SHWI 2020 begins!

January again and the annual crafty catch up is upon us. The church is packed to the rafters, queue winding out of the door and a lot of eager new faces in attendance. As usual Marilyn and Maddie are at the door to welcome new and old, pointing people in the direction of the signing up table and the tea trolley. There is a real buzz of anticipation and the craft stations are being set up.

Rachel is taking some time to herself this month, so the lovely Bex steps up as VP to welcome us to SHWI 2020, given newcomers a brief introduction and a summary of what is ahead. Official business over and due to popular demand (from me for one!) Laura  gives us a whistle stop history lesson of the birth of the WI. I personally did not know where this wonderful sisterhood came from so I found it really interesting to hear how it all began, how it developed and also how SHWI started ten years ago.

I had been asked to have a little chat with some new members to find out why they had ventured into the church, so, cuppa and excellent vegan sausage roll in hand, I had a wander and sought out some new faces. One lady explained that she had returned to Sheffield after a few years away and was simply looking for some new things to do and people to meet, and one other newbie said she was looking to meet some like minded bad ass women!! I think she is in the right place!

The meeting tonight felt really fresh, people were mingling and chatting, Cat was jumping around with bunting triangles as bra tops shouting ‘I’m Hilda!!’ and, despite a panic when there were no pencils for the relaxing colouring in station…………….DONT STRESS EVERYONE!!!! , the groups soon settled down and chose their respective crafts.

I was personally on a mission to learn to crochet, so I made a beeline for the corner settee where Laura was ensconced, yarn and hooks in hand. I believe there was also bunting being made, some mug painting and clay making, and everyone seemed to be crafting away happily. I am VERY challenged when it comes to craft so I was thrilled when I actually seemed to get the hang of crocheting, with very patient tutorage by Laura and enthusiastic input from Marilyn and Wendy I made my very first chain. And I am, pardon the pun, hooked!!

In addition to the crafting, as usual the food bank was being filled, the Christmas present swap table seemed to be proving popular and I had a good root through the Blind Date with a Book table, where I picked up an excellent thriller, recommended by Fiona for just a pound!! Have a look next time and see what is on offer, peeking is allowed, honest.

Really looking forward to February and seeing all the new members again as we settle into another wonderful year of SHWI. See you there!!


It’s Christmaaaas!

Christmas already!! Where has this year gone? Another year of SHWI and the yearly festive meeting with pot luck supper and the famous quiz.

I arrived fairly early as usual to find the church hall buzzing with activity, tables for teams to sit around are being organised, as are the buffet tables, Secret Santa, and the area reserved for new members, eager to join our amazing girl gang. Great job Mary by the way, that cant have been easy! Rachel is flogging gin like there is no tomorrow, have we mentioned our fabulous collaboration with Mason’s gin, it is incredible and such a unique one-off thing to have in your collection.  We all have a gin collection, right? I am almost loathe to open it because I don’t want it to get drunk haha, but I am sure I will make an exception and give it a try at least once over the holidays.

The hall is really filling up this evening with a few new faces in attendance, looking around nervously for a friendly face.  Marilyn is doing her usual stellar job on the door and pointing people in the right direction to find whatever information they are looking for, and Maddie is stepping into meet and greet with the usual massive smile on her face and helping people to settle in.  Before long tables are filling up nicely with a mix of regular members, committee and newbies and there is a really great atmosphere.  Rachel and Laura do their usual necessary business and explain how the evening will run, and the programmes for next year are quickly being opened up for discussion, ps how great do they look, the programmes themselves AND the actual list of meetings is super exciting for 2020 and I think really reflects the diversity that SHWI has to offer.  Pat on the back to Katy and the committee for all the hard work and planning there.

With the Santa face picture round up on the screen the queue for the buffet begins to snake so we all fill our plates and take our seats.  The food is honestly so good!  Laura’s famous noodles, teriyaki sprouts and spicy rice, along with all the usual buffet faves and a fantastic selection of mince pies and cake.  I had two plates and I am not even sorry.

The quiz got started and finished amongst much frivolity and the winning team got their inappropriate Santa chocolates and goodie bags.  One year I will get my hands on that goody bag, I need to pick my team more wisely………We gathered around the Secret Santa table and then drew the raffle.  Can I just say that hamper was incredible, everyone has been sooo generous.  I am just glad Di didn’t have to get that home on the bus, if you need any help finishing that off by the way…..just give me a shout.  Also props to everyone who donated again to the food bank, I think we should be really proud of all our members’ generosity and goodwill at this time of year.

