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Traditional craftsmanship comes up trumps

Dalefield Women’s Institute member Patricia Larsen [left] receives her trophy from Wairarapa Federation president Janet Morrison. PHOTO/ERIN KAVANAGH-HALL

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
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The fruit cakes were perfectly iced, card tables expertly laid out, spring blooms artfully assembled, and barely a hand-knitted or embroidered stitch could be found out of place.

The judging panel had their work cut out for them at the Wairarapa Federation of Women’s Institutes’ annual Home Industries show, with members of the region’s 10 branches “going all out” in a bid for the top awards.

The Home Industries show, held at the Masterton Club on September 9, is a chance for Women’s Institutes members to showcase their skills in homemaking crafts, from baking and preserving, to needlework, to arranging freshly-cut flowers.

For this year’s event, members competed for first, second and third place ribbons across seven categories: Cut Flowers, Decorative Foliage, Chocolates, Cooking, Preserves, Handcrafts, and Card Table Design.

Nine cups and trophies were given out to the top performers, including the “supreme award” for Most Meritorious, which went to long-time Dalefield branch member Patricia Larsen.

Larsen received high praise for her embroidered table centre, standing out in a competitive category amid high-quality items such as knitwear, pencil drawings and handmade coin purses.

Also praised by the judging panel were the card table art displays [having to include one floral, handcrafted and cooked item], designed with a “centennial” theme in honour of New Zealand Women’s Institutes’ centenary last year.

Federation president Janet Morrison said the show was a celebration of the “traditional” creative arts, which are less appreciated in modern society.

“It does get quite competitive between members, people really do go all out,” she said.

“The judging is pretty strict. You could have a beautiful piece of knitting, but, if there’s a tiny hole, you’ll be out of the running.

“But, it’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way for our newer members to learn some new skills.

“We have a lot of long-term members who’ve been doing this for the past 50 or 60 years and they’re happy to pass on what they know.”

The Federation of Women’s Institutes has been active in Wairarapa since 1938, with branches stretching from Mt Bruce in the north to Martinborough in the south.

Women’s Institutes primarily cater to rural women, and have a strong focus on nurturing “fellowship and friendship,” sharing practical skills, encouraging thrift and self-sufficiency, and caring for the community.

In Wairarapa, branches made donations to numerous organisations, including the Wairarapa Cancer Society, Hōkai Tahi and various primary schools.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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