My Experience on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas
Wow... what an amazing experience! On 23rd December 2021, I starred as a world leading crafter on national British TV! I am so honoured to have been invited to participate in one the UK's biggest craft TV shows, Kirstie's Handmade Christmas (Channel 4)! This was certainly a day I will never forget!
Read on to see me teach Kirstie Allsopp the mindful art of iris folding, take on my most challenging craft project yet and compete for this year's handmade trophy!
How was the experience overall?
When I was first contacted by the producers of Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas I was so excited about the opportunity to share my passion for iris folding with thousands more people. As part of my application to go on the show I had to quickly sketch a Christmas themed iris folding design.
Pencil drawing of my "Christmas at Home" design.
I only had a couple of hours to do this and my drawing skills aren’t the best, but I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted to make. However, putting this into practice was no so simple! Not only did I want to include iris folding, but I also wanted to feature some other paper craft techniques like quilling and paper flower rolling. Digitising the elements of my sketched design was difficult for me because I had never drawn digitally in 3D before. After spending hours watching YouTube tutorial videos, I finally managed to convert my pencil drawing into a digital document that I could use with my cutting machine to create the individual paper pieces.
Digital drawing of my "Christmas at Home" design.
Before heading to the filming location, I cut out over 150 paper elements and gathered together some additional craft supplies and tools. At this point, I was feeling slightly overwhelmed with the amount I had given myself to do in the four-hour timescale permitted by the show. But also excited to demonstrate my unique craft style on national TV. With all my resources and belongings packed up, I set out on the train to Devon.
Me (Bethan Aspland) on the train to Devon for filming.
I travelled down the day before and stayed overnight in a hotel so I could head to set for 5.30am the next day.
I definitely needed a large cup of coffee the next morning! It was still dark outside as I arrived at the location, but I could already tell that the setting was incredibly beautiful. I was greeted by a member of the production crew and taken to the Green Room (a mini marquee) where I was introduced to the three other paper craft contestants, Becky, Bunty and Darrell.
Bunty, Bethan, Becky & Darryl in the green room (left to right).
Before heading to the main marquee each of us was interviewed on camera about our paper craft designs and our backstories. This was my first studio experience with a camera crew and bright lights. Surprisingly I wasn’t nervous as I regularly talk on camera for my social media content, I was simply grateful to be having such a privileged experience.
Inside Kirstie's Handmade Christmas marquee.
In past years, Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas was filmed inside a beautiful mansion in Devon, but due to Covid the set had been moved outdoors and took place in a large marquee next to the house on the estate. But this was not just any marquee! It was an elaborately decorated, Christmas toybox themed marquee. They even had a beautiful wooden rocking horse that I of course had to get a picture with.
Me (Bethan Aspland) on the film set for Kirstie's Handmade Christmas.
After some tea and breakfast provided by the crew, microphones were fitted and checked. It was then time to begin our Christmas paper crafting session.
We all sat down at our festive craft tables and set out our supplies ready for Kirstie to announce the start of the competition. We began our unique paper crafting journeys nervously concentrating on our own designs, but chatting away with each other as we worked. Little did we know this was the beginning of a new crafting friendship. Sharing this experience with Bunty, Becky and Darrell made it all the more memorable.
Becky and me (Bethan Aspland) on set for Kirstie's Handmade Christmas.
After the first hour had passed, the reality of the amount I had to do was sinking in. My little fingers have never worked so fast in all my life. I knew finishing my Christmas paper craft project on time was going to be a real challenge. The production crew made sure I had plenty of cups of tea to keep me going!
Me (Bethan Aspland) with my craft supplies in the Kirstie's Handmade Christmas tent.
About half-way through the competition, Kirstie joined me at my table to learn some iris folding. I’d put together a mini version of my Christmas Tree Card Kit for Kirstie to have a go at. I guided her through the repetitive mindful process and she seemed to love it! She was excited to share her new handmade card with her family, and kept one of my iris folding guides to use for future craft sessions.
Kirstie Allsopp with an iris folding Christmas tree card that she made with one of my templates on the show.
For the last two hours of the show, I was intensely working away constructing my iris folding design so it would be ready to be framed and presented for judging. I finished my Christmas at Home project on the very last second of the countdown timer! I was relieved to have finished and proud of what I had accomplished in the four hours.
