How to tackle arts and crafts like a pro

Kirstie Allsopp shares her advice on how to approach arts and crafts and what you need to get started.

Get your kit bag sorted

“There a few items every self-respecting crafter needs on hand. Do not attempt any project without the following in your easy grasp: Pins, safety pins, a glue gun, superglue and PVA, sticky tape, needles and thread, scissors (small and large), a scalpel, and my personal favourite, <pinking shears>. It’s also handy to have a tape measure, ruler, cutting mat, a (sharp!) pencil, florist wire and pliers.”

Develop your eye

“Craft materials are all around you, you just need to know where to find them. Yes, nature can provide seashells and beautiful greenery from the garden, but it’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for old glass bead necklaces in second hand shops or bargain bins of ribbon ends in haberdashery departments. Not only will they be cheap, they’ll feel unique too.”

Start small

“The quickest way to lose motivation is take on a project that overwhelms you. Never made your own clothes before? Start with an unlined A-line summer skirt in an inexpensive cotton. Shirts, jackets and any lined items should be left until you’re far more comfortable with patterns, material types and rectifying mistakes. Nothing is more galling than cutting through four metres of shot silk only to discover you’ve done it wrong. It’s the same with knitting (not my forte!), there’s no shame in making a small square so long as it’s made well.”

Channel your inner neatness and organised self

“I’m inherently neat and I find that helps me <hugely> when it comes to making things. Ensure you have everything in order for your project before you start, get a checklist and tick it all off. There’s nothing more annoying than starting something and having to stop because you’re missing a key ingredient. Also, keep things super tidy as you go; threads snipped; yarn balls rolled, not knotted; and for goodness sake put down newspaper <before> you start pinging paint all over the place."

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…

“I truly believe <everyone> has a craft they can do. And if the first thing you try looks more ‘dog’s dinner’ than ‘dazzling designer’, don’t lose heart. I can’t knit. In fact, I’m anti-knit (Lord knows how I won ‘celebrity-knitter’ of the year 2013). If knitting was the first thing I tried, my crafting career could have gone straight down the loo. Luckily for me, I’d tried some other crafts before that I knew I could do. My point is, I wasn’t the arty one at school, so if I can, anyone can. You just need to find what you’re good at.”

Kirstie Allsopp will be welcoming over 12,000 visitors at The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace this September, which will host workshops and talks from craft kings and queens including Cath Kidson, chocolatier Paul A. Young, quiltmaker Jo Colwill and interior designer Sue Timney. Kirstie’s The Handmade Fair is on from 19-21 September at Hampton Court Palace. For tickets go to

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