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Sunday 5 December 2021

Interview with Kirstie Allsopp for Kirstie's Handmade Christmas

Kirstie's Handmade Christmas - the daytime series - starts on Monday 13th December at 5pm

What can you tell us about the new series of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas?

It's got all the closeness, cosiness and real Christmas feel but we're also slightly feeling that because we've had one missed Christmas, we might be up for a bit of luxury too. It's not too luxurious and there are several things you can do on a budget; we've just added in a bit of extra twinkle as it we were. There's a sense that this Christmas needs to be really tip top. I don't like to pick favourites but the contributors we had coming in this year were a really strong group across the board. We had fantastic crackers, the screen printing, the Hebridean baker, we had the wonderful Mauritian Christmas, my sister Sofie came back for a second time making floral wreaths and it just felt really warm and properly festive in anticipation of what everybody hopes is going to be a sensational Christmas.

Do you think Christmas means more this year because it was so incredibly difficult for so many last year?

I think a lot of people are really revving up big time for this Christmas. Covid is still out there and will be an element of our lives for a long time to come but because of the miracle that is the vaccine, god willing, the days of lockdowns and severe restrictions which prevented you from seeing your loved ones are over. People want to be able to really look forward to the Christmas season. I suspect that the cocktails that the Hebridean baker made for us are going to get made well in advance of Christmas! If I was going to buy off anything off this show, it would be the LED coaster lights – you stick them to the bottom of the bottle, and it lights them up from the outside. People will watch the show and go, 'oh I really need one of those!' People very kindly say that they feel our Christmas show is the kick-off to Christmas and that really warms the cockles of my heart when people say that because that's what we're trying to do.

What does Christmas mean to you? Has the meaning for you changed over the years?

Very much so. My focus has kind of pulled forward to my kids so it's not really about me and my family – it's about them and what they want to do. I tend not to spend Christmas with my dad and my siblings because I'm with the kids and they have their things they like to do. I'm very close to my siblings, I see them all the time and my children see their cousins all the time, so we don't actually gather as an extended family at Christmas. We do occasionally have a more traditional Christmas, but I think my children get a lot of Christmas through my work. Their home is decorated at least twice a year in advance of Christmas! They're very into the whole thing and they love taking anything leftover from the show into school. The show and Christmas crafts have always been a point of pride and curiosity for them. I feel they get a lot of Christmas, but we're quite low key on Christmas Day itself. Wherever I am in the world, I'd always have a Christmas tree – it just wouldn't be Christmas without one, even if it's not a real one! We don't do the full turkey and trimmings type of thing which is why I'm particularly pleased that this year on the primetime show, we had Shelina's amazing lobster, rice and mango salad because as soon as I saw it, I was like, right, that's what I'm doing.  

We hear Phil makes a cameo in the peak episode. What have you got him doing this time?  

I think it's more than a cameo! Phil is very adept with certain crafting skills – he's more than competent although we did have a bit of a failure this year which wasn't entirely his fault… it certainly led to some comedy moments. I don't think we can keep him away now – I don't think he'll rush back to the daytime show in a hurry, I'm not sure he was psychologically good for the competitors! But we'd love him to be a regular fixture on the peak time show.

Your sister Sofie, a brilliantly talented florist, features in the show. How do you find working together?

I love working with Sofie. She did a lot of TV work in Canada so she's very happy around the camera. It's ideal as I don't feel I have to reassure her about filming, she's not in anyway concerned about that. I get the benefit of her floristry skill which is incredibly important at Christmas plus it's lovely to see her. She's very good at taking the mickey out of me and prevents me from taking myself too seriously which is good but she's so supportive of Christmas so that's a good combination. At one point we were talking about something and I said, 'I'll never be fully happy with it, it's like when you come down in the middle of the night and rearrange the Christmas tree' and she was like 'normal people don't do that!'

How does present opening going in your house? Do you dive straight in on Christmas morning or do you like to stagger them?

We start with what Father Christmas has bought and then try and hold everyone off for a bit but not with much success! If it was up to me, I'd do stockings and then other presents after lunch. I am now one of those people who will leave presents unopened for days and it drives my kids absolutely potty. I love finding a present that I haven't unwrapped – I'll save it for a quiet peaceful moment.

If Phil was your secret Santa, what would you get him?

Phil is reasonably easy to buy for because I know what appeals to him and know him well. I'd find Phil easier than he'd find me. Anything related to Phil's dogs goes down a storm. He has two spaniels that he absolutely loves and one day I was in a shop filming the Christmas show and saw a stone carved spaniel that I had to get for him. It weighed so much, and I couldn't get any of the crew to help me deliver it to Phil's home but eventually managed to get it to him. He loves it and it sits in his garden. Anything that relates to his wardrobe or his dogs he's happy with!

Who cooks Christmas dinner in your house? What's your favourite part?

If I can find a way of not cooking it then great! I love the food of Christmas – I love turkey, I love traditional English Christmas food, but I don't love the way the meal dominates the day. I'm definitely moving over to the way my in laws do it – have a generous breakfast and then have the main meal at around 6pm when it gets dark. It's a really nice way of doing it and takes the pressure off having to get everything ready for lunch. This Christmas, I will be cooking as I'll be making Shelina's lobster, mango and rice but will do a fair bit of it the day before. I always take a Christmas cake away with me, wherever I am in the world, and ice it when I get there!

For anyone that's new to crafting, where would be a good place for someone to start with making something homemade for Christmas?

I'm a great fan of quilling which is a really easy one and doesn't require any special equipment. It's particularly good for doing Christmas cards and decorations. I'm a great one for papercraft too. It's definitely one of the cheapest crafts as all you need is a scalpel and a cutting board, and for some papercrafts a glue gun. So many crafts require a scalpel, cutting board and glue gun so they're a really good investment.

Do you feel Christmas is too commercialised?

It probably always was. If you go a long way back into the Dickens era, there are stories of the big turkey in the window of the butchers and the special toys in the window of the toy shop. It's always been an opportunity for retailers to sell more and that's what retailers do. Whether we need to examine what we consumer is another issue entirely. I'm glad I work on a Christmas craft show and not a Christmas shopping show. I think there's a lot of grumbling about Christmas but it's just fun. You can do it in a way which is environmentally less impactful if you make an effort and that's definitely an effort worth making. As far as the fun of it goes, I'm all for it. We have amazing Christmas traditions that have come from all over the world – we've been to Austria, Germany, Norway, the US in previous years for the Christmas show – and there's all sorts of fantastic traditions everywhere.

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