Don’t tell Kirstie Allsopp that crafting isn’t for everyone. The presenter of Channel 4’s most Christmassy of shows is passionate about the benefits of crafting and wants to spread the word about the positivity of making. Although she’s yet to get the hang of knitting and crochet…
There’s plenty of amazing craft TV shows out there but Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas has become a staple of British festive TV in December. Kirstie’s been filming the show for 7 years since it first aired in 2014, and she’s not run out of Christmas craft juice yet.
We meet up with her to find out what it’s like flying the flag for crafting each year and filming one of the most festive TV shows on the planet. Read on to find out when the show is on TV, where you can watch it, and Kirstie’s revelations about what it’s like to film it.
When is the show filmed?
When we meet her in November, Kirstie had just finished filming the 2021 episodes. Surprisingly filming takes place quite late in the year – the daytime competition shows are filmed in October, while the prime time special episode (this year featuring Phil Spencer) is filmed in early November. “I’m starting the voiceovers for the daytime show tomorrow,” she tells us, “and I’ve got a stinking cold! We’ve honed it down to have less voiceover and now we properly show things on camera and we prefer it that way.”
Having been filming the show for almost a decade, Kirstie is genuinely passionate about the benefits of making, and fiercely defensive of the idea that craft is in some way not for everyone.
“The people who come on the show are so talented and so amazing and I get really cross with people who are a bit, like, ‘oh you know crafting is for middle class housewives’; this kind of thing makes me feel murderous. It’s such a wide range of ages, people from all over the world, people from everywhere – there’s not a special group of people who have the luxury of crafting and a whole lot of others who are in the real world. We get so many people who come in and talk about their mental health – so that is fantastic and I really love that bit.
“And we also get people who bring their heritage to the show from all over the world – Israel, Afghanistan, Kenya, Mauritius – every corner of the world we’ve had someone bring a craft and they’ve got their traditional Christmas twist on it and bring their special thing. And it’s lovely talking about it and discovering about the people. We have this thing on the show where I get to do a little bit of crafting with each person, which is really nice and I love that element of it because I always learn something.”
One of the show’s most memorable features is that Kirstie joins in and crafts with the makers who are featured on screen. Has she ever tried a craft on screen that’s not gone to plan?
“I the new series, Phil and I attempt these candles which are supposed to look like Christmas trees and you’re meant to make them by melting down the wax and then cutting it with cookie cutters, and then stacking up the wax. Except if you get the quantities wrong and you pour three times the amount of wax into the baking tray that you should, then it doesn’t dry, then you attempt to cut with the cookie cutters and then it just was an absolute disaster.” When the show’s producer suggested they refilm the segment, she refused. “I was like ‘no we’re not redoing it – it happens! People love that stuff.”
We agree – we’ve all been there when crafts don’t go to plan. Has she learned anything from the experience? “I have now banned candles! Absolutely banned them – they are a pain – wax gets everywhere. I’m still picking it out of things.”
Don’t let this put you off – you can find out how to make beeswax candles here on Gathered!
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2021 is on Channel 4 and available to watch online on Channel 4‘s website. The 2021 series began with a special launch episode followed by 10 teatime episodes, each 45 minutes long.
The show airs every day at 5pm from Monday 13th December 2021. Kirstie launched the series with a one-off prime time special episode on Friday 3 December at 8pm – where she was joined by Phil Spencer and tries out a range of special Christmas crafts, from DIY Christmas crackers to Hogmanay cocktails.
Kirstie Allsopp presents Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas and has done since the show’s conception in 2014. Kirstie is best known for co-presenting Location, Location, Location alongside Phil Spencer. Kirstie has been the number one supporter of the craft world and independent businesses, frequently expressing her love for the handmade on her social media.
The show wouldn’t be the same without Kirstie and we love her passion for all things creative. She gives every craft a go (even the tricky ones) showing that craft is for everyone and can be as meditative as it is fun. We can’t wait to see Kirstie back on our screens in 2021. She’s officially the queen of Christmas for us!
The show is filmed on set in Kirstie’s house, and in a special marquee set up nearby. “We did it twice this year – it’s real sacrifice because I’m quite tidy and with film crews everything gets shifted around. The set for the daytime show is a whole load of stuff moved out of the house into a Christmas marquee. Where does she fit in all the Christmas props needed? “They’re all upstairs in my attic – if I ever stop doing Christmas telly I will have to have a Christmas decorations sale. In fact, I could open a Christmas decorations shop.”
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2021 looks set to be the best season yet! Both its launch episode and following daily teatime craft competitions will feature inspiring handmade projects, tasty bakes and beautiful gift ideas. This year’s competition rounds will feature makers from all around the world, from Kenya to Mauritius. The makers are competing to create the best and most unique festive items, from Handmade wreaths to Gingerbread houses.
“The two shows are very different,” Kirstie explains, “and I meant that! They might both seem like they’re about Christmas but there’s a lot of width within that topic. The daytime show is an hour long and each one focuses on a competition. We have cakes, stocking, tree, jumper, gift, toy, etc… and it’s a very genuine competition. At the end we have four cameras – one pointing at each of the four contestants because no one except the judge knows who’s won. I do not influence the result or know the result.
“It’s taken incredibly seriously. It’s a very professional operation. We get lots of wonderful people in to be judges and we’re really lucky with who we get in to be judges and we get all sorts and we really appreciate the effort and time that goes into every contestants’ – because it’s hours of work.
“And then the prime time show is different,” (it aired on Friday 3rd December and is available to catch up online on the Channel 4 website). “It’s a little more luxe. It’s not got the tension of the daily show and it’s a little more focused on – is there that one thing that you want to treat yourself to on the big day?
“Obviously it goes without saying that nobody’s going to do everything – some people will do nothing – and we are thrilled by the watchers as much as we are by the doers. We’re not saying ‘oh well, everyone who watches our show does these crafts,’ – of course they don’t! I don’t do anything I watch on Professional Masterchef. But it’s that sense of the run up to Christmas and the feel and the decorations. That’s why I always dress up and put all my jewellery on. I always look absurdly overdressed on the Christmas show, because I take it seriously.”
What has she learned from making the crafts on screen?
“When we did the first handmade show they said ‘well you can’t just stand there – you’ve got to do it,’ and I said ‘I can’t possibly’ and then of course that became part of what we did. And it’s part of the show, so there’s no going back. And of course I’ve learned things – I’ve learned things massively. And I’ve learned that everyone has a craft – I cannot knit or crochet, I really can’t – it’s the rhythmical nature of it. I just can’t keep it in my brain.
“But it’s really part of me – of what I do. Personally my crafting is mending. So I now know how things are made. If I buy something – a picture which is done with quilling and it’s got a patch which is missing, or if I buy something that’s papier maché which is broken… I know how to fix it. I’m not saying I’m going to do a superb job of it but I know what I’m doing. I very rarely started a new project – I don’t have something on the go which is s piece of crafting which I’m starting from scratch but I’m always fixing things.
“I think it’s incredibly important. I think the repair shop has shown us that and I think it’s incredibly important and I think once you understand how to patch and repair things and give things a new lease of life, you become, it’s very interesting.”
We hope you’re as excited as we are for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 2021. If you want to start your handmade Christmas journey now then check out our Christmas crafts section here on Gathered. We have everything from crochet Christmas decorations to free Christmas knitting patterns and even a how to make a Christmas stocking tutorial.