From what I hear there has been a lot of new member interest and who could blame them, as much as this is a very special meeting I think all our meetings are just as much fun, and I cant wait to get started on my third year.  Merry Christmas you lovely lovely ladies, see you all in 2020.

Jane xx

Annual Meeting 2019

November already, and my first AGM! The excitement (and stress) had been building in anticipation for the arrival of the Ladies of the Fed, but the meeting went off with the usual SHWI swagger while still ticking all the necessary boxes and getting all the important stuff boxed off for the year.  Rachel, Laura and Mary worked incredibly hard to do all the official business required and I think our esteemed visitors were suitably impressed.

The highlight of this had to be Laura’s presentation, as always in her inimitable style.  It was actually quite emotional looking back on all the activities we have got through this last year.  This is my second year, and i think I only missed two, maybe three meetings. The diversity still beggars belief, my personal faves were of course Majid and Charleston, but I surprised myself enjoying the coffee presentation and actually now own my own stove top coffee maker and actually know what to buy when I’m stood bewildered in the coffee aisle!  Flower arrangements are still way out of my skill set I am afraid, but I still had fun trying!

SHWI to me is all about getting stuck in, I love the spin off groups, the fundraising events, I experienced my first weekend away this year, and I love seeing what the other groups get up to as well.  Some people just like to come to the meeting and that is also great, next year’s programme is already looking really great. So thank you Laura on allowing us to reflect on another fantastic year with this fabulous girl gang.

There were lots of other things happening in the church hall this week.  The food bank ended up full to bursting, thank you all so much! There was a collection for the Xmas food hamper, a flurry around the merch stall, and two raffles being touted around, all collecting for SYEDA.  The lovely Fiona had baked her first ever Parkin, and that soon disappeared from the tea trolley, thank you it was lovely!!

Once all the flurry had died down we had Jane from Mind Body Feeling to bring us all back to a state of calm and Zen.  Despite the palpable Xmas stress and the chill of the church, we were soon all relaxed and reflective as she led us in meditation and mindfulness.  I am a real believer in the power of living in the moment and I really enjoyed the session and the chance to reflect and regroup. That’s not to say I wasn’t thinking oooh dog food, or oooh I need to get the car booked in the garage, but bringing yourself back into the present is really good practice for all of us and I think Jane had some good little learning techniques for us all to take away and give a go.  Simple breathing techniques and appreciating our food while we eat it, obvious techniques that make a real difference so i for one really enjoyed the talk.

Another meeting done and dusted, all ready for next months Xmas special, happy SHWIers who won big or small in the raffles drifting out into the night, oh and a special mention to Grace for leading us in a rousing rendition of Jerusalem, its WI but not as you know it, and I for one cant wait for next year.


“Magic” Magid – Lord Mayor of Sheffield

February already and what is probably going to be the most anticipated and talked about meeting of the year. We have the infamous Lord Mayor of Sheffield coming to talk to us, Magic Majid, and the atmosphere is charged. Not least because we’re all ever so slightly worried he won’t show up , apparently he’s got previous……

So no tables and chairs to be moved this month and I settle near the front with a cuppa, excited to see the hall packed to the rafters and buzzing. Rachel runs through the business of the day perfectly as we now expect. This includes quite an emotional run through the charities up for grabs to be our chosen good cause for the year. I think most of us had a little shiver at one in particular and all I will say is, it was an easy choice at least for myself.
Anyway, heads start to turn and the whisper “he’s here” gets louder!! Majid is resplendent in yellow, trademark backwards cap, tick, and his amazing chain!! Get yersen a cuppa kid , we’ll just be ten minutes. Much frivolity putting his mic on (are you turned on joke, standard ) and then he nearly knocked the lost gin off the table.
Cue the front row leaping forward and shouts of the giiiinnnnnnn…. but it was fine. Phew.
What follows is the most fascinating and engaging forty minutes talk. Through his arrival in Sheffield aged 5 not speaking a word of English, to ending up at Hull Uni studying Aquatic Zoology (no me neither) and gaining his name Magic Majid (the submission magician) as his MMA moniker, it certainly is a journey this young man has been on. Funny, honest, brave, committed, he certainly impressed me and I hope changed a few minds in the audience.
He was happy to answer all questions, and cover the areas that he is criticised on. Things were starting to wind down when the question of the night arrived from LBH. Majid’s trademark squat on a table pose for mayoral pics has caused some controversy, is it disrespectful people ask, so great, Laura is about to get to the, ahem, bottom of that…
But no , what comes from the floor is “have you ever broken wind mid squat?” To be fair to the bloke he is stunned into silence briefly but then he laughs and answers truthfully – that no, not yet, and hopefully never!! What a guy!!
He then waits patiently as we queue for selfies, a really impressive young man whose next steps will surely be interesting to watch.
Hardly time to mention the roaring success of Blind Date with a Book , try it next month if you feel you missed out. I came away with a great book that I’m really enjoying that I never would have chosen. Really great idea!!

