A CRAFTY YARN

When our houses get too small for us, most of us ei­ther move or ex­tend. Deirdre Minogue was in the lovely po­si­tion of be­ing able to add on the house next door. Edited by Mary O’Sul­li­van. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Tony Gavin

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - MY FAVOURITE ROOM -

When a house is fur­nished with lots of tex­tiles, with beaded bags and pieces of in­ter­est­ing fab­ric hang­ing on the walls, wick­er­work hares boxing in the hall and ser­ried rows of painted pot­tery, it’s a strong hint that the oc­cu­pier is pas­sion­ate about arts and crafts and all things ar­ti­san.

Such is the case with bou­tique owner Deirdre Minogue. For the last 10 years, Deirdre has owned and run the suc­cess­ful fash­ion bou­tique at Rath­wood — Car­low’s pop­u­lar home, life­style and gar­den em­po­rium — but she was a knitwear de­signer in a for­mer life, and the fash­ion ranges she stocks in Rath­wood re­flect her love of de­sign and craft. Her hus­band Ian was a wood­turner, and for a while they even lived in a craft vil­lage in the wilds of Scot­land.

Deirdre, who was brought up in Drum­con­dra and is the third of seven chil­dren, at­tributes her ini­tial in­ter­est in craft to her fa­ther, who worked in the cloth­ing busi­ness all his life. “He worked in Kingstons on O’Con­nell Street; the owner was Cathal Brugha’s mother. Cathal was ex­pected to join the fam­ily busi­ness, but when he showed more of an ap­ti­tude for pol­i­tics, she took a spe­cial in­ter­est in my fa­ther,” Deirdre notes, adding, “He was very par­tic­u­lar about tai­lor­ing.”

Deirdre showed a talent for de­sign, and when she fin­ished school, she wanted to go to the Grafton Academy to study fash­ion, but her par­ents were adamant that she do a sec­re­tar­ial course. They felt fash­ion was pre­car­i­ous and the course would be some­thing to fall back on.

They were prob­a­bly ex­tra con­cerned about Deirdre be­ing able to sup­port her­self; she had suf­fered po­lio as a child, and spent long bouts in hos­pi­tal. “I got it when I was eight. I was in Cap­pagh Hos­pi­tal on and off for two-and-a-half years. I was an in­pa­tient for the first year, even though I was only get­ting phys­io­ther­apy and we lived down the road off Grif­fith Av­enue,” Deirdre mar­vels, but she shows no self-pity or bit­ter­ness. “There were an aw­ful lot of peo­ple worse off than me. I can’t wear high heels, but that’s the only draw­back now. Be­fore Cap­pagh, I was in iso­la­tion in Cherry Or­chard — at least in Cap­pagh, the fam­ily could visit me twice a week, and there were oth­ers to play with. It wasn’t the worst,” she notes cheer­ily.

As a re­sult of the po­lio in her left leg, it didn’t grow and the right leg had to be short­ened to match it. When Deirdre fin­ished the sec­re­tar­ial course, she had to have that short­en­ing op­er­a­tion. “They had to wait un­til I had fin­ished grow­ing. I was ad­vised that if I didn’t have it done when I was 18, that my back would give me trou­ble,” she notes.

Af­ter the op­er­a­tion, she worked as a sec­re­tary for a while, but her heart wasn’t in it, so she de­cided to move to Scot­land, where her sis­ter lived, and where she wanted to train to be a teacher. How­ever, she was im­me­di­ately struck by the un­usual knitwear there. Her de­sire to de­sign was reignited, and she de­cided to start knit­ting. “I bought a knit­ting ma­chine and that’s how I got go­ing. I started to sell my knits, then I showed at var­i­ous trade and craft fairs, and it took off from there,” Deirdre ex­plains, adding that her pat­terns in­volved a lot of colour and her own take on Scot­tish Fair Isle, then bas­ing her knitwear on Per­sian and other car­pet de­signs.

The knitwear wasn’t the only thing that took off at a trade fair; Deirdre, who was based in Ed­in­burgh at the time, met her hus­band Ian Laid­law at one such fair. “Ian was a wood­turner. He made toys for a liv­ing at the time, but his real pas­sion was for mak­ing early Re­nais­sance mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, flutes and fid­dles,” she notes.

It was the early 1980s, and as they both en­joyed the craft busi­ness, the cou­ple moved to a craft vil­lage soon af­ter meet­ing. “It was a place called Bal­nakeil, in the north-west cor­ner of Scot­land,” Deirdre says. “It was built as an early warn­ing sys­tem for the RAF, but never used, and the lo­cal coun­cil

‘There were an aw­ful lot of peo­ple worse off than me. I can’t wear high heels but that’s the only draw­back now.’

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