Make Do and Mend

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are looking for make do and mend articles at the moment. I haven’t got around to doing any sewing recently, but when I do, I’ve always found the Burdastyle website to be really helpful.

It has lots of tips and ‘how to’ videos which make everything seem really simple and you’ll find that it is useful whether you are a beginner or an expert at sewing.

This recession seems to have awakened a new enthusiasm in people to fix and re-make things rather than just chuck them out.
At least it keeps fabric out of landfill sites, which had apparently been causing problems before.


I was taught to knit by my mum when I was about 5 years old using teeny wee needles. Then at about the age of 7 we had to knit a tea cosy at school, a truly hideous thing. The boys did raffia work while the girls knitted.

In the 1970s there was quite a resurgence in craft work, it was all a bit hippy-ish I suppose. So knitting really took off again and I got right into the pointy sticks and became quite proficient at it.

My pride and joy was the Fair Isle jumper which I knitted for my husband around 1980 and it is still going strong after all these years of careful washing.

Fair Isle Jumper

So as you can see I wasn’t bad at knitting and the wool wasn’t too expensive then so I did quite a lot of it even although we were pretty skint (poor) back then.

Later on in the 80’s, the boys arrived with just 19 months in between them and as you can imagine there was quite a fair amount of cot blanket, bootees and matinee jacket knitting going on. Certainly for the first baby anyway – then a strange thing happened and my brain seemed to be – well I can only describe it as being ‘hijacked’, and suddenly I couldn’t concentrate on anything much beyond feeds and nappies. Our first boy hardly slept at all which didn’t help matters.

So boy number 2 hardly got anything knitted for him and the matinee jacket which I did manage is a very much plainer effort than his brother’s.

After that I just gave up for a long time and have only recently picked up the needles again, but I was really shocked to see how much knitting wool had gone up in price. I can understand that there are a lot of processes that a sheep fleece has to go through before you get to a ball of wool, but I know for a fact that the sheep farmers are getting pennies for the fleeces. It seems such a shame when they have all the hard work and worry of the sheep. In fact the farmers are being fleeced.

So what with me trying to tidy things up in the house and get rid of stuff or use it up in some way, I decided to knit with the left over bits of wool which have accumulated in various work baskets over the years. And as I’m trying to knit my way back up to Fair Isle and Aran standard again I decided to start back at the beginning with squares with a slight difference, just to make them a bit more interesting.

Wool Squares

These knitted shapes are actually described as “shells” and I found the pattern instructions in a 1940s knitting book called Modern Knitting Illustrated, which has patterns for everything that the well dressed war time person needed. Including knitted knickers (very itchy I imagine).

Use a size of needles which suits the left-over wool which you have and cast on 41 stitches and knit about 8 rows in garter stitch. Still working in garter stitch, knit 2 stitches together each side of the middle stitch, which you should mark to make life easier for you. I slip a safety pin onto the middle stitch which you can pull on to help you decide when you should be knitting 2 together. Knit the next row straight and continue in this way, decreasing in the middle of each alternate row until 3 stitches remain. Knit these 3 stitches together and fasten off.

The shells can then be sewn together to form a pattern or just randomly and it is more decorative than just plain squares.

Floral bag

floral bag

floral bag

I don’t know if this would come under the category of ‘make do and mend’ or ‘remake.’ Anyway – I made this bag from a curtain pelmet. The fabric was actually new as I bought it from a local curtain shop. Someone had ordered the pelmet and then hadn’t bothered to collect it, so I got yards of this lovely floral fabric, all beautifully lined, for just £2.00 – bargain.

Obviously the fabric is very long but not so wide, however, it was just wide enough to make this summer bag and all I had to do was remove the curtain tape and sew a straight line down one end, shape the corners a little bit, trim off the excess fabric, turn the bag right side out and then add some fabric handles which were made from binding material which I already had in my stash.

Some more binding material and a big button finished the whole thing off. I must say that I’m quite pleased with the outcome as I’ve seen similar bags in the shops and they cost about £30 to people who are mad enough to pay it.

Make do and mend

My friend Annella was having a clear out recently, and she gave me a bundle of beautiful broderie anglaise material, which she had no use for. It had originally belonged to Annella’s granny, so it must be really old, as Annella is 83. I think that at one time most of it had been made up into underskirts, as there was one intact one in the bundle, and another which had just had the waistband removed.

I wore the intact one under a flimsy skirt when I went shopping in Edinburgh on Saturday. I think it must have been the “Sunday best” underskirt as it seems like new and the material is very sturdy. It certainly stopped my skirt from sticking to my legs and made the skirt ‘hang’ better.

broderie anglaise underskirt

broderie anglaise underskirt

underskirt detail

underskirt detail

So, being of a waste not, want not turn of mind, I thought I would make the one which had just had the waistband removed into a summer nightdress, as it was more than half way there already. As you can see below, I simply gathered the top edge, and then bound the edge with lace which I already had in my stash. I’m quite pleased with the outcome.

broderie anglaise nightdress

broderie anglaise nightdress

nightdress detail

nightdress detail

Although, I must admit that this was my second try at it. I actually went to the trouble of making pin tucks at my first attempt of the nightdress, however that all went sadly wrong when I accidently cut through the material when I was cutting the lace edging. Honestly, I couldn’t have done it if I had tried, but – hey ho – you know how it is and I couldn’t face making the pin tucks again.

Now all I need is some summer weather in which to wear a nightie. I’ve just changed over from the winter duvet to the summer one today as it has been too cold until now, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I had to pile a quilt on top of it tonight. