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New life for good old crafts

A Dubai-based learning centre is reviving “grandmothers’ crafts” amidst the onslaught of modern gadgets

  • Masterpieces: Mady, a kilim instructor at reMADE DXB, show off her worksImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert
  • Kilim art: Mady explains her craftImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert
  • Gift of weaving: Rachel Spencer, a student at reMADE DXB learning centre in Al Quoz, masters the art of carpetImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert
  • Colouful craftwork: Theresa Tsui, extreme right, bunting instructor and co-owner of reMADE DXB, teaches her stImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert
  • New skill: Emanuelle Birault, a student at reMADE DXB, learns how to use the sewing machineImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert
  • IN stitches: Paula Horsfall, right, watches as her student Hina Gandhi learns how to sewImage Credit: XPRESS/ Clint Egbert

Dubai: Age-old crafts such as stitching, sewing, carpet weaving and quilt-making are making a comeback. Even as technology and gadgets increase their hold on every aspects of our modern-day living, a learning centre in Al Quoz has set out to revive the crafts which used to be part of every household not too long ago.

“Everything today is digitally produced on automated machines. People are just mere operators of machines and sadly not developing hand skills and crafts. Keeping this in mind, we started reMADE DXB so people get a chance to learn skills like sewing, stitching, carpet weaving, quilt-making and much more that not only build creativity, but also concentration and motor skills,” says Paula Horsfall, co-owner, reMADE DXB.

As XPRESS visits the centre, a kilim workshop is under way where students are learning to make a wall-hanging mat using the age-old technique.

“Kilims are flat-tapestry woven carpets or rugs which are used as decorative pieces and prayer mats. They are made by tightly interweaving the warp (a set of length-wise yarns held on a frame or a loom) and a weft (the thread or yarn drawn through the warp to create the design on the piece),” Paula explains.

Annabelle Fitzsimmons and Rachel Spencer are learning the fine points of carpet weaving from Mady – a kilim expert and Persian carpet weaver.

“Every workshop is for two hours, after which students take their work home,” says Mady.

“I simply love this craft as it helps me stay focused and improves concentration. Although the class is for two hours, time simply flies. Moreover, at the end of the session, we get the sense of having achieved something when we finish making the carpet,” said Fitzsimmons.

“Firstly it feels great to learn a craft that has been in existence for years. Secondly, I get the satisfaction of creating a unique piece on my own,” says Spencer, adding that no modern gadget can provide that sense of accomplishment.

A kilim workshop costs Dh1,500 for 10 classes.

Easy and simple

As we look about, we find more interesting things around the place. At one end of the room, buntings and paper mobiles are hanging. “These mobiles are decorative pieces made from paper and can be made in different shapes. Bunting making is one of the basic crafts that we teach. It is very easy to learn,” said Theresa Tsui, co-owner, reMADE DXB.

As we look at the intricacies of the paper mobiles, Theresa shows us a wooden box with a painting on it. “Do you know the design is made from tissue paper? It’s called Decoupage – the art of decorating an object by gluing coloured paper and cut-outs on it. An object like a small box or an item of furniture is covered by cut-outs from magazines or from purpose-manufactured papers,” she explains.

“For this, we took a small wooden box and then painted on it. Then we decorated the box with paper tissues and then spread a clear acrylic varnish on the box to protect the finished item.”

A three-hour Decoupage workshop costs Dh150 per person. At the end of this, they take home the piece they have created.

“The whole idea of this course is to educate people on how they can save and recycle things around them. This course is designed for just that,” she said.

A stitch in time

Next, Paula takes us to a corner of the room where students are busy learning to sew using traditional sewing machine. “Our mothers, aunts and grandmothers sewed every day. It is such an important skill to know today, yet, it is so rare to see someone actually do it, let alone keep a machine in their house.”

reMADE DXB has a course where students learn how to use a machine and what all one can do with it. “The basic course gets people familiar with the different parts of a sewing machine and teaches them how to operate it. Here they are taught how to perform basic tasks such as threading the machine, winding the bobbin and sew in a straight line and curves.”

Paula said such skills not only keep one’s mind alert but also help in many other ways. “If one is equipped with different hand-skills, they can fix small wear and tear around the house.”

She recalls how one of her students had never touched a needle in her life. “I was shocked. When I asked her what she would do when the buttons fell off a shirt - she simply said that she would throw the shirt away. That is such a waste. I was also glad that I could teach her this very useful skill.”

In order to encourage children (11 years and above) to take interest in the course, reMADE DXB has started ‘Mummies and daughters’ course where children can come along with their mothers and learn basic sewing skills.

“The course is not restricted to daughters alone, sons can come along.”

Children aged eight years and above can also learn to hand-sew a pretty little hanging heart or a bird from any old fabric, buttons and ribbons. Cost of the workshop is around Dh75 per person.

For the mummies and daughter course, it is Dh125 for both. “All the materials are provided, one only needs to turn up with a desire to have some fun,” said Paula.

Other courses

Quilting and Applique: At reMADE DXB, one can learn to make a quilt for just Dh195 per person. The course is for three hours and students get to make a mug rug (six inches by nine inches), which can be used as a coaster.

Silver jewellery making: Another unique workshop here is to make your own silver jewellery design. “No previous experience is required and the workshop is delivered by a qualified silversmith. All equipment and materials are supplied and one gets to go home with a piece of jewellery designed and made by the student.”


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