At the weekend, Kirstie Allsopp brought her Handmade Fair up North to Manchester, just in time for Christmas. Manchester Central was overrun with designers and artisans eager to share their expertise, and crafty people wanting to pick up new skills and be inspired.
A Full Experience ticket to the event included access to three crafty workshops and entry to the Christmas shopping village; all the ingredients to capture that early festive feeling – and an unmissable opportunity for a mother-daughter day out.
Our first chance to get our craft on was a book folding workshop with Kate Bufton. We learned how to transform an otherwise unassuming book, complete with musty smells and discoloured edges, in to a Christmas tree.
The upcycling technique is simple but requires patience and attention to detail for the best finish.
Here’s how to…
Starting with a hardback bound book, approximately 1cm thick (paperbacks are less effective, particularly if the spine’s broken):
1. Fold the top right hand corner of the first page and line it up with the spine
2. Fold the folded corner towards the spine again
3. Fold up the flap that hangs over the bottom of the page to create a straight edge
4. Continue until you have folded the whole book in the same way
5. Add buttons, beads, or pom poms to decorate your tree. (Obviously I still need to do this!)
I have a footstool that I want to reupholster, so a Super Theatre with the Ministry of Upholstery was an easy choice.
We were give a whistle stop tour of the world of upholstery as Anthony showed us how to cover a footstool. This was also our chance to spend some time in Kirstie’s company. The format was much the same as one of her craft programmes – and she’s just like she is on TV!
Kirstie knew how to ask the right questions; picking up on the things we would want to know when trying to master a new technique. It made for an interactive demonstration, complete with signature Allsopp humour!
I came away feeling confident that, with a bit of time and care, I could master the basic upholstery techniques required for my footstool. The only problem now is how to acquire the tools and equipment – does anyone have an pneumatic staple gun I can borrow?
For our final activity we learned how to make a needle felt Christmas bauble with Jayne Emerson. Needle felting is a simple process that binds wool fibres together by punching them with needles to make felt.
Once you’ve mastered the technique (which only takes a minute) you can let your imagination run riot and create a host of intricate designs.
I created this Christmas pudding by building up the layers with different colours to create the icing, holly and berry effects. I’m proud of it but was somewhat in awe of the robins, penguins, and Father Christmases that the more experienced felters produced.
In between our craft sessions we browsed the shopping village. Stalls, bearing everything you could possibly need for a handmade Christmas, jostled for attention under the railway arch of the old Manchester Central train station.
From fabric to knitting yarn, cakes to gingerbread houses, and candles to christmas cards, there was plenty to get the creative juices flowing.
As a special blogger perk I received a goody bag filled with lovely treats from across the fair.
I can’t wait to get started on my little projects.
It’s not often you get to spend a day crafting without feeling like you should be doing something else. So, when you are invited to be creative with likeminded individuals, it’s only right to jump at the chance.
Keep your eye on The Handmade Fair website for details of next year’s events and in the meantime, it’s nearly Christmas – I can’t think of a better excuse to make something beautiful.
Keep reading for more Christmas craft inspiration.