Calligraphy adventures at Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Fair 2014

Oh my goodness… when I first got the call asking me to give a calligraphy skills workshop for Kirstie back in May I said yes without even thinking about it. The excitement grew until all of a sudden it was the 18th of September and time to catch a train from the Lake District all the way down through London and Hampton Court Palace for The Handmade Fair. Over three days I helped almost 300 craft lovers make their first steps with quirky calligraphy – and you know what? It was a fabulous experience and one I can’t wait to repeat!

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The three calligraphy skills workshops were fantastic: everyone tried really hard, I saw some really exciting lettering and charming characters both in person and on paper! We took some photos over the weekend to tell our story, from around the fair, inside the workshops and backstage – I hope you like them!

Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (1)

Arriving at The Handmade Fair on Friday morning was a little overwhelming! Even stepping out of Hampton Court station there was a line of people heading for the fair, and it felt very real all of a sudden! We landed on site around 11am to find the place already buzzing, there were thousands of people exploring the exhibitor tents, in the workshops and food areas. We found our lovely papercraft tent manager Emma who helped us settle in and showed us where to find all of our supplies ready for the first workshop at 2.

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The first thing to do was collect our Expert badges – and customise them. I felt a little pretentious walking around with a badge proclaiming I was an Expert, so I crossed it out and changed it to Wizard. (Later that day, someone asked me what a wizard was and I had to explain about spells…) My partner in crime, super roadie and better half Steve was more subtle, simply asking for an S at the front of his badge.

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (4)

We got lost twice in the first hour, and I couldn’t find the papercraft tent or any of the skills workshops on the map! My puzzled expression is one I wear often, and it doesn’t take much to confuse me…

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All too soon it was time to welcome people into the calligraphy skills workshop. I really wanted to give the workshops a personal touch so I handed out pens at the door – it was lovely to meet everyone on that first day and helped calm my nerves! We sold over 84 tickets to the first workshop…

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (7)

The beautifully decorated papercraft tent, with me up at the front being teacher! The ‘stage’ was quite high up! I felt like I was King of the Tent – not a comfortable place to be! – and as soon as I could I jumped down to come and see what my students were doing… and they were doing so well. A wonderful start to the weekend.

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It really helped to see how students were holding the pens and what they found easy or struggled with. Writing thin hairlines was the easiest part; moving the pen upwards on the paper always proves difficult though, and it simply takes practice to develop that light, smooth touch with the calligraphy pen. The next step is to apply pressure on a downwards stroke of the pen, and this is a brave step. With the nibs we were using (Gillott 303 nibs from Blots Pens) the trick was to be brave and apply plenty of pressure, bending the nib enough for the tines (the two points at the end of the nib) to part, spreading the ink between them.

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (11)


After our first successful workshop we tidied up and headed straight for the Prosecco van! Thank you organisers for putting it right outside the papercraft tent!

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The Wizard badge was removed and we relaxed and enjoyed the fair for the rest of the afternoon. We made a few changes to the format of the workshops for day 2: rather than relying on the screen, which was too small to demonstrate how the calligraphy pen would flex and bend to make nice letter shapes, we decided I should give a very quick demo and spend the rest of the workshops amongst the students.

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On day 2 we put our plan in place – and it worked a treat. I loved seeing what everyone was doing, and how people were really experimenting with the pens to get the best out of them. It makes me smile to remember the man who drew a bunny, and I’m pleased we had such a fantastic group of students… because that was the day the guy with a camera turned up! Talk about surprised… but I think we coped (basically: I jumped down from my throne and ran around the tent trying to hide from the camera while he filmed my students… it worked. I’m only kidding, he was great really!)

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The papercraft tent beginning to fill up for day 2, and two of my class stars are here: Kate has been learning calligraphy for a year and she writes about her experiences on her blog at Olive and Reid. She’s really inspiring and I’ve learned a lot from her blog. Have a read: Then there is Jamie’s friend who asked some great questions about calligraphy – I wish I’d had more of a chance to talk to both of you two!

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How exciting to have lovely Poppy Chancellor in the calligraphy skills workshop for the afternoon! Poppy’s writing was already full of character, and her enthusiasm is infectious. I do think I look like an elf in this photo…

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (18)

Err… hello, camera guy!

