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bras, cookery, crafts, karen oberlin, knitting, sewing, women

>International Women’s Week

>I played a hand in organizing a performing arts concert and a crafts and cookery fair as a part of a Women’s International Leadership program last week. The events took place at a New York graduate residence to celebrate International Women’s Week.

The point of the performing arts concert, was to celebrate female creativity and so, art produced by women. One of my favorite sights was seeing a colleague crochet sitting on an armchair, in between serving wine at the reception preceding the concert! We were lucky to have one of New York City’s most sought-after jazz singers, Karen Oberlin (left).

Her soulful, graceful and generous performance reminds us that we have a lot to learn from the experience of preceding generations of women and should humbly pay attention.

The crafts and cookery fair may baffle some in how it celebrates modern womanhood but its concept was quite simple: to reclaim traditional crafts for modern women – without the patriarchy!

How many of us have mothers or grandmothers who may have grown up learning to cook, embroider and sew for their families – skills for which modern women may seem to not have much use for. But as busy professional women, we still have to eat and sew fallen buttons onto our clothes. Yes, we could throw money at getting these activities done, but we can also learn these skills to become more self-sufficient, rounded people. And some of them are meditative and enjoyable like knitting. (One colleague taught a Harlem family to knit – including the father! – at our event!)

Simultaneously these “quaint” crafts help us reinvent and remember a legacy of our foremothers and express our modern selves artistically. We actually unwittingly hit upon a trend too, as this article from the UK’s Guardian.co.uk shows more women turning to crafts as an activity for pre-wedding parties during hard economic times.

One of the activities at the fair was creating lavender pouches out of old bras, which may well beat burning them. Some men eyed this table rather nervously, one of them implying that handling a bra may distract him from the process of making a pouch! Which brings me to another thought…whilst these events were a part of a Women’s Week, it was good to see men come out, enjoy and play a part in all of them! Call me a deluded idealist, but I would love to see more of them cook and sew and so, contribute to male-female equilibrium in households everywhere!


About Herpreet Kaur Grewal

Herpreet Kaur Grewal is a newspaper-trained journalist, editor and commentator. She formerly wrote and edited a section for the social policy and politics magazine Regeneration & Renewal. She has worked for The Times of London and her articles have featured in The Guardian, The Observer and The Daily Express. She specialises in social deprivation issues, gender, human rights , arts and culture.


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Herpreet Kaur Grewal is an editor and journalist currently based in London.

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