Went to help out on the NEC stand again this year, for the Guild of Machine Knitters. Had some serious problems with the machine - the sponge bar was on its last legs, and every time I used it, I struggled to get past the cast on (eventually resorting to an e-wrap, which for 160 stitches takes some time!), and then after I'd knit for a bit, it starting bending latches and making a right mess. As soon as I replaced a needle, another bunch went out. It didn't help that I was pig-headed and tried to use the lace carriage to transfer EON at the end, which is when it all fell off. So I didn't really do any useful knitting all day. Strangely enough, the machine seemed to work fine for everyone else. Perhaps it heard my thoughts (I was swearing at it, in my head!). I was also missing my 7-in-1 transfer tool, and my claw weights.
Later on, we had a little boy on the stand with his mum, and he made himself a hat (the machine liked him!). He was really pleased!
The show itself was great, it was in a different hall and seemed bigger than last year, though that may have been my imagination. Quite a lot of yarn stalls (more than last time), including one selling DK self-patterning yarn. I forget the make now, alas. Rachel Hunt of Extreme Knitting fame now has giant crochet hooks and giant rug hooks, too - debated with one of the guilders if it would be possible to make an extreme knitting machine with the rug hooks, and that it would probably take up an entire garage in length. I bought an extreme crochet hook - it's just under an inch in diameter - and it can also be used for tunisian, with the addition of something through the hole at the end. Drooled over the embroidery machine on Silver's stand, and also had a play with the LK150 which is finally on sale over here. Nice little machine for a beginner, and it knits DK yarn a treat. There were other embroidery machines going through their paces on the Bernina and Husquvarna stands, too. Maybe one day!!
There were a few button and bead stalls, handbags, shoes, the ubiquitous massage chairs (they are at every show - I wonder if they have some sort of deal with the NEC?). There was also a large exhibition area - gorgeous quilts, colourful wall-hangings, art bras, and a wall of fancy knitted hats (BISS' "Catch a sailor's fancy" competition entries). Also the hyperbolic crochet reef, and some giant knitting needles (pictures when I download from my phone). I signed up for a lucet braiding course with Ziggy, the UK's first "Luceteer", and found it a lot easier than last time - there's an extra move that makes it much, MUCH easier - must show Julie! I got it going really fast after a bit. I also had a quick go at making bobbin lace at the Lace Guild's stand - beautiful, and actually not as complicated as it looks! They have a museum too, must find out where it is and go take a look. Also found out what "netting" is - another lost art! I love these shows - I could get into so many more hobbies if I wasn't careful!
Downsides? Last year I'm certain there were two drinks kiosks, one for exhibitors - not this year. There were also no seating areas that weren't tied to the restaurant - Pat and Wendy from our stand got evicted for eating their packed lunches in the restaurant. I can appreciate the restaurant's point of view, but if you are exhibiting every day you can't really afford £5 sandwiches, and why should you? I took my lunch sitting on the concrete floor - not comfortable, dead legs all round! I can't understand why the NEC couldn't have extended the hall area a bit (because there was some unused space) and put out more tables and chairs. It doesn't make a profit, I suppose, but then how can you out a price on customer goodwill? I didn't spot any exhibitor-only toilets, either - not a problem for us, because there were four of us, but if you are on your own & female and on a stand it could get real tricky, because there was quite a queue at lunchtime.
The haul? Three more pom-pom makers (two tiny ones, and one jumbo), a pair of snips for sewing, and the extreme crochet hook. See, I can still spend money even when I'm not buying yarn!