Today I'll be appearing alongside the amazing Kirstie Allsopp, on Channel 4 show Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas. I have been keeping this secret since the end of August when I got the call that I was selected for the show and to take part in the Table Setting Challenge.
But let's start from the beginning!
How did I get selected?
I actually received an email last year (2017) asking me if I was interested to take part. I did apply and then when they started the selection process, I pulled out as we just moved to Hampshire and it was too much to deal with. This year, around July I got contacted again by Raise the Roof Productions and I applied.
They introduced new challenges categories this year and I decided to go for the Table Setting.
I had to fill a form, send a mood board with my idea and I had a couple of phone interviews. At the end of August, on the last day of my summer holiday in Italy, I got the phone call that I had been selected. I was over the moon and terrified at the same time!
The Filming PART 1- The back story
At the beginning of September, one of the Directors come to my house to film the back story and I had to decorate my studio (aka my Kitchen) with Christmas decorations.
I was so nervous to talk to the camera as it felt so unnatural! They asked me lots of questions, while I was making macrame snowflakes and preparing some of the items for the challenge. It did help to do something while I was talking.
Preparing for the show
The challenge required me to make 3 macrame items on the day, including a central piece for the table.
My theme was A Bohemian Christmas using many recycled or second-hand items.
I naturally dye the table cloth with avocado stones and my great-aunt napkins with onion skins (you can find the tutorial on my IGTV).
I visited few secondhand shops to buy glass jars, cutlery and vases.
A few days before the competition day I went to a wholesale florist to buy eucalyptus leaves and red berries.
About one week before the filming I panicked! I had a vision in my head but I wasn't sure it was going to look good enough! So I called my stylist friend Felicity, I went to her house and set up her dining table. By practicing in front of someone else and getting their positive feedback, I felt much more confident and relaxed. Felicity was great and she gave me a few tips, lots of reassurance and I felt ready to face the challenge.
The day before filming
In October, the day before the filming, I traveled to Devon with all my roll of strings, a bunch of eucalyptus and few outfits!
In the evening, at the hotel, while I was having my dinner, I asked two ladies sitting next to me if they were there for the show and sure enough they were taking part to the table setting challenge too.
We clicked straight away with Hazel, a florist from London and Laura, a paper artist from Hasting. We chatted and laughed the whole evening but we also wondered who the fourth person was and what craft would she/he be using. By 10.30pm we were back in our rooms trying to get a good night sleep.
In the morning we agreed to meet early for breakfast, we were very excited and nervous at the same time, speculating about the location, space, timing, Kirstie....everything!
When we were about to get picked up at 9am, we found out that Caitlin, a calligrapher from Scotland but originally from Boston, was the fourth person in our competition (her flight was delayed and she got to the hotel very late the night before). We were ready for the day ahead!!!!
The Filming PART 2- the Challenge
The location was full of amazing history, art and quirky items ,and totally fascinating. Once we got on set, we got introduced to the crew, we got our mics on and they took us to the huge kitchen where we would be filming. We had to wait for a while, before starting, since Kirstie was finishing filming the Christmas Pet Present challenge in the room next to us.
We took out our materials and props out of our suitcases, prepared our tables and waited. Our challenge would last for 5 hours including toilet and lunch break.
Then Kirstie arrived, chatted with us and I can tell you: she is funny, warm and smiley as you see on TV. We all got ready and started!
At the beginning, I was pretty relaxed and it was lovely chatting with the girls and the crew (while they were filming us). After one hour I started to realize that I needed to seriously speed up so I started to chat less and move my fingers faster!
After 3 hours I was still finishing my very long table runner and I started to panic as all the other girls were starting to set up their tables!
Once I finished the table runner I had to work on the macrame covers for my vases that I was going to use as candle holders. Because I used an extra 30 minutes on the table runner, I realized that I had to simplify the design on the vases to remain in the time limit, so I made up 3 very simple patterns.
Lastly, I was going to teach Kirstie how to make small Christmas trees to add on top of the napkins.
Sitting next to Kirstie was surreal but totally fun. She asked many questions about my background, my work, she made jokes and we laughed.
Then was the end of the 5 hours and we had to leave the room!
We crashed in the room next door! We were so tired, we had to use the bathroom and eat some chocolate!
Meanwhile, the crew was filming the table settings and then the Judge was called. We had no idea who it was, just in case we knew him/her. While we were waiting for Kirstie popped in and offered us some bubblies and we cheered all together, she took a photo of us on the sofa and then we did a bit more filming (aka acting like we were worried about the result- it was so much fun).
Then we got invited back into the kitchen and we met Pip, our judge ,and Kirstie to film the final part of the show and to know the result.
Do you want to know who won.....well you will have to watch the show here
THE BEST PART
The best part of the whole experience was meeting the ladies in the table setting challenge. They are super inspiring, fun and creative women. I now have three new friends! Since the filming, we have been in touch regularly talking about our businesses, life, the show and everything else. We are planning a reunion and some collaboration for the new year.
I don't know about the other participants, but for us, it was about having fun and get our work exposed to a wider audience.
THE WORST PART
We were not allowed to use our phones while the challenge was happening to take any photos or videos, therefore I don't really have any behind the scenes material. Most of the photos of the table setting are from a replica I did back home a few days later.
FANCY TAKING PART NEXT YEAR?
If you like to take part next year, the best way to know when the application is open, usually around July, is to follow Raise the Roof Productions on twitter or Kirstieshandmadechristmas Instagram.
You can start preparing now, while you are inspired by the Christmas mood.
I would recommend that you check all the categories and pick 2/3 in which you love to take part. Think about what you would like to make and put together a quick mood-board. This way when the application process opens, you have already done most of the work!
If you have any questions, feel free to email me here.
WANT TO LEARN MACRAME?
Join my 'Macrame for beginners' 4-week online course or one of my workshops in 2019 and discover macrame.
NOTE: the NECKLACE is handmade by myself with mustard coloured cotton rope and can be purchased here.