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (20)

This is me running away…

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It really was good to see everyone’s writing and to be able to demonstrate the way the pen moves as well as correcting a few of the most common beginners’ mistakes: it’s ever so easy to tilt the pen to one side when it should be fairly flat on the page – and I enjoyed being able to help people and see their writing take shape!

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (23)


Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (24)

We were writing names on little paper gift boxes, and I suggested people write either a short name or even initials on the lid of the box. In this corner of the tent the lady in blue had written such beautiful initials, they were fabulous.

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One of my favourite photos: I can’t remember the conversation, but this lady was wonderful – and what a brilliant picture!

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Introducing my “who-are-you-what’s-that-thing-and-I-can’t-remember-how-to-use-words-this-is-embarrassing” face. Pretty, isn’t it… we have more of these photos and they only get worse – but they make me giggle. A crazy highlight of the weekend!

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Boy, did we need an alcoholic iced tea from Harry Brompton’s after that! Cheers! Sadly we couldn’t stay for the staff party as we’d arranged to go to a concert in Camden that night – a little rock music to bring us well and truly back down to earth 🙂

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… and on to day 3, our final calligraphy skills workshop and a chance for some last minute shopping! This is me outside our little home from home…

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Inside, another packed out workshop and a fantastic bunch of calligraphy students.

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Asking everyone to gather around to watch as I demonstrated the movements of the pen was really helpful. I can’t remember if it was day 3 when we had a dozen or so left-handed students, and I was a little stuck – it was fascinating to see how left-handers write, and in theory it shouldn’t be hard to write with a calligraphy pen – but the difficulty comes from normal handwriting: left-handers have a way of curling their hands around and above their day-to-day writing and are used to forming letters differently. This is what makes calligraphy tricky to learn, unfortunately. I mentioned the left handed calligrapher, whose website is here – for inspiration. There’s an interesting video here too: – although the writer is holding the pen way too close to the nib!

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I wish I knew what I was explaining here… or why I pull faces when I talk! In the background you can see our favourite person Emma in the pink vest – she was the manager of the papercraft tent and we couldn’t have done it without her! She’s talking to Nigel the tech guy in charge of the microphone – who I was secretly calling Mike (with the mic…) – he even had a go at calligraphy, what a star!

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Backstage at the papercraft tent and this is where we assembled all of our little boxes, sorted pens and papers and for one terrifying half hour on Saturday lost all of our nibs! (My fault – I left them on the teacher’s desk!). Steve was the best helper I could have had – my boyfriend, roadie, manager, counsellor and tactician. What a star.

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (34)

After the third calligraphy skills workshop we were done! Time to tidy up, buy a bit of ribbon and head back into Camden for our last gig of the weekend. Before that though… a final few photos as we left the Handmade Fair…

The pompoms were multiplying so fast! Impressive…

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We didn’t manage to sneak into the super theatre to see any of Kirstie’s interviews – we’ll put that on the list for next year instead!

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(I should explain my hand and the bandage – I’d been running and fallen pretty badly a couple of days before the fair, and I was lucky not to break any bones. I landed on my hand and grazed it quite badly so I just had to cover it to write.)

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What a shame we weren’t allowed into the VIP tent, even with our Wizard and Sexpert badges – but the nice security man let us have photos taken with his puppy.

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Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (40)


Kirstie Allsopp's Handmade Fair 2014 (41)

A successful weekend, an amazing experience, and an exhausting one… time for a little snooze amongst the pompoms!

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claire gould calligrapher signature Thanks to:

  • Kirstie Allsopp, Jamie Stimpson, Lisa McCann at
  • Papercraft tent manager extraordinaire the lovely Emma and everyone at Brand Events
  • John at Blots Pens for supplying us with penholders and nibs – I buy nearly all my calligraphy supplies from John and can’t recommend him highly enough
  • Hobbycraft for supplying our ribbons and ink (even though it was cheap fountain pen ink… it did the job)
  • Most of all my boyfriend Steve for coming along and helping with absolutely everything. I love you!

