Lifelong fascination with hats

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Liz van den Ende loves her hats.

When she is not in the garden or behind the wheel of a classic car, she is working on the latest hat in her workshop.

Ever since she could remember, the Kakanui milliner was fascinated by the hats her grandmother wore.

“My grandmother .. had the most beautiful hats. She used to buy a hat and then get an outfit made – we called her the duchess.”

Mrs van den Ende’s passion for hat-making began in her late teenage years but she dabbled in other art forms first.

“When I was at high school, I did a lot of sculpture and art. I worked with metal and wood and I actually wanted to be a jeweller.”

When she was 17, she applied for various jeweller jobs across Christchurch but to no avail.

It was not until she walked into a millinery business and got offered a job that her career aspirations changed.

Working at the millinery gave her the experience and skills needed to work in the industry, she said.

“I learned the old and new ways of doing things. After five years, I was qualified as a milliner.”

She worked for various textile and millinery businesses, and ran her own business for a time.

Everything changed in 2011 after she and her husband lost their Christchurch home as a result of the February earthquake.

“We lost our house – we were in the red zone.”

During that time she also battled cancer, which put her business on halt for a couple of years.

“I’m a fighter and a survivor. I don’t get stressed. You can’t get stressed when you’re making these hats.”

After waiting five years to get their insurance payout, the couple decided they wanted to move somewhere else and start life afresh.

A little over a year ago, Mrs van den Ende and her husband moved to Kakanui.

“Once we looked at Oamaru and started looking at properties, we just fell in love with the place.”

After moving to North Otago, the couple were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the locals.

“Everyone we met was so welcoming.”

Now back on track, she has a few ideas bubbling that she hopes will come to fruition.

Starting up a textile/millinary class and helping out with the Victorian Wardrobe in Oamaru were on the cards.

“I’m quite open to anyone who’s interested in learning anything or needing a bit of help in making their own hats.”