12 Jul 2017By Mark Hayhurst
Kirstie Allsopp is a familiar face on our TV screens.
She started presenting the property show Location, Location, Location on Channel 4, along with Phil Spencer, back in 2000.
But her love of craft has also made it’s way to the small screen in her Handmade shows and Kirstie’s Craft Christmas.
And outside of television there are also the Kirstie Allsopp presents The Handmade Fair, which are staged at Ragley, Warwickshire, and Hampton Court.
There has been an increased interest in craft over recent years and Kirstie believes that the reason is pretty clear.
She said: “I think it is coming back and the reason is because it is a counterbalance to our modern culture, doing something with your hands, doing something in a considered way, doing something calm and creative is such a refuge from the sort of life that we lead.
“I think if you look at it like a pendulum – there was a big swing away from craft. It was anti-feminist to do things in the home. Because a lot of craft is home-based it was seen as a negative.
“But now the pendulum is swinging back the other way.
“I sat in a meeting at the bank and there was this really bright, feisty, red-haired finance girl, who had all the facts and figures and everything and just at the very end of our meeting she asked me a craft question
“So there we had a a young, professional woman who was also a very keen crafter.”
The influence of television programmes has also helped to push craft back into the limelight.
Programmes like Kirstie’s Handmade series, The Great British Sewing Bee and the Great Pottery Throwdown have helped to attract people back to craft.
Kirstie said: “When we started doing Homemade Home everyone said you can’t have crafts on at 8pm. They were like no – this won’t wash.
“Channel 4 were really brave.”
But Kirstie also believes that craft has an important role to play in health and education.
She said: “My kids have phones and iPads and they watch films on them in the evening.
“But a lot of kids are doing things pretty consistently on screens and we just don’t know the impact on fine motor skills.
“Craft helps the link between your brain and your hands.
“The positivity of craft is endless.
“I did pottery at school, all sorts of things, and the number of schools now that don’t have a wheel and kiln has just reduced dramatically.
“For many, many years the education agenda has been to promote academics - that it’s all about the maths, it’s all about the English and everything else.
“That is all very well for a percentage of the pupils but another percentage, which I really include myself in, are going to go into jobs where being able to do something with their hands is essential.
“You talk to motor manufacturers, for example, and they’ll say they are really struggling to get the designers who are able to make the models for the cars.
“My favourite story was one I heard from the Craft Council about dentists because you have to be able to sew.
“When we were doing Homemade Home a couple of years ago we went to this incredible recycling place and the lady there said the number one reason that clothes are thrown out is because they are missing buttons.”
And that is one of the reasons that Kirstie became involved with The Handmade Fair.
She said: “That is what I was trying to do with the Handmade Fairs because I had the experience of learning things from the people who came on the show.
“I was a very keen appreciator of craft but I didn’t do many things for myself.
“When we did Homemade Homes my producer said, at the last minute, oh by the way you have to do everything alongside the crafter and I was like ‘Oh my God!’
“I have since become obsessed by that idea that everyone has got a craft, everyone has to have.
“If you think you can’t mend something, if you think you can’t hang a picture, if you think you’re incapable of doing anything then you feel very out of control.
“I think that element of it is very important. You can come to the fair and not spend a penny, other than the price of your ticket, if you want, and have a wonderful experience, go and have a look at the crafters, bring your own picnic.
“You can just go to your classes, have your picnic, go to the talks and have a fantastic day out. It’s a communal day out learning with other people.”
But when Kirstie isn’t being forced into crafting by her producers, she does have a few favourites.
She added: “What I really love are the things that enable me to upcycle things – so painting and gilding techniques.
“I have to say though that the honest answer to this is the cocktail making - just because that has always been so much fun.
“When I have done freestyle machine embroidery that was really inspirational.
“I like any form of block printing, I love that kind of thing, book binding anything with paper I always really enjoy.
“The things I am not good at are the rhythmic, repetitive crafts that involve rhythm and numeracy, so knitting, crochet and cross stitch I really struggle with.”
And Kirstie will be back on our screens crafting later in the year.
She said: “We have made the Christmas show already but we are doing a daytime Christmas show which we are filming in October.
“To be honest I would do craft shows all day long but Location, Location, Location and Love it or List it do take up a lot of my time.
“And although the channel are very generous and would commission more craft shows it is a decision about time and the kids and the stage that they’re at.
“So at the moment the main place where the craft comes up is in the Christmas shows which I really love.”
Outside of craft, she will also be a launching a new cookery book, called Kirstie’s Real Kitchen, which comes out in September.