Here’s a closer look at the handwritten box project:

and here you can see the movement of the calligraphy nib as I write:



A choice of calligraphy kits for learning quirky lettering styles

Would you like to learn calligraphy? Not sure where to begin? It can be tricky finding the right equipment for quirky styles, especially since kits in shops include mainly chisel tip nibs for italics and heavy, gothic lettering. My own kits for sale on have pointed pens and more contemporary alphabet templates, perfect for beginners. Which one is for you?

calligraphy kits

Luxe personalised calligraphy kit with black and white inks

a4 calligraphy starter kit a4-calligraphy-beginner-pack

My standard boxed kit has everything you need to take your first steps on a calligraphy adventure, including a quality A5 notebook with handwritten cover, choice of nibs, guidelines and alphabets.

The luxe calligraphy kit comes with a bigger, personalised notebook, black and white inks, personalised tag and four blank tags for you to write.

In kraft presentation boxes with pretty ribbon (styles may vary) and printed label the kits are presented with the greatest attention to detail and make a perfect gift for anyone of a crafty persuasion!

Standard A5 calligraphy starter kit

A5-beginner-calligraphy-sets A5-calligraphy-beginner-kit A5-calligraphy-beginner-kits

If you’re looking for a selection of alphabets then I’d suggest ordering my book which has six!…


All are available to buy today at


Kraft and calligraphy wedding invitations from £2

Brand new from this autumn, these affordable and quirky kraft invitations will delight your guests. They’re charming and pretty, with elements of handwritten calligraphy and full personalisation.

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Wedding invitations, personalised with matching envelopes are £2 each. Handwritten calligraphy envelopes are available as an optional extra.

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These are designer invites from an independent calligraphy business – professionally designed and printed, with handwritten calligraphy elements. Your guests will adore them, and you can continue the kraft and calligraphy theme right through to your wedding day with reception stationery to match your invites.

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The suite includes menus…

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… handwritten tags for your wedding favours or place names…

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… and handwritten place name tags with a printed motif to match your invitations.

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To order, please email me – let me know how many you’d like and I’ll create a custom listing especially for you.

Wedding invitations:

A6 flat invitation, printed one side and personalised with your information £2
C6 blank envelope included

I will send up to two proofs of your invitation design for approval before printing. Please allow 3 weeks for delivery wherever possible (but if you’re in a hurry do ask – I’ll do my best to complete your order more quickly).


Handwritten envelopes £2.85

Reception stationery to match:

Printed menus £2
Handwritten tags £1
Handwritten place cards with printed motif £1

Also available:

Save the Date cards and envelopes £2
RSVP cards and envelopes £1.75
Information cards £1.75
Orders of service £2
Table plans from £80

Please note minimum order quantity of 40 items applies, excluding table plans

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DIY watercolour crepe paper flowers with calligraphy tags

As a calligrapher and artist there’s nothing I enjoy more than making things with paper and paints – and I wanted to try something new after seeing so many tutorials for paper flowers on wedding blogs. I’ve written place name cards with a watercolour wash, which are really popular this wedding season, and I think watercolour tags or place cards go perfectly with these DIY crepe paper flowers. Also, they’re so much fun to make – I managed 40 in an afternoon, and (three months later) they’re still dotted around my calligraphy studio in little glass bottles instead of vases.

watercolour flowers vickerstaff photography

The finished paper flowers were taken to a creative shoot which I hope will inspire couples to design and make some pretty bits and pieces for your own weddings. All of the paper pieces I made can be recreated at home so do watch out for the shoot – coming to a wedding blog near you soon! The three images from the shoot are by Jamie at Vickerstaff Photography and a full list of the fab suppliers involved is at the end of this feature.

paper flowers project vickerstaff photo

paper flowers tutorial
Ingredients for your paper flowers: crepe paper, cotton wool balls, big paintbrush, tube(s) of watercolour or gouache paint, double sided tape, scissors, bamboo skewers, bowl, and a microwave… and about 6 hours per 50 flowers!