So that’s February ! And the wonderful world of SHWI. See you next month ladies.

Jane x

SHWI Kick Off 2019!

Walking into this months SHWI meeting I cannot believe it is a year since my very first WI experience. I had no idea at the time what a year I would have, and also how wrong everyone is about the WI! This month I got to wear my committee rosette for the first time, I am so proud to be a part of this mixed bag of wonderful women.

Lots of newcomers this month, fresh faced and with a slightly perplexed look in their eye, but as always they were welcomed and invited to get a cuppa and find a seat. Talking of newbies, our own lovely Rachel was about to take the stage for the first time as president. She reckoned she was nervous , but she did a stellar job, rattling through the necessary business before explaining how the meeting would go.

Tonight was going to be a craft-stravaganza, four stations of lovely creative ideas to get people mingling and getting stuck in. Now, I have a confession to make, that I have kept well hidden for the last year, I don’t craft. I know! what kind of excuse of a menopausal woman am I?! Please don’t take my rosette away!! I am learning though, so tonight was perfect for me.

The ever enthusiastic Cat had a table making fabric skin cleanser cloths, knitted make up removers and the ever present bunting box was open for business.  There was a very zen and peaceful table with mindful colouring, didn’t hear a peep from that lot! Our secretary Laura, resplendent in violet and a tiara (must try harder LBH), helped us to make coffee butt scrub, super easy and effective, ask me nicely next time you see me, I’ll show you …. the scrub, not the butt!!

The last table hiding in the corner was something very special, Rachel had bought fabric squares for us to cut and wrap around a wreath which will be presented in Endcliffe Park for the fly by to mark the 75th anniversary of the US bomber crashing in the park during WW2. Simple but so effective, it will be presented to Tony Foulds who was a school boy when the plane came down, at the memorial event to be held soon.


So there you go, January done! Another year of the weird and wonderful experiences that make up our SHWI so special.

Now, where’s me knitting ……..

Jane x

Masterclass in Macrame

October’s meeting was our birthday… Seven Hills WI is 9! We celebrated with an incredible cake baked by Lottie, one of our amazing members, and of course a rendition of Happy Birthday.


The activity for our meeting this month featured the lovely Julie who taught us to do a spot of macramé. Macramé is the art of knotting string in patterns to make decorative articles. You don’t need needles, or hooks, just your fingers, and it’s one of the oldest forms of handicraft. In the 70’s, free spirit tours made stylish fringed waistcoats and owl wall hangings using macramé, and then it fell out of fashion. Until more recently, when lifestyle bloggers began to feature classy plant pot hangers and the like.

For our beginner project, we opted to make a key chain. We began by learning the basics of the Square Knot. We tied lengths of string to a key chain and worked with 4 lengths. We used a sequence of moving the strings over and under each other to create knots which we slowly tightened to our desired tension. Julie made it look much easier than we found it! When you tie a regular Square Knot, you alternate the direction the strings move for each half, which keeps it flat. For our second design (Spiral Stitch) the strings are moved in the same direction each time, which causes a twisting. The result was a very cool looking helix design! We were chuffed to bits with the result. We came away wondering what else we could utilise a Spiral Stitch for… Helix necklace anyone?!



Charlotte x

SHWI Dance

Feeling refreshed after our summer holidays, we welcomed the fabulous Sarah Hardy from PerformiX Studios to our August meeting. We pensively took to the floor, jostling for a position at the back of the hall as Sarah introduced herself. She energetically guided us through a series of shimmies, head flicks and dips to Beyonce’s ‘Run the World’ and ‘Single Ladies’.

