Kate Jackson of The Last Homely House (@kateatthelasthomelyhouse) is phenomenally inspiring and beautifully relatable, inviting fans into her home week after week. She shares bits of her creative process, her home life, her gardening and so much more via her wildly popular YouTube channel (huge congrats to her on passing 100K subscribers!), via her Patreon account, and on Instagram.
From gardening to spinning, knitting, cooking, and quilting, Kate always finds a way to share her experiences in a way that makes others feel as though they can do anything. She inspires us all to grab a hot cup of tea, find a comfy corner in a cozy space, and dive into something creative… to take those moments for ourselves.
We’re delighted that she released an exclusive Aurifil collection earlier this year (available via her website) and cannot wait to introduce her debut Aurifil Designer collection in 2024. For today, however, we take a peek into Kate’s world. We are so grateful that she took some time with us to introduce herself to all of you! AND, if you happen to be at Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England, you can meet her at the Aurifil Stand on Friday at 10am! (Details HERE)
Hi Kate! It’s such a delight to chat with you and thank you so much for taking the time! Let’s dive right in – we’d love to hear a bit more about your background… How did you first get started with this wonderfully creative business?
I have always been interested in making the things we need from day to day, be that bread and cakes, vegetables and flowers from the garden, or crafts of many kinds. I grew up with resourceful parents and always thought to grow or make something before I bought it. This has led me to try pottery, felting, spinning, book binding, weaving and now, quilting. It is a delight to live in a ‘handmade’ house. I would love to have made my house too, but my little cottage in the Northumberland hills is a perfect place to do all of these things!
We’d love to hear more about The Last Homely House… What is the origin of the name and what inspired you to adopt it?
I have lived in this cottage for over 35 years and like to think of it as a friendly welcoming place. When I turned the camera on nearly 6 years ago and began my YouTube channel, the name came to me at once, but unless you know the reference it might seem odd! Tolkein, who wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, describes Rivendell, the place where the elves live as ‘The Last Homely House’.
It is a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.
This exactly describes what I hope my home is to the people who ‘virtually visit’ from all over the world! There is so much sadness and chaos in the world I think, and to find a place where you are invited to rest and relax for a little while, seems to be just what is needed for all of us.
Do you find that you’re inspired by your physical surroundings in your creative work? How so?
I love living in this place, it feels like a part of me. My two sons were born in this house many years ago. The landscape is soft and gentle, undulating hills and rivers, moorland and woods. The weather can be lovely, but the rain and wind make it feel quite wild at times too! I live beside a small lake and birds and wildlife are constant visitors to my garden. I like the songbirds very much, the deer that eats my garden … not so much!I have lived in towns and cities in my younger days, but I think my imagination can flourish best in this quiet, isolated place!
You are quite versatile in your creative practice – is there a technique or method that you favor, or do you find that each one (sewing, quilting, knitting, spinning, etc) holds its own place of importance in your overall vision?
Ah – this is an interesting question! I am curious about many things and love to know how things are made. I have no desire to become an expert at anything, but to achieve a level of proficiency that is good enough for me – well, that is all that matters. Like Pottery. The plates and bowls I made are a little wonky and no two are the same size or shape, but they work well enough for me and it makes me smile when I serve my family a meal using my mismatched plates and cups!
I like to know how to make and do many things which leads me to experiment with Indigo Dying or embroidery, weaving, bee keeping, all sorts. I once made a neon glass sign and discovered that glass was not a material I enjoyed working with!
When did you first dive into the YouTube world as a way to connect with fellow makers and what have you loved about the process?
I live on my own here in this little farm cottage and had been enjoying YouTube channels for quite a while before I impulsively started to record content for my own channel. I have a few sayings I like, here are a couple ‘How hard can it be?’ and ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ For a long time I was talking to about 50 people, but I carried on regardless, enjoying each new connection I made and getting to know about editing software and recording gear. My early attempts make me cringe now and I like to think that I have improved over time! And I never run out of ideas for videos. As the numbers of subscribers grew, so did my confidence in the process. With encouragement from my family I began a Patreon Channel and a little online shop. And now, nearly 6 years on, I have just received my Silver Playbutton for The Last Homely House – an accolade that YouTube bestows on channels with over 100,000 Subscribers! That was a very proud moment! I have a lovely community on my Patreon Channel and have just launched my second YouTube channel – The Last Homely Garden!
Your followers are incredibly engaged and are clearly wildly drawn to your style and practice – do you feel that it’s your overall authenticity or the subject matter that draws people in, or perhaps a combination of the two?
Another really great question! In my former life I was a midwife, I was also a teacher of adults, both careers that require good communication. So I am used to talking! I also like to explain things so that beginners can understand and feel empowered to try for themselves. There is a great deal of satisfaction in seeing someone who has never tried a thing before create something they are proud of. The platform that YouTube gives me allows me to reach so many more people than when I was teaching small groups in ‘the real world’. On Instagram people share their crafts and creations with the hashtag #tlhhlgs and I am gratified to see all the wonderful pictures of the things people make inspired by something they have seen on my channel.
One day, out of nowhere, I invented the idea of all of my followers sitting on my sofa enjoying a cuppa and a biscuit together! For no reason I can explain I called it my Lime Green Sofa and now that virtual sofa stretches all around the world in both directions from The Last Homely House! This idea really captured the imagination of the people who enjoy visiting my channel and never was that more important than during the pandemic, where I increased the frequency of the postings I did so I could connect people who were isolated from family and friends. Also, I like to share my cats (alas, only one cat now) my colourful home and my stories and crafts. I never mind showing my mistakes and disasters either, so what you see is truthfully who I am! Not much editing, no ‘hair and makeup’ for me and certainly no scripts! I just have an idea and do my best to communicate it! I think my viewers like that.
