Make do and mend
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Date: 24 February, 2011


'Perhaps it’s time to learn how to make do and mend all over again.'

Make do and mend – mending, repairing and doing it yourself, a guide by Suzanne Elvidge

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In 1943, the Ministry of Information brought out a booklet called Make Do and Mend, because money was short and supplies were short too.

At the moment, people are becoming concerned about the planet’s resources, and money is again tight – perhaps it’s time to learn how to make do and mend all over again, and encourage the kids to do the same too.

If you have something you can’t mend, but you think someone else could, pass in on through a reuse group like Freecycle or Freegle.

Clothes and textiles

Historically, clothes were precious and we mended, handed down and remade. But now, clothes and textiles have become so cheap that people no longer mend when something gets damage – they are more likely to throw out and buy new.

But cheap clothes perpetuate sweatshops, and throwing things out just adds to landfill. So instead of just opening the bin, open the sewing box and have a go at mending. Here are some ideas:

The zip gone in your jeans? Don’t throw them out – replace the zip, or make a cushion, rug, car seat, lunch bag or a pin cushion.

Don’t throw away old sheets – use them whole as lightweight curtains, duvet covers, table cloths for picnics, throws to protect furniture and carpets, table cloths for kids parties, or cut them up to make pillowcases or shopping bags.

If you’ve got any bits of fabric left over, make some gift bags ready for birthdays and Christmas. Vets, animal charities and homeless charities may also be interested in old bedding.

Is there a hole in your favourite pair of socks? Don’t just sew it up and leave everything lumpy – learn how to darn .

Cover up damage or stains with contrasting patches and pockets.

And I know it’s not mending but it made me smile – knit a few squares for a bus cosy!

Electrical items

Many small electrical items (sometimes known as brown goods ) are thrown away when they stop working.

It’s not always practical to repair them at home, but some local councils run schemes (such as Bright Sparks in Islington) help by providing low cost repairs or accepting donated items and repairing them.

This provides training and job opportunities locally.


Furniture is one of the biggest outlays we make in our houses, and good quality furniture can last for years if properly looked after and repaired.

Furniture repairs range from fixing chair seats, mending chair or table legs and reupholstering sofas to sorting scratches and stains .

Find a book or two, sit down with a cup of tea and a screwdriver and get repairing!

Suzanne Elvidge is a freelance writer and Surefish Ethical Living Editor



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