After years of visiting shows as a customer and vendor, and contributing to other peoples' show advice guides, I thought it might finally be time to compile my own. If you have any to add, please leave a comment below.
Shows are brilliant.. they can be incredibly inspiring and fun, but they can also be overwhelming, exhausting, and confusing. Hopefully these tips will help you get the best out of your trip.
- Set off early: Look up your route and how long it's going to take. Add extra time for the potential queue getting into the carpark and getting into the actual venue. It's a bit rubbish arriving at a show with only a couple of hours before closing (ask me how I know..!).
- Research the show: Firstly, check the show guide.. look up which vendors will be there and highlight them - look at where their stalls will be on the map so you can be confident you won't miss them. It also means if there are hand dyers (for instance) that you absolutely love, you can make sure you go to their stalls first, knowing that you have other stalls planned for after that. It's just a good idea on many levels!
- Check whether there'll be food available - and remember to anticipate queuing for it. If you get hungry quickly, or suffer with your blood sugar for instance, take a few cereal bars or something in your bag. Also take a bottle of water.
- Similarly, check where the toilets are. Sometimes they'll be outside the venue building, sometimes they'll be inside but by the entrance, and sometimes they'll be away up stairs and down corridors. Again, there's usually a big queue, so anticipate that.
- If it's relevant, remember to check disabled access - some venues such as Woolfest and Yarndale are animal auction marts and have uneven flooring. It's unavoidable, but it's worth asking other people if they've found it ok for wheeling a wheelchair on for instance. Actually this counts for buggies too.
- Enclosed space: another thing we've come across - some shows are not great for people with claustrophobia and some shows are more manageable - again, ask about (on Ravelry, twitter etc) about spacing between stalls, how wide the aisles are, how enclosed the building is, etc. Wonderwool for instance is particularly spacious. If you're not confident about entering a wee stall space, most vendors will be more than happy to grab things and bring them to you if that helps.
- What to wear? We all know how annoyingly changeable the British weather can be. I've been to Woolfest in June when it's been both freezing and boiling. So wear layers. Of wool, obviously. Lots of light layers mean you can adapt to the environment and not have a big heavy coat to carry.
- Shoes: please wear sensible shoes. Your feet are going to be carrying you around for a looooong time. Don't make them suffer. Many shows have seating, but at some of them you can never actually get a chair, so be aware of that. Yarndale has intermittent stalls especially for seating, but many places either don't have the space or inclination for that. The worst one I've experienced is the Knitting & Stitching show - you just have to be prepared to sit on the floor at busy times, should you need to.
- Set yourself a budget: either take a set amount of cash and be done with it, or if you're on a debit/credit card stick to your budget and maybe even make a note of how much you've spent.
- Take cash (if you have change, even better!) - a lot of shows won't have cash machines, and many vendors are only able to take cash (either because they don't have a card machine, or they do and the wifi they were promised isn't working or there's no mobile signal). Also remember that quite a few card machines won't accept AMEX (also, we have a Paypal card machine which is fine but it can be a bit funny with Danish debit cards for some reason). If you have a smart phone, some vendors can take direct Paypal payments as an option, so it'd be worth downloading the app in advance just in case.
- Take bags - well I'd say this if you were going anywhere, but please take bags. A lot of vendors like myself will have paper carrier bags, but of course it's better if you have reusable cotton or jute shoppers. They're bigger for a start.
- Plan projects - if you're not the kind of crafter who can buy whatever they fancy knowing they'll do something with it, then I'd recommend taking a project to do list, with information about materials required. If you're a knitter/crocheter, consider printing all or part of your Ravelry queue. Or you could screenshot it on your phone/tablet. As vendors we try and keep a window open on our ipad/phone with Ravelry on, so that we can quickly check information for customers - it's not always easy if we're really busy or the signal isn't very good though, so if you're able to do that, that's ideal.
- Communicate - swap phone numbers beforehand if you're meeting people. Tell each other which piece of eyecatching handmade item you'll be wearing so that you can easily spot each other (and in case you've forgotten/don't know what each other look like!).
- Talking of handmade stuff - half the fun of a show is spotting knitting/crochet/hand-sewn items out in the wild! Revel in complimenting each other, and if you want to take a picture of someone's knitwear - just ask - they're sure to say yes and appreciate the fact that you like it so much. I think this is one of the things that really makes the atmosphere special at a show - my personal favourites on this count are Edinburgh Yarn Festival and Unravel in Farnham.
- Take cards/leaflets if you're not going to buy anything but really want to make sure you look at the website later, take a card - if necessary write on the back a note to yourself about what it was that you liked or saw. Alternatively if you have a show guide with web addresses in, circle the vendor's name and make a note by it.
- The usual theft-related cautions: It's awful, but stuff can get nicked at a show just as easily as anywhere else. We like to think it's a lovely trustworthy environment but please just keep your eye on your money, keys and phone if nothing else. Please just be sensible about stuff like that.
That's all I can think of for now! In a nutshell: make sure you have an idea of what you'd like to see/buy/buy for, and make sure to grab on your way out: cash, a bottle of water, a cereal bar or similar, bags, and your phone and/or tablet. And go enjoy yourself and buy lots of yarn - no excuses necessary!