We’re so thrilled to have forged a partnership this year. You kicked things off with an exclusive collection of Aurifil threads, available for purchase on your website. What drew you to Aurifil and why was creating this partnership important to you?
I like to hand quilt all my quilts and until I discovered Aurifil I would use the huge collection of embroidery threads that belonged to my mother before she died. But then I kept seeing Aurifil everywhere – and bought my first set of 12 weight – The Kaffe Fassett collection of jewel colours which made my mouth water! I was hooked!
I found the Marakesh variegated thread would fit any of the colourful quilts I was making. At this time I was making quilts for commissions and always found exactly the colour of thread I needed. Then I made my own collection with Aurifil. ‘Slow Stitching at The Last Homely House’ is a box of all the colours I love in 12 weight, with one spool of 50 weight in the grey I like to use for all my hand stitching. I have just finished an English Paper Pieced quilt for my granddaughter, Agnes, every one inch hexagon was stitched with this grey, #2600, it just disappears into the fabric and is so strong and lovely to use! This Thread Box is available in my online shop!
Can you tell us a bit more about this debut collection and what recommendations you might have for use?
Choosing the colours for this collection was really difficult because Arifil make so many beautiful shades and tones! What to leave out? I wanted them all! But I finally settled on this collection, which represents my love of colour perfectly! Aurifil make a lovely stranded floss which is perfect to use as it is for embroidery or split into two or three strands for quilting. I have chosen threads that will work together as different sets, so you’ll have two tones of pink, blue, green and teal. Then you can treat them as two sets of four – a dark blend and a light. And lastly there is the variegated Marakesh that I love so much and the cream colour that works well on many projects. It is the thread I am stitching my daughter-in-law Rita’s quilt with.I use fairly large running stitches on my quilts and these threads look pretty, either as a toning colour or a stark contrast, both work really well. I also like to embroider (quite badly) a label for the back of my quilts and this thread is perfect for that use too.
Do you have any keen advice for working with Aurifil 12wt thread?
I sometimes use beeswax on my threads when I am quilting. I like to cut a long length so that I have few or no joins. Unlike some other quilting threads I find that the Aurifil 12 behaves well with repeated passes through the quilt sandwich and is as good at the end of a long run as it was at the start! One pass over a little beeswax helps prevent tangles.
We know you have another exclusive set upcoming – when can readers expect to find it on your site and can you share a preview of what might be included?
Every year I make a Christmas Box with items selected from my creative friends and something I have designed myself. This year the Box includes a Liberty quilting weight fat quarter bundle and I have commissioned a matching set of threads from Aurifil which will be exclusive to the Box for 2023. There is one of my variegated spools and some pinks and teals to match the fabrics so that your project will blend together perfectly. I am looking forward to seeing what the people who purchase the Box will make! I know there will be some creative results. The Boxes sell out very quickly, so it is a good idea to sign up to the mailing list on the website to be the first to hear about the release date. We will also be revealing the contents of this year’s Christmas Box a bit nearer the time on YouTube and Instagram.
What is coming up for you in the next year – where can readers find you and what are the best ways they can support you moving forward?
I have many plans for the coming year! Since the channel has grown, I now employ both my daughters-in-law, Anna and Rita. We are hoping to bring some more interesting products to the shop and some more series to my channel. This last year I have taught Anna how to quilt and she been bitten by the bug! She is making really lovely quilt blocks with some great fabrics from Michelle Parascandalo that we filmed as a series and she is now planning two more projects! Rita recently made a lovely quilt in a mix of solids in brushed cotton, that will be quilted in just one colour thread, a lovely cream. I am thrilled that both of them share my interest in quilting.
Also, my daughter Martha just completed a quilt for her new baby Emil using fabric she dyed herself, stitched into a Wonky Star Block. It was not quite finished before the baby arrived so I had the pleasure of finishing that one as she had her hands rather full! I used Aurifil stranded cotton in some lovely muted shades that perfectly complemented the quilt. I am currently planning a series where I make quilts for Project Linus, which is a charity my Mum supported for many years. So I am continuing her work whilst making some new-to-me quilt blocks.
I love to write and my first little book is being printed right now, ‘Kate’s Book of Things’ will be available early next year. For a ‘first look’ at this book people who purchase the Christmas Box 2023 will be treated to a copy!
In March 2024 I have been invited to be Guest Workshop Leader on a cruise up the Norwegian coast as guest of my fellow YouTubers, Arne and Carlos. I am looking forward to introducing participants to English Paper Piecing as we sail over the Arctic Circle with The Northern Lights shimmering in the night sky!
My second channel, The Last Homely Garden, has been very well received and I am really excited about all the projects I have planned for that! The new vegetable garden (protected from that pesky deer), the tree planting in the woodland and wildlife haven I am creating with my son John’s help.
Find me on Instagram too and people can join the Facebook Group by searching for The Last Homely House, a friendly closed group that is administered by some lovely people on my behalf. There is always a warm welcome on my YouTube Lime Green Sofa and on my Patreon Channel too where, for the price of a cup of coffee or a magazine you can enjoy extra, behind the scenes, content, with more of my lovely family and my long rambling monthly diaries with hundreds of posts going back to the start of 2019. While I keep on having ideas, I will carry on communicating them to you all!