February’s meeting was an absolute cracker! Not only did we get the chance to wave pom poms about for 45 minutes, we were also joined by Ellie and Melissa from WI Life who are writing an article about our fabulous little group. Officially the peak of WI joy!
Excitement about being in WI Life aside, we were also thrilled to be joined by Chloe (standing on one leg in the picture above) from local fitness studio (and President Chloe’s – not the same Chloe, obvs – all time favourite gym) Strong + Bendy. Once we’d all picked our preferred coloured pom poms, Chloe took us through an exceedingly fun, and suprisingly sweaty cheer-based cardio work-out. Turns out pom poms are quite heavy when you wave them about constantly, and keeping up with Chloe’s super-energetic routines was harder than expected! But sweaty fringes aside, we were a happy squad by the end! And we all felt like we’d earned our post-workout pint afterwards…
Next month we will be taking it a bit easier, with a (presumably) seated session of tea blending with Hackney Herbal. So if all this bouncing about with pom poms seems a bit too much like hard work, March’s meeting could be the perfect alternative!
We started 2020 with a crafty evening, making fabulous earrings out of leather remnants with Eli from Love and Salvage. Eli makes bags, shoes and jewellery from leather that is left over from furniture production, and runs workshops for people to do the same.
Presented with a massive selection of leather shapes and paints, all we had to do was make our choices and get painting! Our hand-painted leather designs just needed a few bits to fasten them together and hooks (so we could actually put them in our ears) and we were done!
For this month’s meeting we went for a distinctly festive theme, with mulled wine (thanks Rachel!), mince pies and bauble making! But not just any baubles, baubles made from the bits and pieces we had all dug up from the bottom of our craft drawers (except Kiersten, who has no craft drawer but does run the Victoria Yum Cake bakery and brought amazing salted caramel chocolate brownies instead. A totally acceptable substitution – and the look on Katherine’s face when she discovered they were gluten free was a joy!)
Giant pile of fabric, ribbon, pom poms and glittery flowers created, we proceeded to make some slightly sticky, very glittery baubles. And every single one was totally different and really lovely. And aside from the foam baubles (acknowledged as not terribly green, but we didn’t have time to do papier mache balls instead!) we didn’t need to buy anything – so a fun, sustainable addition to our trees.
And so ends a fantastic year of Wicked Women WI! We have learned things, made things, eaten and drunk things, made new friends and had loads of fun. Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. Come and join us in 2020 for more fun – we have loads of interesting plans for you all!
There was a distinctly Levantine / Mediterranean / Middle Eastern flavour to our preserving activities last Wednesday with Katherine teaching us how to make her Cypriot mother-in-law’s preserved lemons and Sophie instructing Lebanese pink pickled turnip making. Between that and the copious amounts of hummus, pitta and olives consumed we could well have been in Beirut (aside from the freezing temperatures outside!)
Katherine came prepared with copious preserving facts – both the recipes we learnt were brine based but as we know from sauerkraut making (March 2018, for the blog fans) there are lots of different styles of pickling and preserving – all over the world. The Koreans have their kimchee, the Germans their sauerkraut and crucially for our purposes the arabic speaking world has torshi and the Cypriots their preserved lemons.
We had all (that’s a lie, quite a lot hadn’t but that’s fine!) brought our sterilised jars, chopping boards and knives. So we got to work slicing our lemons and packing jars with layers of lemon and salt. Some decorative coriander seeds, chillies and cinnamon sticks were added to a few of our jars – which looked really pretty. Katherine’s MiL’s sample lemons were tasted and judged delicious. Let’s hope after three months of hanging out in a dark cupboard ours will reach those citrus heights.
After a quick wipe down of the chopping boards we were onto turnip peeling. Yep, turnip peeling – we really pulled out the stops with this evening’s event. These odd little veggies were chopped into chunks and popped in jars with bay leaves and one chunk of beetroot before being covered in a simple vinegar, water and salt solution. From there they hang out making friends with the pretty pinkess of the beetroot and in about a week the whole turnips are luminous pink. Making a rather decorative element to a falafel wrap etc etc etc.
It was also, rather excitingly, HWW’s sixth birthday in November which we celebrated with a rather large chocolate cake. Pickles, pitta and birthday cake – do Wednesday evenings get better?!
If you fancy trying your hand at making some pickles and preserves yourself you can find the recipes here:
This month we were discussing smear tests, as part of one of this year’s WI Campaigns “Five Minutes That Matter”.
