Being crowned the Queen of Crafting by the media, you would think Kirstie Allsopp has had a lifelong experience of making things. But, although her parents were avid crafters, the frontwoman of shows like ‘Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas’ admits she had to be persuaded to take up the handyperson’s tools.
Had it not been for her show ‘Homemade Home’, she says, “I’d be buying crafts, but I wouldn’t be doing stuff.” It was the producer of the show, which first aired in 2009, who insisted she’d have to be filmed trying her hand at the different crafts rather than just doing interviews. But this experience set her on a journey to the joys of crafting. “I realised you can actually learn anything,” she says.
Watching her host this year’s Handmade Festival, and interviewing her briefly in between events, it is obvious she is passionate about promoting the value of being able to create something out of a few simple materials. But it is also the group experience of attending workshops that she feels has become an important part of the modern craft show. “It’s the best experience,” she says. “all these things I’ve learned, I’ve got to learn with the experts for the cameras, and now we can have full classes with 30 or 40 people, all learning, all coming to have a group experience.”
Kirstie appears on our TV screens in various roles. Location, Location, Location is the iconic British show she presents with Phil Spencer that has spawned many property shows. But she is a mother first, evident by the way she sweeps her two sons into a loving embrace when they appear at her side during our conversation with her. “It’s very rare that I have to miss something for the kids.” To unwind, she cites reading, cooking and pottering around the house, tidying up. “I am quite domesticated. I find it easier to relax if everything is tidy and in its place,” she says.
Kirstie is friendly and welcoming to the audience and answers questions with honesty, even when personal. “I cannot not be truthful,” she says, adding that she feels something might happen if she told a lie. Kirstie’s openness and the warmth she shares is endearingly charming. During a question and answer session she is asked about her property show partner Phil Spencer. “He is as nice as you think he is, a great ironer and he likes to have porridge for breakfast.” She wonders why he has never been to the Handmade Festival with its overwhelmingly female audience. “What is there to be afraid of?” she quips, evoking laughter from the listeners. She often gets such a response and is a natural storyteller.
Kirstie gets inspired for her future TV shows when she sees different craftspeople, and some of the festival’s exhibitors have appeared on programmes. “We are searching all the time,” she says. Both her craft and property programmes are made by the Glasgow based independent TV company Raise the Roof Productions which she helped set up. When she starts filming one of her shows, she does not want scripts with lots of questions or background on each crafter. “I want to hear it from the crafter,” says Kirstie. This is reflected in the relaxed and impromptu style of her popular programmes.
Christmas is a big time for her and she has a large room filled with “masses” of decorations acquired over the years from various TV programmes. A new Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas show is set to air in the run up to the festive season. With so many acquired skills – hand-sewing and applique being her favourites - one of the remaining aspirations of this crafting ‘queen’ is to meet Her Majesty The Queen. “That would be my best ever moment,” she says.
The Handmade Festival will return again 11th-13th September 2020.