Craft · Days Out

The Handmade Fair – Midlands edition

On Sunday I went to the Handmade Fair, hosted at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire. It was the third Handmade Fair I’d been to, in 2015 I went to both the regular Hampton Court one and the Christmas themed Manchester one. I’d enjoyed them both so was really excited to see that there was going to be a Midlands one shortly after I’d moved back home.

The three days (it ran Friday to Sunday) were hosted by different people – Friday was Kirstie Allsopp, Saturday was Liz Earle and Sunday was Patrick Grant. We didn’t see much of Patrick, he wasn’t involved in any of the sessions we went to, though we did seem him wandering around at one point.

One of my favourite things about the Handmade Fair format is that as well as your admission your ticket gives you access to a pre-booked Grand Make, Skills Workshop and Super Theatre session. The Grand Make is a half hour workshop where you’re one of a large group all learning a quick craft. We did one where we made a coaster using precut wooden shapes, decorating it using ink pads and Chiyogami paper. It was fun, and gave me ideas for other projects, my coaster looked like this by the end of it:

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The Skills Workshop lasts for an hour, and involves a slightly smaller group so you can get more guidance if you need it. The one we went to was called Watercolour Modern Botanicals, it aimed to teach you to paint a rose by the end of the session. I’m no artist, but I’ve learned from previous Handmade Fairs that it’s a really good way to try something new and so it felt good to step outside of my comfort zone. The hour was challenging (and not made any easier by the fact that whoever had used my paintbrush in the previous days’ workshops had somehow prevented the brush from returning to anything remotely fine line worthy) and by the end of it my rose wasn’t very rose like but I’d thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating it. It certainly hasn’t put me off trying a little more with watercolours, though I don’t think I’ll be aiming for anything realistic.

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The final session we went to was the Super Theatre which is a 45 minute long something to watch – whether a demonstration or chat or similar. We went to the Mollie Makes Mash Up. They take two different crafters, give them the same challenge and 45 minutes to complete it. We saw H & Sammy take on Francesca Stone, they were given a white polystyrene wreath and had to decorate it while also being interviewed by the Mollie Makes editor. It’s a great session format, it’s very entertaining watching people making things against the clock.

Alongside all of the workshops, the Handmade Fair also offers shopping opportunities. There was a large Shopping Village marquee filled with people selling their handmade wares, and companies selling things for you to use in your own crafting. I’m always slightly underwhelmed by this side of the event, the number of stalls selling things other people have made always exceeds the number of stalls selling things I want to buy for my craft. At this event there were so many jewellery sellers, and while their products all look lovely I’d much rather have seen a few more stalls selling fabric and yarn.

Comparing the event with the two I’d been to before I would say it fell in the middle. The Manchester event was poorly attended, and the experience suffered as a result – we attended it on the Sunday and many of the traders who’d already had two days of poor sales just didn’t seem interested in being there any more. The Hampton Court event on the other hand is much bigger – the Shopping Village takes up two of the marquees for starters – and is an established event. I’ve seen that the dates are already set for Ragley Hall for 2018 so I have high hopes that it will be growing and will soon match it’s southern counterpart.

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