TV presenter, property developer and ‘craft queen’ Kirstie Allsopp talks to Christine Boggis about homemade gifts, homes and happiness.
Readers will know your face well from your TV shows and books. Tell us three things about you we might not already know.
Phil and I have been working together for 17 years. I’m in the process of writing my first cookery book. And I’m filming a Christmas show this week!
You are known as the “craft queen” because your books and TV shows cover so many crafts. Which of the crafts you’ve tried have you really liked, and were there any you just couldn’t get on with?
I’ve been lucky enough to have been taught so many wonderful crafts over the years that it’s hard to choose, but some favourites are tie dye, felting, appliqué and flower crowns. I love any sort of papercraft and upcycling of any kind. I’m an obsessive collector of baskets so I’m fascinated by willow weaving too. Oh, and I’m in awe of the incredible work that goes into quilting and blanket making – the list goes on! Crocheting is the one that’s always floored me – I love it but I’m all fingers and thumbs.
When you are crafting, what is your favourite bit – the process or the end product?
Definitely the process. It’s the challenge of learning and perfecting that excites me. Of course the end product is gratifying too, especially when it all goes to plan.
Some years ago lots of people used to sneer at homemade things, but these days there’s much more respect for DIY gifts, homewares and the like. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s a combination of things, money being one. People are less inclined to just chuck it about at things no one really needs, so if they can make something beautiful then it means more and costs less.
I also think people enjoy switching off from the stresses of life to try their hand at something crafty. If you have a stressful job it can be very therapeutic, especially if you are making something for someone else.
I understand you struggled to learn to knit because you are left-handed. Could you tell us a bit about why it was difficult, how you overcame it and how you feel about knitting today?
I’ve been taught to knit by various experts and it’s a wonderful craft, but being left-handed has its disadvantages when it comes to knitting. However, like any craft, practice makes perfect.
When do you knit, and what do you like about it?
To be really honest I don’t have as much time as I would like, but one day when there’s less going on I think it will be something I could really get into.
What are your favourite types of things to knit?
I wish I was that accomplished a knitter to say! If I could manage a simple scarf I’d be thrilled.
Do you find knitting and crafts in general help you relax?
I find making things hugely relaxing and a great way to switch off. Time is always the enemy, but I’m constantly striving to create more windows to do the things I love. I do as much with the children as I can, and it’s a great way to spend time with them too.
Much of your work has been about buying, selling, refurbishing and kitting out homes. How can readers put their own stamp on their homes?
Whether you own or rent, it’s essential to make it home and surround yourself with things you love. Find a style you love and invest in a few good pieces.
Add colour and texture with soft furnishings such as rugs, cushions, curtains and lampshades. In our house almost everything is second-hand. My partner has a real aversion to buying anything new, particularly sofas, so I’ve become an expert cushion buyer – they are the saviour of any old sofa!
In Love It or List It you encourage people to work with the places they already live in and turn them into what they want, rather than moving on. For those of us who aren’t quite happy with where we are but don’t know where to start to change them into our dream homes, what would you advise?
So often I see houses where only half the space is actually used. What I try to do on the show is to make the house flow in a way that uses all the available space. It might mean moving a wall, door or even a room, but it’s worth it to get the most out of the space.
At home we’re constantly moving furniture around, which can be equally effective. Try getting the right pieces in place first before knocking down walls. If you decide to do structural work then be sure to get an expert to draw up some plans and plenty of advice before starting.
How important is the home environment to wellbeing?
I think it’s vital. Home should be a place to unwind and relax, away from the stresses and strains of work. A place to entertain friends and family and somewhere that you’re proud to call home.
What impact do homemade craft projects have on an interior?
They add character and tell a story.
As a busy mum and career woman, how do you find time and energy to keep fit and healthy?
I have two teenage stepsons and two younger sons, so rising early is a given. We live between London and Devon so I won’t deny it’s a busy life and I couldn’t do it all without the help of a few key people. But as any busy mum will know, if I don’t stay on top of my own health and fitness it can easily fall apart. So I try to do a bit of exercise every day and make a conscious effort to eat well. If I stick to these two things then I stand a chance of getting through the busy times.
And what do you do to relax?
I spend time with [my partner] Ben and the boys in Devon. It’s where we catch up with each other and often have friends to join us too. The weekends are sacred.
Kirstie Allsopp’s The Handmade Fair will be returning to Ragley Hall from 11-13 May, to Hampton Court Palace from 14-16 September and will be heading to Wiltshire for the first time in the beautiful grounds of Bowood House & Gardens from 22 – 24 June. Click here for more information or to purchase your tickets.
- Words: Christine Boggis
- This article is an extract from Knitting magazine, Issue 167. Purchase the digital edition here.