Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

Last weekend, Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair 2018 took place in the beautiful grounds of Ragley Hall. It was a crafter’s dream come true! I was there for the full three days. I ran workshops, got interviewed on the main stage, took part in a live craft-off and met loads of awesome makers. Phew, what a weekend!

Amongst all of the crafty fun, I managed to take a few photos and videos. Be warned: this blog post is pretty photo heavy!

Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

Kirstie Allsopp presents: The Handmade Fair 2018, Ragley Hall

The weekend began with an early start. I left my house at 7:20am for the 2 hour drive to Ragley Hall from my home in Nottingham. I’d never been to Ragley before, but let me tell you this… it’s beautiful. The grounds seemed to unfurl outwards as far as the eye could see, full of lush greenery.

The Handmade Fair took place a short walk from Ragley Hall itself. A series of tents and stalls had been set up – and, of course, decorated liberally with bunting. It was like a mini craft village. So cool!

And so it begins…

Honestly, I could barely contain my excitement when I first arrived on site! It sounds silly, but I’d been so focussed on preparing my workshops that I’d kinda forgotten everything else that was going on. After checking in at the press lounge to collect my pass, I suddenly realised that I had the whole Fair to explore.

Where to begin?!

Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

I started by taking a leisurely stroll around the whole site. At first, it felt quite small… but I quickly realised that there was a hell of a lot crammed in to this relatively compact space. From artisan food trucks and makers’ stalls, to drop-in crafting tents and break-out workshop spaces… I saw upholstery classes, sewing machines, paper crafters, cocktail makers, pottery wheels, embroidery lessons, knitters, illustrators, needle-felters, stamp-carvers and a LOT of fabric stalls. It was heaven!

Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairsKirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

As one of the workshop leaders, I had full access backstage and to the VIP lounge. I felt so fancy!  The VIP lounge became my home from home throughout the weekend. If I ever had a bit of time to kill, I’d nip over and grab a coffee and pastry – and there was usually someone to have a chat with too.

I also bumped into Kirstie Allsopp herself on the Friday of the Fair. Well… I say bumped into… more like loitered nearby until she’d finished talking to some stallholders… but, that’s basically the same thing, right?! We had a little chat about my workshops and the other events that were taking place over the weekend. I’m not sure she remembered me from when I last met her… but I’m gonna pretend she did!

Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman and Kirstie Allsopp at The Handmade Fair 2018 Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman and Kirstie Allsopp at The Handmade Fair 2018

Now, it goes without saying that the Handmade Fair 2018 was attended by some of the most talented crafters out there. It’s impossible to mention everyone, but some of the people I had chance to catch up with were: Cotton Clara, Deborah Panesar, Cloth and Candy, Betty Etiquette, the Crafty Lass and Art Sea Craft Sea. If you’re looking for some new crafters to obsess over, then you can’t go wrong with any of these guys!

My craft workshops

I was suuuuper excited to teach a bunch of craft workshops throughout the Handmade Fair 2018. Each day, I went over to the Skills Workshop 2 to teach a tent full of crafters how to make a faux leather luggage tag. In the sessions, I covered the basic skills of leather-craft. This included: how to cut and stitch leather, how to add eyelets and what the key pros and cons are of working with this material.

Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairsMike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairsMike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

The workshops went really well! Every attendee left with a finished luggage tag, ready to take on their summer holidays. I also gave them options to customise the project with different colours and stitches.  It was great to see how much individuality everyone added to their make!

Side note: if you’re interested in working with leather, then check these projects:

Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

Mollie Makes Mash Up

Alongside my workshops, I was also invited by Mollie Makes to do a live craft challenge in the Super Theatre. The challenge (dubbed the ‘Mollie Makes Mash Up’), was a Ready Steady Cook style craft-off in front of a few hundred people. It was all a bit surreal… they even referred to me as a “craft celebrity”! I was definitely following in the footsteps of the greats. People like Mr X Stitch and Momtaz Begum-Hossain have previously taken part in this challenge. No pressure then!

For the challenge, Mollie Makes asked me to upcycle a lampshade in just 30 minutes. Yes, 30 minutes! My competitor for the challenge was the super cool Chloe Hardisty of Cotton Clara. And do you want to know something strange? Chloe was one of the crafters I competed against back in 2016 for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas! I mean, what are the chances!? We’ve only ever met two times… and both times were for a high-profile craft challenge sponsored by Kirstie Allsopp! Fingers crossed there will be a third time to look forward to! 🙂

Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman Mollie Makes Mash Up at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman Mollie Makes Mash Up at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman Mollie Makes Mash Up at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

I decided to go down a minimal, Scandinavian-inspired design for my lampshade. I cut strips of balsa wood and blue card, then layered them vertically around the lampshade, with a slight overlap. The design worked pretty well (I’ll share the full tutorial in a future blog post). Chloe chose to go down a yarn route for her lampshade. She punched holes in the lampshade and threaded bold, bright yarns through, to create a kind of tassel effect. It looked so cool!

Whilst we were crafting, we were interviewed by the lovely Yvette, who is the editor of Mollie Makes. She asked us all about our businesses and our love of crafting. It was really good fun! It was so nice to be chatting all things craft, whilst getting creative and making something. In fact, I got so into the craft and chat, that I kind of forgot about the huge audience in front of us!

Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman Mollie Makes Mash Up at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Mike Aspinall The Crafty Gentleman Mollie Makes Mash Up at Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

And the winner is…

All too soon, the 30 minutes were over and the countdown reached zero. No more crafting! It was time for the audience to choose a winner (through the scientific method of how loud the applause was!). And guess what? I WON! Woooohoo! Turns out, the audience love a bit of Scandi-style balsa wood crafts! 🙂 After the event, I even had a little queue of people wanting to ask me more about my lampshade and how they could recreate it at home.

All good things must come to an end

Sadly, the Handmade Fair 2018 couldn’t go on forever. On Sunday afternoon, I taught my last workshop of the weekend. Fittingly, the sun came out and was beaming down hotter than it had on either of the other two days. It was glorious. Everyone was lazing on the grass, eating ice cream and comparing the things they had crafted. I really didn’t want it to end!

Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs Kirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairsKirstie Allsopp presents the Handmade Fair 2018 in Ragley Hall Warwickshire, one of the UKs biggest and best craft fairs

Thanks so much to everyone I worked with throughout the weekend. To the organisers behind the scenes, the support staff that made it possible and, of course, everyone who came to my events. It’s always SO nice to meet people in real life and do some crafting together in person. Whilst blogging is awesome, but it can get a bit lonely sitting behind a screen!

This was my first time attending Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair – but it definitely won’t be my last. Roll on 2019! 🙂 – Mike.