42258302_491583821251238_7225989666124595200_nWe may not have been to time, and we may have forgotten one or two of the moves, but Sarah coaxed out our inner sass, and lots of laughs. Any self-consciousness that may have been present at the start of the session was shown the door, even allowing our final performance to be filmed. All that was missing were the leotards. Yasss Queens! So next time you hear Queen B and a group of ladies start to strut their stuff, it’s probably just the members of SHWI shaking their thing. So big thanks to Sarah for a really fun, friendly and sassy session!

Maddie Lamb, SHWI member


Romance in the Raj

At our June meeting we were lucky to welcome back Meredith Towne with her talk on Romance in the Raj.

Meredith talked to us about a young woman in the 1920s who had boarded a ship for India, in the hope of finding a husband. We heard about the hordes of men stationed out in India, and how adverts suggested that a place on the ship was almost guaranteed to land a woman a husband out there, no matter what the woman’s appearance!

Meredith introduced us to the fashion of the day, showing us both photographs and the real vintage items, and we were read the most enormous packing list that was standard for the young women embarking on their trip to the Raj.

35853470_2002526723093355_5523743850109075456_oWe were invited to think about the practicalities of endless layers of petticoats in the heat of India, and were tickled by a large split in the bloomers on show, which was supposed to make toileting a little easier!

Meredith was able to make her talk personal and relatable. She shared with us her photos of Shimla from a recent trip, and compared these with photos from the height of the Raj. The talk ended with a surprise twist as Meredith revealed the identity of the young woman she had been referring to… but I won’t reveal it in case you ever see the talk yourself!

It was a fantastically well received talk, and we MAY have scheduled her in for an extra special meeting next year…!


SHWI do Thai Chi

My first meeting of the year, and the first I had been to since November owing to Christmas do’s and work overruns, I was excited to get my Tai Chi on with David Lipka from Mindful Tai Chi.  When I say excited, what I mean is that I was looking forward to an evening of relaxation with my favourite ladies, to going home in a floaty like state to my bed where I would have the best night’s sleep ever, a full night’s sleep is something I get very excited about as it so rarely happens!
Before we got started with some relaxation shenanigans, we welcomed a large number of guests as we decided to spread the love by inviting members to bring a friend along to our Galentines Day special meeting; a number of our guests have gone on to part with their cash and join us on a full-time basis so we must be doing something right.  Laura and Bex completed the WI business in record time, we marvelled at our SHWI merchandise store (more of a camping table) ‘manned’ by the beautiful Anna Tebble pedalling our SHWI related wares including our charity Christmas cards, OK its 10 months away but you can never be too organised can you??
We were also excited with the inaugural use of out iZettle card payment machine, a revolutionary purchase which will hopefully mean our future sales at Sheffield Food Festival and other events will be much higher as we can take contactless payments as well as cash, it’s a win win situation, imagine being able to pay your WI annual subscriptions by another method other than cash or cheque, it’s the future.
Following a quick pit stop for tea and cake, we got moving the chairs in the Church to create a circle for our Tai Chi experience with David’s velvety voice which sounded like a Jackanory story teller (familiar, soothing and relaxing) giving us directions as we got settled for an hour of relaxation heaven.  As I volunteered to write the blog I didn’t sit within the circle so that I could make some notes and observations and this is where I realised that my legs are considerably shorter than they perhaps ought to be….
David started his demonstration by asking us what we knew about Tai Chi, my own personal experience was Helen Daniels on Neighbours back in the day wafting about in her front garden in pink pyjamas with Brett Stark – ridiculously, I can’t remember what happened yesterday but this is a very vivid image of my teenage years and has totally checked out on the Neighbours episode guide from 1995.
He asked whether we had invited him to the meeting because of the WI connection?  Cue a lot of blank faces until he reminded us of the ladies in Calendar Girls going Tai Chi on the moors in Yorkshire, whilst we could claim this was exactly the reason we had invited him, it was more that we are all more aware of being kinder to ourselves and Tai Chi seemed like a decent introduction to another element of self-care that some of us may not have considered.
David asked for what words immediately sprung to mind when thinking of Tai Chi – grace, community, wafting hands, baggy trousers, relaxation we all words our ladies came up with and hopefully we demonstrated some of this as he took us through his approach to the conscious awareness of movement.  He took us through starting positions of sitting well, this is where I found my feet don’t quite reach the floor if I sit correctly on a chair, I am 40 years old and have only just found out this fact. He spoke to us about relaxing the body and postural relaxation from sitting still, this is a concept that is alien to me as I am always on the go, so I found the sitting still, correctly and relaxed to be hugely beneficial, but then events within our group that evening took a different turn and with her permission, I will now write about my good friend Holly.
Holly is a long-standing member of SHWI, is married to Pep with a new son Enzo, who is 8 months old, Holly is also epileptic.  Diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy at 22 years of age, Holly has been open about her condition with us, her friends at SHWI, we have been with her when she has had a focal seizure, also known as a complex-partial seizure, where she appears to be spaced out and vacant, she usually recovers in 10 minutes or so and although tired afterwards she rarely injures herself.  At our February meeting Holly had a tonic-clonic seizure which is probably what a lot of people think of when they think of epilepsy, Holly knew that she was going to have a seizure and had alerted another friend Emma of how she was feeling, very quickly things deteriorated and Holly was on the floor convulsing and biting her cheek which resulted in a bloody mouth; this continues for what seemed like a lifetime but was probably only minutes. 
We are fortunate that a number of our new members in 2018 are Doctors and they were all in attendance that night and helped us to help Holly – thank you all for your assistance which was gratefully received!   Getting Holly home to Pep and Enzo was an interesting way to end the night, as she was still quite confused and refused to get in the car unless she could cuddle Bex who had been cradling her as she regained consciousness, but got her home we did to her fabulous husband who took great care of her. 
Holly made a video a year or so ago about epilepsy which I think is useful to share again, she also had her Emergency Details saved in her Health App on her iPhone which meant I could get in touch with Pep to tell him what had happened and reassure him she was OK and we would bring her home; this is something that I hadn’t got set up in my phone but this was rectified immediately when I got home that night. 
When we got back to the Church the Tai Chi demonstration was all but over, and the number of dreamy like faces around the room told me that the evening had been a great success; everyone was concerned about Holly but were reassured she was fine and that she will be back at SHWI in March when our fabulous member Ellie Last will talk about her Great Wall of China escapades in 2017 when she raised loads of money for Multiple Sclerosis.
To top off the night, as we were finishing tidying up the Church getting ready to leave a chap came into the room and walked down the aisle asking for bus fare to get back to Broomhill where he was a rough sleeper, as she had done with Holly, Bex immediately responded and took charge of the situation escorting our gentlemen caller out of the Church and giving him a quid to be on his way #bemoreBex

