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Kirstie Allsopp on her passion for craft and being a Hampshire girl at heart

PUBLISHED: 15:28 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 13:32 27 November 2014

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Kirstie Allsopp shares her passion for craft with Liz Kavanagh

From baking killer cakes and cushion-making, to advising on property and transforming junk, Kirstie Allsopp has inspired a generation to pick up the pinking shears and get creative.

Since breaking into television with Phil Spencer on Location, Location, Location in 2000, Kirstie has now focused her attention on home crafts.

Her hit series to date have included Kirstie’s Homemade Home, Kirstie’s Handmade Britain and most recently Fill Your House For Free, where her team gave new life to discarded furniture of all kinds.

“A staggering 10 million items of furniture are binned every year,” says Kirstie. “Clearing up the household goods that Brits throw out on the street costs the economy £33 million a year.

“The programme’s aim was to remedy this ‘throw away and buy another one’ attitude by showing how simple it can be to transform, fix and give a new home to a once loved piece of furniture. Our big rule was that no tat was allowed. Things may be free, but they have to look stylish too.”

Born in Hampshire to Lord Hindlip and Fiona McGowan, Kirstie’s talent for interior style was almost inevitable. “My mother was an interior decorator and my dad worked at Christie’s Auctioneers for 42 years,” she says. “My passion for property and taste in interiors was heavily influenced by both my parents. Although my style is different from my parents’, this acorn definitely did not fall very far from the tree.”

Kirstie went to Bedales School in Petersfield and tried her hand at various jobs before setting up a home-search company, Kirmir.

It was here that she was approached by Channel 4 who were looking for presenters for a new house hunting programme and became a household name in Location, Location, Location.

“Phil and I instantly hit it off,” she says. “We love working together but these days we each have our own individual projects that we’re immensely proud of. Mine is craft, and I’ve been lucky enough to make several successful series, (the latest of which has just started) that focus on the skills and talents of Britain’s many wonderful artisans.

“From a young age I was pretty fixated on how things looked. I remember buying my first second-hand picture – it was an embroidered garden scene I found in an antiques market and I thought it was truly beautiful.

“Even now, buying something that has been hand-made by someone else gives me huge satisfaction. My two boys recently made me a beautiful jug and incredibly cool cat for my birthday at a pottery café. Birthday presents don’t come better than that. Ever.”

Getting hands-on with home crafts has given Kirstie a whole new direction in television, with Homemade Home and Kirstie’s Handmade Britain teaching the masses how to have a go.

“I’d never really done any craft before the first series of Homemade Home,” she says, “I genuinely don’t think I have any special talent, but I do have tons of enthusiasm!

“We had some people to stay recently, and one of their children had some homework, to make a rosette. And I suddenly realised that I knew what to do. It came to me, Blue Peter-style and that had never happened before.

“Anything with a sewing machine I really like. Things where you have to count and concentrate, like knitting, are another matter. I really admire people who do that.”

Much of the filming for Kirstie’s craft programmes has been done at home in Devon, which on-screen, always appears to be immaculate.

“If I can’t keep things at a certain level of tidiness, I go slightly doolally,” she says with a laugh. “I’d love to say we just tidy up for the cameras, and it’s normally a cool, muddy environment, but that would be a whopping lie. I had a very messy friend to stay at the weekend, and by the time they left, I was almost hysterical!”

With two sons and two stepsons, keeping the house tidy is all the more of a challenge. “The number of boys in my life means I can’t get too neat or too precious about our home, which is probably a very good thing, “ she says with a laugh, “but the best bit about being the only girl is that I don’t have to share my bathroom with any of them. I have managed to keep one small corner completely for me.”

Her latest project is The Handmade Fair which takes place at Hampton Court this month. Here, visitors will be able to get hands-on with craft sessions, talks 
and demonstrations.

Activities include sewing master classes, cake decorating and furniture painting. Guest speakers include Cath Kidston, chalk painting expert Annie Sloan and decorative artist Kaffe Fassett.

“The Handmade Fair is an event with learning and making at its core,” she says. “It is a celebration of all kinds of skills; from sewing to knitting, sugar-craft to crocheting, paper-crafts and up-cycling. I’ve got to the point now where I think I can do anything when it comes to craft. The more you do, the more confidence you have. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s just a case of having a go.”

Kirstie Allsopp presents The Handmade Fair from September 19 to 24 at Hampton Court Palace; www.thehandmadefair.com

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The facts

-Kirstie Mary Allsopp was born on 31 August 1971

-She is the daughter of Charles Henry Allsopp, 6th Baron Hindlip and is therefore entitled to use the courtesy style The Honourable Kirstie Allsopp

-Her partner is property developer Ben Andersen, and they have two sons, Bay and Oscar. She is also stepmother to her partner’s two children, Hal and Orion, from a previous relationship

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