My (Bethan's) finished "Christmas at Home" paper craft design.
Next, it was time for judging. So we were escorted out of the marquee whilst Athena from Meticulous Inc. judged our four Xmas paper craft projects.
Athena (judge) and me (Bethan Aspland) in the Kirstie's Handmade Christmas marquee.
The three other contestants and I nervously awaited the results in the green room. I wasn’t worried about winning, I was feeling privileged to have taken part with three other amazing crafters, each of whom would be deserving winners. We eventually headed back into the marquee where Kirstie and Athena announced the winner and presented the handmade trophy to Bunty and her musical Christmas Nutcracker. Such a unique and fabulous design! It even played some classical music - amazing!
Kirstie's Handmade Christmas paper craft trophy and Bunty's winning paper Nutcracker.
After the show we said our goodbyes. I left the set feeling overjoyed at the experience and still, even now, I feel really honoured to have been invited to take part.
What was the biggest challenge?
To create my design for the show I needed to use multiple different techniques most of which I’d never done before this time. Before the show I needed to learn how to digitally draw in 3D using some software called Adobe Illustrator. This was a first for me and it took a few Youtube tutorial videos and lots of patience. But I was really proud of the SVG cut files that I designed through this process and I learned a new skill that will enable me to be more ambitious with my designs in the future.
3D grid drawing on Adobe Illustrator of living room layout.
On the day of the show, I needed to apply multiple papercraft techniques to bring my design to life, including quilling, paper cutting, paper flower rolling and of course iris folding. The iris folding was, of course, the centerpiece of my design (the Christmas tree) and I simply used the other techniques to embellish the picture.
Me (Bethan) quilling on Kirstie's Handmade Christmas Paper Craft episode.
This was, however, a bit of a risk because the other techniques were fairly new to me, having only learned them in preparation for the show, and particularly with the four-hour time restriction! I definitely pushed myself out of my comfort zone, but I’m really glad I did.
What was the best part?
I enjoyed the whole experience of being on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, from the microphone testing, to getting set up for filming, and even teaching Kirstie how to iris fold. But the main highlight for me was getting to meet and share this experience with three other talented paper crafters. How often do I get to sit in a room with three other people who love paper as much as I do?
Me (Bethan Aspland), Darryl, Bunty & Becky each sat at our craft tables in the Kirstie's Handmade Christmas tent.
Darryl, Bunty and Becky were such a joy to meet and craft with that I completely forgot it was a competition. We talked the whole way through, encouraging and supporting each other to create our unique and individual pieces. The four of us are still in touch and have plans to work together again in the future.
How was it meeting Kirstie Allsopp?
I really enjoyed the opportunity to share my passion for iris folding with such a well-known TV presenter. Kirstie and I talked all things paper crafting and shared the same belief that craft can be a positive, mindful process that improves mental wellbeing.
Kirstie Allsopp and I (Bethan Aspland) iris folding together on set.
Before the show I prepared a mini version of my iris folding Christmas card kit which Kirstie and I then made together during the show. This was Kirstie’s first experience of iris folding and she said she loved it. She even kept one of my iris folding guides!
What did you make on the show?
I based my Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas design around a typical family Christmas scene. When I think about Christmas, I think about spending time with my family in a cosy living room, with our four-legged friends nearby. To capture this in paper I wanted to incorporate my crafting passion, iris folding, alongside other paper craft techniques, that when assembled could make something to hang on the wall at home.
My (Bethan's) finished paper craft "Christmas at Home" scene.
I chose to include five paper stockings because there are five of us in our house: Mum, Dad, Gran, my brother and me, and I chose traditional Christmas colours for the colour palette. I even made a mini paper Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to represent my dog, Phoebe.
My "Christmas at Home" paper craft art on set in the Kirstie's Handmade Christmas marquee.
Once completed, my paper craft design (named Christmas at Home) was mounted in a box frame.
Where can I find out more?
Having been inspired by my experience on Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I’ve got more new and exciting opportunities in the pipeline for 2022, including future TV appearances, and I can’t wait to share more of my crafting journey with you. Discover more below:
- You can watch the full episode HERE (if you haven’t seen it already).
- Read all about iris folding HERE
- Learn how to iris fold like Kirstie - watch my Tutorial Videos
- Follow my crafting journey on Instagram or Facebook
Have you watched the show? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think!
Crafting love, B