Our first meeting this year was on 11th January 2018. Carolyn led the business meeting and discussed with us the contents to be included in the North Waltham entry for the Countryside Books, ‘Hampshire Villages’, to be published later this year. We then voted on the 2018 WI Resolutions put forward. The speaker did not appear so we had a catch up chat over coffee or tea and biscuits instead.
At our meeting on 8th February Lt. Col. Neil Stace, ‘The Sewing Soldier’, talked about Army life including tours of duty in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Afghanistan, and his sewing. We listened in awe and sometimes in horror at his Army career experiences. At primary school, Neil joined the sewing club in protest when the girls were allowed to join the football team. He made a kit for his Action Man. His love of sewing had begun! Later he found that knitting and crocheting de-stressed him after rugby matches. When he couldn’t wind down he was told, “Go and do your knitting!” After those initial experiences, there was no stopping his prolific output of clothes, including designing and making his wife’s wedding dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses, wedding guest outfits, fancy dress costumes, his son’s rugby shirts, quilts, and many more items. He used his designing and sewing ability to solve problems that cropped up on the battlefield. For example, when he saw a soldier was traumatised when his superior screamed at him for not getting the mortar shells out from his backpack fast enough Neil modified the design by sewing two pockets for the mortars on the outside of the pack in order to speed up his reaction to the orders.
Wherever Neil’s work has taken him, in his spare time he will sew or teach others to sew. He has set up projects amongst children or people wherever the Army has sent him. He took out hand sewing machines to Afghan women and taught them to use them so they could make clothes. This has enabled them to make more clothes and to set up their own stalls in the marketplace in order to sell them. This skill spread to other villages. Neil showed us examples of his work such as some adorable children’s clothes and a lady’s evening dress he made on the BBC’s TV programme, ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’. He was a finalist in that ‘nerve-wracking’ competition. Amazingly he does all his sewing without patterns. Then Neil showed us a British soldier’s 100-year-old First World War ‘Love-heart Pin Cushion’ and this has inspired SAFFA’s First World War project – ‘100 Hearts for 100 Years’. Neil has been leading a needlework session with the Royal School of Needlework in Hampton Court Palace, to demonstrate the therapeutic benefits of sewing as part of the national sweetheart pin cushion project. The hearts will be on display in cathedrals all over the country. Neil is a great enthusiast, naturally talented and is always willing to share his knowledge of his great love, sewing, with lots of people of different ages. It was a real privilege to listen to Neil. Ann thanked Neil for giving us a fantastic evening.
March 8th, 2018 – Our 82nd Birthday – Trisha Lewis will bring a sense of fun and Joyce Grenfell style observation to the 1960s story characters of the WI she discovered in the archives. Please note - This meeting is being held at Steventon Village Hall. Please bring the food you first planned plus a plate, bowl, glass, knife, fork and spoon. Thank you.
April 12th, 2018 – This is a return visit for John Richards who spoke to us in October 2016 on ‘Life under German Rule in Guernsey in WW2. This will be a follow-up talk: ‘Life as a Refugee in England from Guernsey during German Rule’. This will be an open meeting.
May 10th 2018 – Resolution Evening and AGM – Following the business, we will have a chance to chat over a cuppa!
Why not come along as a guest, a potential new member, or as someone who is interested in listening to a particular speaker? We are a cheerful group of ladies and we do have fun! If anyone would like to come along or would like more details please contact Carolyn Brown.