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Exclusive: Kirstie Allsopp on the joys of quilting 16 March, 2010

Posted by CandidaB in Candida's blog, Interviews.
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Image credit: mydeco

Just in time for the much talked about Quilts exhibition at the V&A this month, I caught up with homemade home domestic goddess Kirstie Allsopp about the joys of quilting.

How are you involved with the exhibition?

I will be giving a talk at the V&A about quilting tonight at the Director’s Circle Dinner – I am so excited. I literally cannot wait to walk through the doors and see the exhibition.

It all started when we visited this amazing quilter in Devon, called Jo Colwill.  She is a premier quilter and teaches the craft; that’s what really sparked my interest.

Why do you think the exhibition is important?

Quilts are really special in that each one has a narrative behind it; they magically combine history, artistic talent and skill. Looking at a quilt, you can pick up clues about the circumstances in which it was crafted – the economy, current design trends, what was squandered, what was recycled…

I have always had a huge respect for skilled needlewomen.

V&A quilt

Image credit: Bishops Court quilt, 1690-1700. Unknown maker © V&A Images

Why do you think quilting has had such a revival lately?

I think quilts have always been popular to buy, but somewhere along the way we lost touch with making things. Women today work, and they feel out of touch with the act of creating something. I think there’s a new demand for doing things which ground you in family life.  If you’re on a train miles away going to a meeting, for example, and you are sewing or quilting, it transports you to your family and your home.

That’s another reason quilting is so popular: it’s portable. You can do it anywhere.

Also, if you look at the evolution of the quilt in America, it started very much as a community project, and I think this still lives on today. People love groups – I have worked with a few crafts groups – knitting, sewing etc – and everyone there is so happy to socialise as well as learn. You come away with so much more than just a skill.

Do you quilt? Honestly?

At first I was daunted by the size of them, I won’t lie. But that changed when I worked with Angel, from London-based design shop Tobias and the Angel. She taught me how to make quilted lavender cushions, and it was such fun and really easy. Small quilted things like that make great presents for the home.

Do many men quilt, do you think?

I have only ever seen one, but I am sure there will be more!


Kirstie Allsopp – Dreaming of a homemade Christmas 11 December, 2009

Posted by kirstieallsopp in mydeco guest blogger.
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Hello everyone and welcome to the second instalment of my homemade Christmas blog for mydeco. As part of a Kirstie’s Homemade Homes Christmas special, I returned to Meadow Gate to create a spectacular handcrafted yuletide. In episode one I found the perfect Christmas tree, so Wednesday night’s show was dedicated to crafting some lovely presents to go underneath it.

Image credit: Channel 4

This year I wanted my gifts to be extra special (and an excuse to avoid the high-street), so I decided to call on some more of Devon’s finest craftspeople to prove that creating beautiful, handmade gifts is much easier than you might think. From stocking sewing to soap-making, there are many crafts that can easily mastered from the comfort of your own home. Here are my favourites:

1. Making your own soap:

Image credit: Channel 4

Whenever anybody asks me what I want for Christmas, my answer is always the same – smelly things! I always think it’s good to give presents that you would like to receive, so I was thrilled when Jenny Elesmore invited me to her shop for a lesson in soap-making. Unlike the mind-boggling list of chemicals that goes into big-brand soaps, Jenny uses only five high-quality ingredients to make hers, and you don’t need any fancy equipment: just a whisk, a plastic container and some rubber gloves will do it! Follow the link for a step by step guide to making homemade smellies good enough to eat.

2. Sewing a unique Christmas stocking

Image credit: Channel 4

It’s really important in our house that Father Christmas has something special to greet him as he comes down the chimney, so I jumped at the chance to learn how to make a homemade stocking with Mandy Shaw at Dandelion Designs. This isn’t the easiest of the crafts I’ve learned so far, but with the help of my step by step guide. Even those of you who aren’t masters with a needle should be able to make these quilted Christmas stockings. My visit also inspired Mandy to create some kit’s including everything you need to make a small stocking similar to the one I created. Order yours from the Dandelion Designs website.

3. Making delectable Boxing Day Chutney:

Image credit: Channel 4

A store-bought Christmas hamper always seems like a bit of a clichéd gift (not to mention a pricey one). Compiling your own is a much cheaper alternative, and will really show your loved ones that you’ve put time and effort into their present. No hamper is complete without a good chutney, so I turned to Victoria Cranfield: her Boxing Day Chutney won the Taste of the West Silver Award 2009, and will go really well with all your leftover meats on Christmas day. Best of all, it’s edible straight away – so you can cook it up on Christmas Eve as a last-minute gift. Click here to see Victoria’s recipe.

