really didn't get to spend enough time in the marketplace and could have done with another day to get around everything!)
- The food was fantastic, including a gluten free caterer - worth the long queues, which provided an opportunity to chat to people and find out more about their visit and their crafting. It seems that a lot of the visitors came in groups and had pre-booked various workshops. It was a day for having a go!

The Handmade FairIn fact, 'having a go' was the cause of much hilarity as I decided to have a go at Jewellery making with the 'wire-wrapped cocktail ring' workshop hosted by the London Jewellery School. This seemed a good choice as it was something I wouldn't have normally done (comfort zone again) and the participants I sat with had also never tried it before. Looking at the rings, you'd think they would be really easy to make, but it quickly descended to chaos when it was much harder than it looked! What a laugh we had. I think this is the best thing about a fair full of good things - it was all about getting involved and trying something new. It was fun... despite my ring being a total disaster! (When I showed it to some of the ladies from Love Knitting, they agreed that I should stick to yarn.) I would love to show it to you but I gave it to Little Miss when I got home (for use as a Barbie crown as it was too big to be a ring) and she's lost it already. I can't help thinking it wasn't an accident...

I wasn't the only one with a disastrous make. In particular, there were some very 'interesting' looking macamé lampshades around the place. I chatted to a couple of ladies who'd come out of the workshop in fits of giggles at what they'd made, and they agreed - it was a lot of fun, although they weren't sure whether they disliked anyone enough to gift their lampshades for Christmas. I took a fabulous photo of them, but the upgrade to my new iPhone and the loss of my photostream means it has disappeared into icloud - the other photos here were, luckily, also uploaded to Instagram and I could still access them. I'm determined to find it and will post it when I do as it speaks a thousand words and is sure to make you smile.

So what was the highlight of my day? Wandering around the fair in the afternoon sunshine with Jane Crowfoot, someone whose work I have admired for a some time (I'm sure you'll recognise Jane's work from Pinterest boards!) as she has an amazing eye for colour.
Had a lovely time chatting with @janiecrow at #thehandmadefair #hamptoncourtpalace.
As I came to crafting in my 30s and am dabbling in design, it was fascinating to chat to someone who is a 'proper' traditional designer with impressive credentials including formal training at Winchester, design work with Debbie Bliss and Rowan, varioubooks, and a crochet club with over 450 members worldwide.

Both Jane's knitting and crochet patterns are stunning, but it's clear that crochet is her real passion. It was interesting to hear how she goes about designing for her crochet club - a very organic process. I'll be writing more about Jane's upcoming projects, there is too much to tell you about here, but if you haven't already taken a look at her website, I would recommend it.

So why is this post about comfort zones? Every time there is an event like this (or Unravel, Unwind etc) a surprising number of people tell me that they would like to go but don't have the confidence, or that they went but didn't sign up for workshops in case they were difficult. But here's the thing - it's totally worth it. If mistakes are the portals to discovery**, then there's a lot of scope for discovery! Stepping beyond what's comfortable and easy can be a fun and very rewarding, but you have to take that step.

I really hope The Handmade Fair becomes and annual event, and if so I would definitely recommend going. If you can, get a group of friends to go with you, dress up in your gladrags if you like, but book some workshops. Don't expect to come away with perfect FOs, but do expect aching sides and faces (from laughing) and hopefully a new confidence to give things a try - even if you normally wouldn't.
*I was kindly provided with tickets for a giveaway and a ticket for myself, however this post is entirely my own personal and honest opinion after spending a day at the event and chatting to other visitors about it. 
** Get me, quoting James Joyce!


  1. It really was a great day out, wasn't it, and quite different. We managed to miss the traffic on the way there - sounds like we were lucky.

  2. It sounded like a fantastic day. I bet your so glad you challenged yourself and tried new things. Your hint about 'exciting times ahead' sounds so intriguing. Thanks for sharing your day. I would have loved to go but live too far away to travel just for one day.
    Ali xx

    1. Definitely- it was great!

      There's plenty to do locally, maybe you could make a weekend of it next year? X

  3. Agh, I'm trying so hard just to be happy for you, honestly! I had a chance to be there too (and I would have been fangirling to get a selfie with you, you know!) but I had a op not long ago and have had to give it a miss. If the chance comes up next year I'll not going to let myself miss out again. Really, happy for you, really....

    1. Ah Julia, that would have been lovely. A shame you didn't make it, but next year...!!

  4. Lovely to read about your day at The Handmade Fair. We travelled early as I know from experience how busy the Hampton Court area gets. When my husband collected me it took him 2 hours to travel 9 miles! Just crazy, but totally worth it as the day was brilliant! Hoping to go next year too. Best wishes, Pj x

  5. Great post!
    You are a hero driving through thick traffic.
    I'm so glad that there is public transport everywhere in Switzerland. The most rewarding adventure I had was finding my way out of Montreal a few years back. The adrenalin boost was lifting me up for days afterwards. :-)


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