○On a sunny day in 2017, Kate Jackson, then 61 years old, picked up a wooden wool spinning wheel and took it to her garden. She propped her iPad up against a brick, pressed record, and began spinning and talking. It’s about crafts, the countryside, and her animals (cats, chickens, bees, and Irene the goose). Kate liked watching videos about gardening and quilting on YouTube, so she had an idea one day. “I decided to upload once a week.”
She called her channel “the last homely home”, “It’s a place where you feel comfortable, safe, and welcome. That’s what I wanted for my channel.” It currently has 123,000 subscribers. Last May, Ms Jackson, who lives in rural Northumberland, launched a sister channel. “the last homely garden”. She has her own shop online, nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram, and her own Facebook group run by her fans. She has become a cornerstone of her thriving online community.
Thirteen years ago, after an unexpected divorce, Jackson found herself alone with her three adult children. “It wasn’t the future I had planned,” she says. “She found it difficult to look at herself.” She left her career as a midwife to focus on selling her homemade crafts and teaching workshops, but she was struggling financially.
Around this time, her best friend was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and later died. “It was a dark time,” she says. Mr Jackson fled to New Zealand, where he traveled the country by bus. “I came back healed,” she says. She is ready to accept living alone and find peace at home.
By the time decent broadband was installed in her village in 2017, she was ready to share her little world of artisanal entertainment online. In Jackson’s videos, she chats while cooking, sewing, and sorting fabric. Sometimes she shoots tutorials, which are always relaxing. Recently, she has been teaching her daughter-in-law Anna how to make quilts. Jackson avoids polish. She doesn’t like writing video scripts and she never wears makeup. While filming one of her cooking videos, she accidentally dropped the recipe she was making into the pot, but left the mistake intact in her edit. Her audience loved it, she says. She says, “The comment I get most often is, ‘It’s like sitting down and having tea with a friend.'”
Her audience is mostly older American women, yearning for a glimpse of life in the British countryside. But that’s not all. “My daughter Martha said, ‘You’re a woman living alone in the country, you’re okay.'” Too often, people are left on their own through divorce or death and are overwhelmed by it. On the other hand, I enjoy solitude and love being able to make my own decisions. I’m showing people that it’s okay.”
Her fans collectively refer to themselves as the “Lime Green Sofa.” This was a concept during lockdown, with Jackson imagining viewers lounging together on endless banquettes. American fans made sofa badges to identify each other at craft festivals. In the UK, there are people who profess to be fans of Jackson, who “started crying and hugged me. They’re always really friendly and nice. But it’s a little weird.”
Although she hides her exact whereabouts, people sometimes show up at her doorstep. There are “intrusive questions” online. Jackson shares a lot. “But at some point you have to say, ‘No, I’m not going to share this.'” Especially since it protects the privacy of her children and grandchildren.
However, The Last Homely House is a family effort in other ways. Her children and their partners are all creative and participate by doing small jobs on the channel. They create illustrations, run online shops, edit videos and photos, and sometimes appear on screen. “It’s really gratifying to see how passionate they are about what I’m doing,” Jackson says. “This is a collaboration with the people I love most in my life.”
Due to the success of her channel, Ms. Jackson is very busy, but she loves how she spends her time. This year, she plans to collaborate with a YouTuber she once considered a hero and visit her fabric factory. Success also brings peace of mind. “I am financially independent in a way I never thought possible when I was depressed and wondering when I would sell my next quilt.”
Sometimes I wish I had started sooner. “But I had to go through all those difficult life stages,” she says. “I wouldn’t have appealed to the same people if I was younger. I’m doing the right thing at the right time.”