Saturday, 19 January 2013

New year, new venue, new members and a talk from the lovely Paulette

Kim, Vicky, Paulette and Lindsay
After a couple of pints of stout, surrounded by soft falling snow, everything starts to look a bit magical...which is a good job, because I can't have been the only SHWI lady with mixed feelings about our new venue. We'd been at St Matthew's rooms for a few years now, we officially started there! Isn't a church hall exactly where a Women's Institute should be?
But now, walking towards our new, modern, bright venue, it started to feel exciting... I mean, St Matt's doesn't even have disabled access, let alone an indoor slide!

I needn't have worried. The new place, Electric Works, is perfect for us. I arrived to find a rather official - if not a tad excited - looking Miss Mountain on the brightly coloured reception. To my left was THAT helter skelter. It was at this point I went, as my Grandma would have said, "as giddy as a kipper".

Wonder how many other WIs
have a helter skelter in their venue?!

Suddenly, all at once, I had to run around the building and see what's what, say hello to everyone, get my cupcakes out and on display (not a euphemism), see where tea is made, realise I don't really need to make tea anymore (win), take photographs of anything and everything, go to the toilet, put my committee rosette on, greet the guest speaker and find a place to dump my bags whilst I carried on running around annoying everyone. And then I went on the Helter Skelter. 

Yes, yes.. I may be 30 this year, but I could not wait to get my feet in the sack and hurtle down the chute. After mildly bullying everyone else down and taking pictures of their horrified faces, I got to try it myself. Yes it was worth the giddiness - I want to do it EVERY MONTH. 

Finally I sat down, able to admire our new room. This was not the cold conference centre I was expecting. Our beautiful bunting was hanging around us, the new logo was splashed on the walls, the familiar gingham table cloths ready to catch crumbs and was warm and inviting. But best of all, there was plenty of space for us. It's now possible to walk around the tables with relative ease! Not only did I have an actual chair to sit on (as opposed to the floor) but I had a chair for my bags!

Our first speaker for 2013 was meant to be Toby Foster - but unfortunately he had to cancel last minute. Luckily for us, Mr Foster didn't want to disappoint a large group of ladies and found us a replacement - his BBC Radio Sheffield colleague Paulette Edwards. 
As an aside...I just think it's worth pointing out how lucky we have been with "replacement" speakers. Not once have I felt that I have missed out on the original. Good work everyone!
The fabulous Electric Works

Paulette was friendly, funny and seemed genuinely surprised that she had ended up on radio, having started her career as a teacher. She spoke of ambitions and dreams, encouraging us to keep an ongoing list of 10 things to do or achieve. Apparently, if we write them down, they are more likely to happen - certainly worth a try? She seems a great lady and up for a good laugh - she was first down the slide, despite her initial fears, was amazed at the edible glitter sprinkled on my cupcakes and was disappointed to learn that SHWI hit full capacity at 125 members at the meeting.

As another aside, not only have we had some fabulous speakers over the years, but some of them must think we're pretty fabulous too - several of our members first came to as speakers!

The evening ended with more helter skelter action and the comforting thought that now we have access to a dishwasher, I won't be spending so much time washing up on the third Thursday of the month.

Finally - I just want to say a massive thank you to the wonderful ladies at Electric Works for making this happen. I apologise in advance for any future helter skelter related nonsense. And, just in case I haven't said it enough...HELTER SKELTER!

SHWI Committee

Monday, 14 January 2013

Our bunting archive needs YOU!

After we did bunting making back in 2011 (gosh, was it that long ago?), we came up with the idea to chronicle our activities in the form of bunting triangles. What better way to record the shenanigans of a Women’s Institute than with a bunting archive? 

Following this brainwave, our lovely committee made a bunting triangle for each of our meetings in 2012, depicting everything from Bollywood dancing to sexual health. This year, we’ve decided to throw it out there and ask you - our members - if you’d like to add your handiwork to the growing chain. Each meeting, we’ll ask for volunteers to do bunting triangles to represent that month.

Fancy kicking us off with January’s meeting? If so, just let email or let us know at this month's meeting. All you need is a small amount of fabric, needle, cotton, decorations and a bit of imagination (all we ask is that you put the date of the meeting on the triangle somewhere). 

Our bunting is made up of isosceles triangles, 10” across the top and 11” down the two sides. Just leave about an extra half an inch at the top for stitching to the bunting tape when we join it to all the others to add your piece of craftwork to our growing history.

