Life Skill Unlocked: Millinery

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If you’ve never heard the word before, ‘millinery’ is the word for the art of making fancy hats and fascinators*.

I actually have never worn a fancy hat or fascinator. Not because I don’t like them – they can be pretty amazing – but because anything small and girlie makes me feel self-conscious and stupid, and anything wide-brimmed makes me look like a peculiarly flamboyant portobello mushroom.

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There I am on the left there

Still, as you know, I like to try my hand at new crafts, so when Emergency Sister invited me to join her for an afternoon of millinery at The Design House** on Dawson Street, I jumped at the opportunity.

I have not, in the past, had the best of luck with fabric-related crafts. As a general rule, unless there is a glue gun involved there is a chance that no two pieces will ever come together. The end result of my efforts is commonly a scrap pile of material marred with the sort of stitches you’d expect on Frankenstein’s monster, and bloody phalanges from repeatedly punching holes in my fingertips with the needle.

Essentially for this exercise I will need you to take the image you have in your mind’s eye of a Jane Austen lady quietly, delicately, elegantly sewing in the corner… and replace it with what you might expect to see after a rumpled, chaotic girl has spent hours attempting to remove her own fingerprints.

Thanks to my past experience with fabric, I went into the class with high excitement at the idea of learning a new skill and, at the same time, profoundly low expectations that I would actually leave with a finished piece. Thankfully, as soon as we arrived we were offered a glass of wine to encourage the creative process. In my opinion there is no situation wine cannot improve, and this was no exception. I definitely felt my confidence in my own abilities go up as steadily as the level of wine in my glass went down. There were five of us in the class, and after listening intently to our teacher Bebh, we all picked a colour and got to work.

Five hours, one steamed finger and countless needle-pricks later, I had a finished fascinator.

I even took a photo as proof.

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Proof.

So there you have it. Life skill unlocked! Perhaps not the most practical skill, but a skill nontheless. Now, thanks to the astonishing powers of Bebh and her excellent teaching, I can go forth and make many more fascinators in the future. Despite the fact that I probably stabbed my fingers more than I stabbed the sinamay, and it’s unlikely that I will ever wear my little creation, I had a really good time and would definitely recommend it. I didn’t use the glue gun once!

Also, as it turns out, I have the perfect (if slightly reluctant) model for my work:

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Don’t worry, she was paid for this modelling gig.

*If you have ever seen a woman at a wedding who you suspected had a startled bird perched precariously on the side of her head… She was probably wearing a fascinator.

*The Design House is located at 43 Dawson Street, Dublin and they teach a number of classes there. Not only that but you can also get clothes made from scratch, or buy any number of Irish crafts in their shop. Also there’s a cafe downstairs that makes delicious sandwiches (I tried them) and, apparently, heavenly cannolis (I have not yet tried them, but they’re on my list).

Life’s Little Disappointments

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I am big into art and crafts.

I’m not into all crafts. I’m not even into useful crafts, but I really enjoy making new things with my own two hands. I go through phases of intense focus where I NEED to learn how to decorate cakes/use watercolours/pyrograph/d├ęcoupage/make jam. Then, as soon as I’m good enough at it that I’m satisfied I could gift the results to some unsuspecting victim without having my skin fall off from the holy mortifying shame of it all… I lose interest. No sooner am I happy with the results of my jewellery-making than I’ve dropped all my beads and picked up some oil pastels, ready for my next challenge.

I’m like a tiny, fickle, Martha Stewart but without the multi-million dollar empire and the tax-evasion and the facial expression that implies she is perfectly capable of killing you with her own bare hands.*

For about two years now I’ve wanted to make a dreamcatcher. Yes, I’m talking about the tragically uncool, yarn-and-feather, possibly culturally-appropriative things that everyone used to have on their wall. They weren’t very useful for catching nightmares – or whatever it was they were supposed to do with your dreams – but they were a surefire sign that you were probably a girl growing up in the ’90s.

I have tried a couple of times to harness the power of the dreamcatcher, but every time I’ve just ended up with my fingers tangled in yarn. For about five glorious minutes, my creation looks like something spun by a drunk spider, and then it unravels completely, spilling beads across the floor. Every few months, I try. Every few months, I fail. You know what they say though; if at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying until you almost amputate your own finger by means of an accidental yarn tourniquet.

With this in mind, imagine how excited I was when I received an e-mail from Ikea telling me they were having an activity day during which there would be a craft class for how to make dreamcatchers. I was excited. I mean, I was really excited.

I put it in my calendar. I planned my weekend around it. I knew I wouldn’t have the car and Ikea is a trek away, so I plotted my route accordingly. When D-Day (Dreamcatcher Day) arrived, I set off on my adventure with high hopes. I took a bus to a place I had never been, and then walked to another bus stop where I took a second bus to a stop about half an hour from Ikea. I then walked (bounced, really) the rest of the way. I was going to CRUSH this! I would finally, finally, learn how to make a dreamcatcher. You know when cartoons think of money and dollar signs flash in their eyes? If I had been a cartoon in that moment, my eyes would just have been a series of potential dreamcatcher colour combinations.

I walked in the entrance to IKEA and looked around for my craft class. I was bang on time, so I knew it should be starting. It took me a couple of minutes, but eventually I found the sign for the dreamcatcher crafting crew. Once I realised I had found it, I stood, blinking, trying to comprehend what I was seeing.

The people making dreamcatchers were toddlers.

The “dreamcatchers” were big circles made of cardboard.

The “craft class” was actually just a sort of advanced childminding station.

Paralysed with disappointment, I watched as a dozen toddlers scribbled fiercely on their cardboard circles with fat, washable Crayola markers. A couple of IKEA employees moved from child to child, wiping snot and spit and encouraging them not to draw on the table. Tongues poked out in concentration as they pushed their markers back and forth, squiggling thick lines of colour all over the place.

When I could bring myself to move again, I glumly trudged to the homeware section and picked up a candle and a potted plant to soothe my soul.

Then I left, and got my two buses home.**

 

*Seriously. Does nobody else find her smile completely terrifying? I think it’s a combination of the smile and the wrinkle-free shirts. There’s just something very Patrick Bateman about her.

**To this day, I still have not mastered the art of the dreamcatcher.