Our guide to make do and mend

Our guide to make do and mend

First published date April 07 2014 Amended date April 28 2014

In a world where wastage is commonplace, it’s no surprise that people don’t take the time to mend the clothes they already own. However, learning to mend the broken items and garments you own can help you to save a lot of money, while reusing fabrics will turn you into a fashion guru, creating unique clothes that nobody else owns. Taking one of our make do and mend courses will teach you a practice and philosophy, that dates back to Second World War, to start living a thriftier lifestyle.


What is, make do and mend?

Make do and mend is simply the art of recycling, or frugal living, something not practised by many but that could change your life forever. Make do and mend started as the techniques of fixing broken garments, but it has also become much broader, spreading to the fixing of upholstery and the transformation of clothes into other material items such as bags. This lifestyle will encourage you to save money in all aspects of your life which will leave you with more to spend on the activities you enjoy. Simple things such as repairing clothes and furniture will help you to save more money for those exotic summer holidays you have always dreamed of.


‘No material must lie idle’

In 1941, during World War Two (WW2), clothes rationing was introduced in the UK and people were forced to become more resourceful with their existing clothes. When, in 1943, the government released a booklet named ‘Make Do and Mend’ it was soon to become one of the famous slogans of WW2. In its dire need for more materials the British government declared that ‘no material must lie idle’, and encouraged both everyday people and designers to become more frugal and extend the life of their clothes. While this started out as mainly sewing, knitting and clothing repair advice, it soon turned into guidance for a whole new thrifty lifestyle. People were encouraged to fix and recycle almost everything they owned, from baby clothes made out of pillow cases to repairing furniture. Common recommendations included; turning pillow cases into shorts, recycling wedding dresses amongst friends, making skirts from men’s trousers and keeping the wardrobe shut to protect against the ‘moth menace’. During these times, if your jumper tore, you knitted it back, if your socks got holes, you got a needle and wool to darn them. This is a lifestyle that even us modern folk can learn from.


What will I learn?

A make do and mend course will teach you how to live a more frugal lifestyle. You will learn to alter, repair, customise and completely refurbish your wardrobe without buying any extra garments. Small things such as learning to knit, darn, mend buttons and zips, protecting clothes from wear and adding new collars and cuffs will give longevity to your clothes. While more complex and creative things such as using old material to create new clothes will encourage you to become a fashionista, with designs that nobody else owns. You will also turn into a shrewd bargain shopper; no longer will you reject sale items for being slightly broken or the wrong size. You will be able to use your innovative and creative talents to style the cut price garments into something that fits your needs. An extra pattern cutting course can help you to really style and design your own clothes. Who knows, you might even become the next big fashion designer.


A stitch in time saves nine

Once you have taken the course and passed as a make do and mend expert, try to use your new skills to fix up your garments before they need repairing. Fixing up clothes as they start to break will save you having to put more effort into repairing them and will make this seem not like a chore but a fantastic lifestyle choice. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine.


Some make do and mend hints and tips

  • Sew on buttons immediately or keep them in a pot to save yourself from losing them.
  • Reinforce weak places such as the elbow or shoulder. Elbow and shoulder pads can help do this and are also a timeless fashion.
  • Use all those unused clothes at the back of your wardrobe to create something new. Unpick those clothes and knit them into something completely unique.
  • A stitch in time will save extra work and extra costs in the future.
  • When machine washing knitwear, put them in a pillowcase to avoid stretching and damage.
  • Always mend your clothes before putting them in the wash, or they might break even more.
  • Shine your shoes with the inside of a banana skin. Once they have dried, buff with a soft cloth.