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.
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.
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:
*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).