Watch out for my next blog – I’ll be bringing you the best tips from the final episode of Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas, when all of my preparations come together in the ultimate homemade Christmas party.

Kirstie Allsopp – Dreaming of a homemade Christmas 9 December, 2009

Posted by kirstieallsopp in mydeco guest blogger.
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Hi everyone and welcome to my second blog for mydeco. Last night was the first part of Kirstie’s Homemade Christmas on Channel 4 – a three-part special in which I return to my original homemade home in Devonshire to create the perfect crafted yuletide.

Image credit: Channel 4

In last night’s episode, I showed you how to get your home ready for the festive season with the perfect handcrafted decorations. This gave me the chance to meet up with some of the artisans who helped me to transform Meadow Gate in series one – I got some great tips on cake decoration, picking the perfect Christmas tree and even glass bauble blowing!

For those of you who didn’t catch the show, don’t worry – for the next three days I’ll be posting a blog on mydeco with ideas for easy handmade decorations that even the most craft-challenged amongst you could manage!

1. Paper snowflakes

Image credit: Channel 4

Paper snowflakes are the ultimate credit crunch Christmas decoration – they cost next to nothing to make but are great fun to have a go at with the kids and look gorgeous, especially if hung in a window or against the dark green of a tree. Like most people, I used to make these at school, so as long as you can handle scissors, you can do this!

2. Popcorn garlands

Image credit: Channel 4

The kids will love making these – they’re super quick to do, cheap to make and can be eaten afterwards. You will need to supervise little ones with the needle, but the results are always great. The materials for a 1m long garland will cost about £1: just buy some yarn, popcorn and cranberries and start threading!

3.Easy to make wrapping and cards

Image credit: Channel 4

These Christmas gift wrap and card designs are so much fun for the kids to get involved in making. You don’t need any complicated kit to make them and they’re a great way to give your gifts a personal touch – ideal for giving to the grandparents! All you need to make these are some different coloured papers, paper gift bags, stiff white card and plenty of colourful glitter and ribbons to make your designs look festive.

In tonight’s episode, I show you some handmade alternatives to simply buying a gift on the high-street, then I demonstrate how to wrap them up in style! Catch it on Channel 4, 8pm.

Stay tuned for more of my tips for a crafty Christmas in tomorrow’s blog…

Kirstie Allsopp – Made in the U.K. 13 November, 2009

Posted by kirstieallsopp in mydeco guest blogger.
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Hi, I’m Kirstie Allsopp from the mydeco design board and this is my first blog for mydeco.

I’ve been on the design board for a two years, along with Sir Terence and Philippe, and I love to keep up to date on what’s going on here.  Last week, I popped in for a meeting and was thrilled when they asked me to join the blog.  I’m obsessed with Twitter as it’s so easy to fire off quick messages and keep checking all day for replies and answers, so hopefully this blog will be an extension of my twitter obsession.  I love mydeco because it combines two of my absolute passions: beautiful interiors and property.  I was invited to join the mydeco design board two years ago and am excited to be part of the website.


Image credit: mydeco

In my latest TV venture Kirstie’s Homemade Homes, I transform a derelict house in Devon using homemade furniture and accessories, along with bargains from auctions, charity shops and even skips! I want to prove that you can create something unique and wonderful using amazing artisans from the West Country and around the UK rather than going down the same old mass-produced route. Take a look at the transformed kitchen if you don’t believe me…


Image credit: Moving sense

One of the best things about making the show was meeting British craftspeople, so it is great to hear about the Cockpit Arts Maker Difference campaign. I seem to be the last to learn about the Cockpit Studios in London, but they have some great designer-makers, such as Liz Emtage. Her ceramics impressed me so much when I stopped in to have a look that I ended up coming out with a lamp!


Image credit: Cockpit arts

We must treasure crafts like quilting, and basket making, and pottery, and encourage them. When you come across something that is really pretty and special, the knowledge that it has been made locally and that you could even see it being created, gives you confidence that the UK is producing and will continue to produce wonderful work. The media would have people believe that we no longer create excellent products in the UK. Just because the focus is not on fridges and cars, it doesn’t mean that there are not hundreds of creative people working away, in studios like this,designing and making beautiful work, which is a complete joy to have.

I’m heading in to a second series of Homemade Homes as well as the Christmas Special which will be on soon! I will be updating my blog with information about British crafts regularly, so make sure you keep checking mydeco!