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Mary Jane Makes…a trip to Sheffield’s largest WI!

Lovely Mary Jane 

With the Diamond Jubilee on the horizon, it seemed only fitting that we welcome Queen of Millinery, Mary Jane Baxter, to our meeting so she could demonstrate hats and fascinators worthy of any royal garden party. The journalist-turned-champion-of-make-do-and-mend told us how she gave up an impressive role as a foreign correspondent for the BBC to pursue her love of making hats. This gave rise to an interesting discussion, as many of the women in the room identified with the yearning to give space to their creative flair whilst managing busy, demanding lives. Through stories of her Newsnight tour of the UK, which featured Seven Hills WI when we were just starting out in October 2009, Mary Jane gave testimony to the resurgence of crafting. Now busy publicising her first book, Chic on a Shoestring, she told us how she continued to find inspiration in the skills passed from her mother, vintage fashion, flea markets and, significantly, from young women who were swapping throwaway fashion for individual, hand-customised items.

Our VP Ruth in a MJ Baxter hat!

Showcasing her fantastic creations, which are typically displayed in the likes of Harrod’s and Liberty, Mary Jane gave us tips on imitating expensive designs at a fraction of the cost by salvaging, snipping and stitching. Her simple-to-make accessories, such as an emergency hat made from a cornflake box, were an inspiration to us all. Proving that the trend towards sharing traditional skills is continuing, we also welcomed members of the new Crosspool WI . Their successful start, similar to the one we experienced two and a half years ago, just goes to show that the revival of the WI is certainly not just a fad. Thank you Mary Jane for visiting us once again! We look forward to welcoming you back when your next book is published. Jennifer x (Programme and Events Co-ordinator)

For more information about Mary Jane Baxter, go to


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