Solidarity Quilt to #SetHerFree

Shoreditch Sisters Solidarity QuiltFor those of you who are watching BBC2’s Lucy Worsely present Cake Bakers and Trouble Makers tonight – you may see some familiar faces. What a couple of crazy months it has been in the Shoreditch Sisters’ Solidarity Quilt campaign. Time to take stock and talk about what’s next, to keep this amazing momentum going.

WHERE DID WE START?

Almost two years ago now, we started a knitting project with a group of refugee women from Women for Refugee Women. Here we swapped knitting skills, women from the WI and refugee women alike, culminating in more knitted squares than anyone knew what to do with. During these knitting sessions, many of the refugee women spoke of the time they had spent in detention and the inhumane treatment they had suffered there. They had been imprisoned not because they had committed a crime, but because they had sought safety in the UK. What is more, many of their friends were still locked up in detention.

We decided to turn the squares into our beautiful Solidarity Quilt; a powerful symbol of female solidarity with women inside detention demanding that women seeking asylum in the UK are treated with justice and dignity. Kick starting a full on Solidarity Quilt tour we made a first stop at the Women of the World festival where we sewed the blanket together and the UK public wrote messages of support to the women inside. Next stop was Yarl’s Wood detention centre, where the quilt hung for a month and our Trojan horse echoed support from within detention’s walls. Finally we knitted in bright craftivist protest at the summit to End Sexual Violence with the message that if the UK Government is serious about tackling sexual violence, then decent support needs to be offered to those women who flee it.

WHAT HAPPENED THEN?

With news that the home secretary Theresa May was conducting a review into detention centres, we grabbed hold of the momentum and made even more noise: Dressing up as Theresa May at our second Women of the World festival to urge Mrs May to be ambitious in her review. In the run up to the election, our Solidarity Quilt was displayed in the Victoria & Albert’s ‘All of this belongs to you’ exhibition. We marched along with the ‘Say No to Racism’ march holding our ‘migration is beautiful’ placards. And joined 100s of people in demonstrations outside of Harmondsworth and Yarl’s Wood detention centres where the detainees inside joined in with our chants of ‘Freedom!’

Teresa May at WOW Fest

CELEBRATE!

The solidarity movement with people in detention is growing through great efforts by passionate individuals, sisters and organisations as the Movement for Justice and Women for Refugee Women. Not only are there now 100s of people speaking up against detention, the High Court of Justice ruled that detaining fast track asylum seekers is unlawful. Asylum-seekers would therefore no longer be detained throughout the asylum process simply for claiming asylum. A massive win, showing that ending detention is possible.

WHAT IS NEXT?

For all of you in Shoreditch Sisters’ Campaigning, the next big moment is on Saturday 8 August when we will be joining a massive protest with women outside and inside Yarl’s Wood.

But there is more to come! If you’re interested in joining Shoreditch Sisters Campaigns, let us know by emailing us or join our Facebook group to keep up to date with our meetings.

Shoreditch Sisters Marching

Blog post by Rachel Wandelaar for Shoreditch Sisters WI

Knot Just Knitting

A beautiful, small and perfectly formed Knit and Natter was had by all this month. We discussed the Sewing Bee’s insanely beautiful Liberty Quilt, roller skating, murder mystery parties and what Lottie Gough’s WI would look like if she took the helm…

The lovely Lottie and her beauteous Alpaca jumper
The lovely Lottie and her beauteous Alpaca jumper

Hey! So what crafting is this?

I am making a jumper. I am only part way through said jumper and there is an issue with it’s potential length. But it will be beautiful because it is made from alpaca.

So you’ve just taken over Shoreditch Sisters: you are now President! You’ve organised an absolutely amazing main meeting for this month. It’s going to be in amazing new venue: where is it?

I would have it in what was the Summer Palace in China before bits of it got destroyed in the cultural revolution. Boom.

Well that going to be amazing. And we’ve got ourselves a new bar person: who is it?

It’s Ryan Gosling. It’s Drive Ryan Gosling. I just want him.

Don’t we all, well I think I need a drink and it’s your round: what are we having?!

I’d buy everyone a Tequila and lemonade because it is the most underrated drink but once you’ve tried it you’ll say “why have I never tried this before?!”

And under the new regime the parties are always catered. What are we having for food?

One massive New Orleans barbecue: pulled pork, ribs, wings, chips of course, coleslaw, everything.

I’m going to be stuffed. We have an amazing speaker: who is it and what are they chatting about?

Frank Warren who does Postsecret, I’ve watched the TED talk about twenty times and I cry every time.

What an incredible talk… No, I’m not crying I’ve just got something in both my eyes… but anyway it’s time for the dessert trolley! What’s on it?

There’s sooo much: desert is the most important meal of the day. We are having lots of tiramisu, anything with cream. A smorgasbord of deserts, like when you go to Red Hot Buffet and you’re like “Wow”.

Chloe's beauts quilt!
Chloe’s beauts quilt!

For the second half of the meeting we are learning a new skill: what is it?

I have just finished a Rob Ryanesque paper cutting course and I’d like to get better. It’s a skill I think loads of people should try because it’s really easy but also really good!

And now onwards to the raffle. Raffle Raffle. And you only go and ruddy win! What did you win?!

That’s my round the world ticket to fly away.

Wow, great prize. At the end of the meeting you’ve got one piece of advice to pass on: what is it?

Delete Tinder from your phone and never look back!

Haha, I think I might do it!

The next Knit and Natter will be held at Leon in Spitalfields Market on Tuesday 14th July at 6:30. Pop along and maybe you’ll be the next President for the Day!

Shoreditch Sister’s Quilt on Display at Liberty’s of London!

To celebrate 140 years of business, Liberty commissioned 5 celebratory quilts, which have been made by Contemporary Embroidery Artist Louise Gardiner, Textile Artist  Karen Nicol, Doll Designer Amanda FatheraziThe Dalston Darlings Women’s Institute and us!

We were asked to create a large contemporary quilt piece with personal touches such as embroidery and appliqué to make the quilt as unique as possible. The piece had to be wadded (lined with a soft fabric), backed with plain fabric and quilted (joined together using lines of stitching) using a long arm quilting machine. We were asked to use Liberty’s naval heritage as inspiration (the Tudor building was built with the wood of two merchant ships!) and incorporate sailor tattoo motifs such as swallows and anchors.

Liberty Quilt Mermaid Detail

 A lot of love and collaborative effort went into the quilt, with a group of 14 Shoreditch Sisters working hard to create something beautiful. We began discussing the project with Liberty in mid-March, came up with our design idea a week or so later, and then began work in earnest at the end of March. We came together to stitch rows of Liberty print fabric rectangles, which were later joined to create the quilt top. Many people in the group created beautiful pieces, appliquéing and painstakingly hand embroidering motifs including feminist mermaids and gorgeous swallows.

Sewing the Liberty Quilt

 We worked together to attach the motifs to the quilt top using a long arm quilting machine at Fabrications, taking turns. We then sandwiched the batting between the backing fabric and quilt top, which had to be pinned together with basting pins – many hands make this much quicker I imagine! Then came the quilting – we took turns to sew the circular design to join the three layers of the quilt – this was easier than it looked and quite calming, though manoeuvring the precious quilt was difficult at times. Finally, the edging was added and we embroidered the names of everyone who had worked on the project onto the quilt.

Quilt in Liberty Window

 The quilt is currently being displayed in the window of Liberty from Thursday 4 June until Sunday 7 June, then it will be displayed in the dress fabrics department on the 3rd floor.
Blog post by Louise Mullen for Shoreditch Sisters WI