I've come to the conclusion that finding what you want out of the Knitting & Stitching Show (or any other big hall, lots of vendors convention/show/venue) is an art form. As this year's show is coming up soon, I thought I'd share my tips and suggestions to get yourself in and out with exactly what you want.
WARNING: attacking a show like this may result in one being mistaken for a buyer/someone important/god only knows what.
Do Your Homework
Beyond the obvious (figuring out who will be exhibiting, whether you want to go to any workshops, etc) there are some things you should definitely do before you leave your own house. Preferably, in the weeks leading up to a show.
Buy tickets online- They are almost always discounted, and this way you buy exactly how many days you want.
Consider this: what are your goals for the show? Do you want to find the perfect backing fabric? or a new hobby to try? gifts? just looking? What you want out of the show is very important and will determine how you deal with everything else.
Take stock of what you already own, what you want to own, and what projects its reasonable to look for stuff for. Shows can be very hit or miss as to what you actually find, and I rarely can say that I definitely get the items I need for a project when I go, but at least if you have an idea of what those things are, then you have a good place to start.
Plan Your Attack
This goes hand in hand with doing your homework. I like to plan:
a) what I'm looking for
b) the route I will take to look at everything there
c) how much I will spend
d) plan what days you'll be there
C is REALLY important. There's no point letting yourself loose in a show and expecting it not to break the bank if you don't have a limit yourself. I like to take out cash before I reach the venue and stick to that and only that. Once you run out of cash, stop buying!
Pro Tip- If you're JUST going for the shopping, consider attending on the last day in the afternoon. Vendors are usually looking at what stock they have to take back, not wanting to pack it up and will often give you deep discounts if the clock is ticking down and what you want is still on their shelves. You may not get the latest greatest, but it can definitely get you some seriously cheap stuff!
Mentally and physically, shows can be tiring, so its good to get yourself ready. But you should also consider what you want to project while you're there. Its pretty standard to see tons of women in their comfies wandering aimlessly through the hall, but here's why you should not be one of those.
I dress up for shows. Sure, the heels may not be most practical for several hours of walking around a trade show hall, but you would be surprised at the difference it can make. If you can't face heels, a good pair of flat boots will still make you look smart which counts for more than you might think.
If you look well and organised, you automatically get put into the 'professional' category (whether buying or crafting or exhibiting). This has bonuses.
I remember the first time I took my iPad to a show. I used it to take notes on everything I saw. Every single exhibitor who saw me taking notes stood up straighter, came over and talked to me and offered help, extra deals or just advice. None of my experiences were worsened by the extra attention, and very often helped.
This is what I do now as standard. Look well, look organised, take notes.
Additionally make sure you bring a good handbag that will actually make your life easier, not harder. I prefer over the shoulder types as ones on my arm get too heavy over the course of several hours.
Shows are big and exciting. Its very easy to walk down the first aisle, come out the other end and realise you've no money left and 16 rows left to check out.
This is why I take notes and plan ahead. My plan is always to not buy anything until I've seen everything in the hall. This means backtracking, true, but because I've taken notes, I know exactly what I saw, where it was and how much it costs. I take the following notes when I find something I like the look of:
a) What stand I'm at
b) Where the stand is (aisle and number)
c) What I saw that I liked
d) Prices of what I liked
e) Websites of places that look interesting so that I can check them later in the year for more stuff
These are the essentials. You could easily add extra info in, but I find that this is plenty usually.
Pacing yourself is also about physically taking breaks when you need to. I find that with my note taking, I do a relatively thorough once over through the hall, then go find a place for something to eat and drink and check through my notes. This gives my legs a bit of a break and gives me more energy for the return trip (which will be much faster, but heavier by the end of it).
My notes are invaluable for not breaking the bank. Because I have all the costs of everything, its easy to go through and compare what's on offer, see if certain stands are selling cheaper than others, and decide what it is I'm actually going to purchase without breaking my budget.
Once I decide on that, then it's back to make my final round of the hall.
STICK TO THE PLAN
This is probably the hardest part of all. Its very easy to splurge on just that one extra thing as you're checking out and picking out what you want. The years that I'm smart, I plan this into my budget. The years I'm not, I go over budget.
But ultimately, following all of these steps is what has consistently given me a successful show shopping experience and hopefully will help you have one too.