Formed in 1915, the WI has a long history of campaigning on a wide range of issues. WI campaigns are about changing things for the better and tackling the issues that matter to members. Members are at the heart of the WI and they play a central role in bringing issues onto the WI’s national agenda through our public affairs and campaigning.
From equal pay to climate change, from gaps in the midwifery workforce to the plight of the honey bee, WI members have embraced a diverse set of challenges and built a reputation for the WI as a practical and ambitious organisation that doesn’t shy away from tricky issues.
The ‘Don’t Fear the Smear’ resolution was proposed (and selected) on the basis that cervical screening saves around 5,000 lives a year, yet attendance is currently at it’s lowest for a decade. The WI is campaigning to try and improve the numbers, and stop women dying unnecessarily.
We started the meeting with a discussion over the need for smear tests and the barriers that women face. There is loads of interesting material regarding the campaign on the WI website on the subject. Our resident Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, Dr Rachel Harding, then talked us through some of the proper medical facts (including a quick fire quiz!) and how the screening process is currently changing. She then opened up the floor to questions, and it was great to see that people were happy to share their own experiences and ask some questions, and it wasn’t all super awkward (we had provided everyone with a Halloween-themed cocktail to try and alleviate some of the awkwardness…)
We then went for a bit of a change of tone, and embarked on a themed pumpkin carving competition! In teams, we were challenged to create the most biologically accurate carving of a woman’s vulva, vagina or uterus. The competition was fierce!
Once everyone was finished, we lit the lanterns (turns out you can just stick a phone with the torch on inside – no need for candles – which is good, as we hadn’t thought to bring any…) and Rachel had the task of judging! Sophie, Bethan and Cris won the day (although I seem to have failed to take a decent picture of their entry)!
This month we learnt the traditional art of macramé (basically fancy knotting) to make our own 70s style plant holders!
Macramé is a form of textile produced using knotting techniques. It may come from a 13th-century Arabic weavers’ word migramah meaning “fringe”. This refers to the decorative fringes on camels and horses which help, amongst other things, to keep the flies off the animal in the hot desert regions of northern Africa. Another school of thought indicates that it comes from Turkish makrama, “napkin” or “towel”, and was a way to secure the ends of pieces of weaving by using the excess thread and yarn along the top and bottom edges of loomed fabrics.
Wherever it came from, macramé traveled from north Africa to Spain with the Moors and as a result of their conquest it spread, firstly to France, and then throughout Europe. It was introduced into England at the court of Mary II in the late 17th century, the Queen taught the art of macramé to her ladies-in-waiting. Interestingly, sailors (not people you usually think of as decorative crafters) made macramé objects in off hours while at sea, and sold or bartered them when they landed.
From small beginnings as a heap of wool
Busily trying to wrangle quite a lot of threads
So, after a learning a bit of this history, we were ready to get going! We were starting simple, and aiming for a plant holder made from 8 threads. Once you have your threads, knot them all together, divide into four and then start knotting and dividing again. Confused?! So were we (I totally can’t explain how to do this in writing!)… For a more comprehensible tutorial the internet is definitely your friend. Try this one for a simple starting point.
With slightly more understandable instructions, we were all able to make something which not only held a plant pot but also looked cool and professional!
This month was our summer party, which took us out of Hackney Wick and on a history tour of suffragette sites in East London. There was Pimms, facts aplenty, a bit of heckling and a surprising amount of chat about Angela Lansbury (yes, her out of Murder She Wrote). More on that shortly…
After a few days of fairly rubbish weather, the sun finally came out, justifying our decision that all good walking tours should be undertaken with glass of Pimms in hand! A quick pavement production line was set up and then we were ready to go!
Despite the fact our tour notes didn’t include it, we were actually standing right opposite the Minnie Lansbury Memorial clock on Bow Road, so a quick Google for facts and she was included! A suffragette, she was also married to Edgar Lansbury (son of George Lansbury, mayor of Poplar and leader of the Labour party), who following Minnie’s early death went on to remarry and have a daughter, who turned out to be Angela Lansbury! Minnie herself fought for the rights of widows, orphans and the wounded from WWI, and also served on Poplar’s council in 1919 after a change in the law allowed some women to receive Parliamentary suffrage.
We finally ended up at the Lord Morpeth pub, which has recently had a fantastic suffragette mural painted on the outside in honour of the suffragettes who had their headquarters right next door. The pub sign even used to have an image of a placard-holding suffragette.
And then, just to be contrary and make everyone walk a bit further, we headed to the People’s Park Tavern for a glass of wine (mainly as we’d won a £50 bar tab in the quiz a while back and we wanted to use it!)