More about our 2017 charity MHAGS

SHWI’s chosen charity for 2017 was Mental Health Action Group Sheffield (MHAGS). The charity started as a campaign group set up by Dorothy Gilman in the 1980’s under the name Mental Illness Action Group. In 1992 Tim Jones set MHAGS up as a day centre after NHS cuts resulted in the partial closures of mental health day centres across the local region. Tim still volunteers at MHAGS as lead campaigner and project coordinator, and was there to show me around their Hillsborough based premises when I went to visit them.

They currently run as a drop-in centre, providing hot meals (with food donations from Fareshare) and support to local people who are suffering from mental health conditions. Some of MHAGS’s service users are not just affected by mental health conditions, but also learning difficulties and other disabilities. In the past, MHAGS were able to offer day trips, activities and workshops to their service users, as well as access to psychiatric nurses who would be put on placement with the charity. The walls of MHAGS HQ are covered in artwork made by service users in the past. There’s a trophy shelf showing off the accomplishments of the sports teams MHAGS used to run. The office has files full of photographs developed in the darkroom MHAGS used to have.
Unfortunately, Sheffield Council are no longer funding MHAGS and now they do not have the money to run the charity in the same way they did in the past. Having been based in the city centre for many years, MHAGS is now less conveniently located up a hill on the Langsett Estate. Whilst the building itself has disabled access, the new location has proved difficult for some service users to get to. They are looking to start new groups in the near future in order to support their service users, such as a gardening group and a tropical fish-keeping group – the main room in the centre is full of donated tanks of beautiful tropical fish.
But the reality is that without funding, MHAGS wil have to close. This is a unique, “user-led” centre providing friendly support to some of the most vulnerable adults in Sheffield.
Therefore, I just want to thank everyone and anyone who has helped us raise money for MHAGS in the past 12 months. We’ve raised over £3000 for them so far and the final total will be made available in March.
If you want to learn more about them, check out 
Laura B-H