But why stop there? Think you'd quite like to have a go for fun? How about a bunting triangle to signify what SHWI means to you? or to depict a particularly enjoyable Supper Club? We’re open to ideas and would love to make this year's bunting archive bigger and better. If you want to have a go, you don’t need to ask. Just bring it along with you to the next WI meeting and pass it to one of the committee (we're the ones wearing the rosettes).

If you need a bit of inspiration to get you going, maybe a glimpse of our triangles so far will give you an idea! Here’s Vicky, our treasurer (above), decorating the Winter Gardens with our bunting for our stall at the Sheffield Food Festival 2012, and some of the triangles our members made at our bunting workshop in 2011 are in the photo on the right.

SHWI Vice President

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Willow weaving, 42 new members and farewell St Matt's...

Goodbye St Matt's

One member of Specs and Tits!
Our final meeting of 2012 was a busy one as always! We were delighted to welcome 42 new members to Seven Hills WI, taking us very close to our 2013 member limit of 125.

As has become tradition, I hosted my annual Christmas quiz and the winners (it had to go down to the tie was tense) were the delightfully-named team 'Specs and Tits'. Well done ladies!

We then got to have a go at willow weaving as the lovely Sue taught us how to manipulate the willow and make pretty Christmas decorations with it.

Jollity aside, it was a meeting tinged with sadness as it was our last at St Matthew's Hall, which has been our home since October 2009. As much as we love St Matt's, we have outgrown it, and we are so looking forward to our first meeting in our new home - Electric Works - on Thursday 17 January. It has a helter skelter, what's not to love?!

Eye poking inevitable...

We're looking forward to a new year filled with more SHWI fun, making new friends and learning new things and I'd like to thank all our members for helping to make our group so successful. 

A huge thanks must also go to our wonderful committee who work so hard to make sure things run smoothly - thank you ladies! Here's to 2013!

Lindsay, SHWI President

Photos by Laura Bainbridge

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Seven Hills WI visits Denman College

We've all heard lots about the WI's very own residential college in Marcham, near Oxford, and we were intrigued to find out more. So, just before Christmas eight Seven Hills WI members set out on a trip to Marcham to attend a New Wave Weekend - a chance to sample the delights of Denman College and meet women from other WIs across the country. 
In the sewing class with May Martin (centre)
We all had our reservations about what it would actually be like but we are pleased to report that it was wonderful, we loved it! Okay, so it might not seem the cheapest weekend away at first glance, but when you add it up it's really quite good value for money. We got two nights' accommodation, welcome drinks, breakfast, lunch and three course dinners, loads of tea and coffee, the best shortbread we've ever tasted, and three workshops for just over £200 each!


The workshops were great, I made a charm bracelet, some Christmas decorations and a door wreath (gave the latter to my mum, she loves it!) and I was impressed with the quality of the tuition. Our sewing class was taught by the fabulous May Martin who will be appearing on TV in March as the Mary Berry-style judge in new programme The Great British Sewing Bee!

We also met some lovely women from other WIs (hello Clare and Becki from Birchgrove WI, India from Gloucester Road WI, Meryl from Old Dalby WI, the ladies from West Ealing WI and our wonderful college host Sally!) and it gave us a great chance to talk about our groups and pick up tips and advice from other branches.

Now we've been to Denman we can see that the charm of it really is the old house and gardens (it's like being in Downton Abbey, seriously!) so the news that the national federation are looking at selling the house and gardens, and just retaining the new part, is really sad. 

There is lots of history to the college which you can find out about 
here, but basically the house dates back to the 17th century and was the former manor house of Marcham. It was bought by the WI with money raised by each WI branch throughout the country contributing £10 over three years - seems reasonable to me! 

Denman College, named after the first chairwoman of the WI, officially opened in 1948 and has been a big part of many WI members' lives since then. Each of the bedrooms in the main house are decorated by federations so each is unique and just being there really makes you feel that you are part of something.

We would love many, many more of our members to experience Denman College but we feel this experience will be much poorer if the house and gardens are sold. The national federation are currently consulting on the future of the college and we'd urge all WI members to complete the short online survey before 11 January. 

Kim on the beautiful Downton-style landing!

You can also help Denman College by attending courses there. It is open to anyone, not just WI members, and there really is something for everyone, see  for more details or email us at if you have any questions (I'll try and help!).

SHWI President