Step 1: cut bamboo skewers to desired length for flower stems

paper flowers step by step

Step 2: cut petals from crepe paper. You’ll need 3-4 petals per flower (experiment with different petal shapes: these hearts are nice and easy)

watercolour paper flowers

Step 3: cut square centres from crepe paper. You need one per flower, and just large enough to wrap around your cotton wool balls and stick to your – er – sticks!

paper wedding flowers

Step 4: Take petals and centres and place onto an upside down microwaveable bowl. Soak your paintbrush with plenty of water and gently ‘paint’ the petals with water. They’ll stick to the bowl. Dash a bit of watercolour paint on too – but not all over. You might fit 4 or 5 petals on the bowl at once, depending how large it is! Leave them on the bowl…

5a-close-up-paint-petals home made paper flowers

Step 5: You might find it helps to use a spray container with water instead of your paintbrush… I used both but you don’t need to really.

creative paper flowers

Step 6: When you have about 4 petals on your bowl, pop it in the microwave. Cook on the highest setting for 30 seconds or so, then keep a careful eye on the petals as you cook them for 10 seconds at a time. You’ll know when they’re dry as they’ll lift away from the bowl a little. Careful – the bowl will get hot!

diy crepe paper flowers

Step 7: Gather everything together: tape, stems, dry petals and centres, and cotton wool balls. The flowers will come together quickly now!
watercolour wedding flowers

Step 8: Wrap a little double sided tape around the top of your skewer. Spear a cotton wool ball with it, and wrap it all up with a dried, painted paper centre piece to make a ball which will form the centre of your first flower. It doesn’t have to be perfect!

easy watercolour paper flowers
Step 9: “Skewering action”!
crepe paper watercolour flowers wedding flowers paper tutorial

Step 10: When the flower centre is made, you can begin to add petals

diy wedding paper flowers

Step 11: It’s really easy – use a small piece of double sided tape (roughly where my fingers are in the image above) and then stick a petal on. Squish and squeeze to shape.

diy wedding step by step

Step 12: Add 3 petals per flower, or more if there’s a gap to fill at the end. The image below shows the basic stages of flower from ball to bloom!

wedding project crepe paper flowers

Step 13: Your finished flower… don’t worry, the process will get quicker as you make more of these!

crepe paper flowers tutorial

Display your watercolour paper flowers in mini milk bottles with name tags as escort cards. I used one flower per bottle at our styling ideas shoot and made the most of the pretty tables at Broadoaks Country House by putting a few bottles in the drawers! They’d look fab on upcycled wooden stepladders or bookshelves as well – and you can experiment with colours as much as you like!

watercolour paper flowers styling
Image credit Vickerstaff Photography | table styling Beautifully Vintage | Kelsey wears Sassi Holford from Julia Tasker Bridal Couture | Hair by Aqua Salon | Definitions Make Up


Thanks to everyone involved in our creative wedding styling shoot:

Julia Tasker Bridal Couture (facebook:
Brackens of Bowness (facebook:
Caroline’s Cake Company (facebook:
Beautifully Vintage China Hire (facebook:
Aqua Hair and Beauty (facebook: )
Definitions Mobile Beauty (facebook:
Broadoaks Country House (facebook:
Pumpkin and Pye (facebook:
Vintage Twee (facebook:
With huge thanks to Jamie at Vickerstaff Photography (facebook:

You & Your Wedding magazine – calligraphy for a glittering wedding style

Featured in You & Your Wedding magazine, July / August 2014

“Pair shimmering details with burnished bronze topped with glossy roses, and watch your top table style spring to life”


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I may be a little biased but I think handwritten calligraphy is the perfect finishing touch for any and every wedding style – and it seems the team at You & Your Wedding magazine agree! Their glittering wedding reception shoot made a real statement with lush colours and sparkling – well, everything!

The shoot featured:

Floral arrangement Zita Elze
Goblet vase Zara Home
Hurricane vases Wilko
Glasses and plates Amara
Place cards Calligraphy for Weddings
Table cloth John Lewis


Part two…

“Continue a decadent theme and create a magic reception style with gold-sprinkled accents and sequin-covered centrepieces”


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Stationery from Blush
Invites Bohemian Dreams and William Arthur
Envelope Calligraphy for Weddings
Card Quill London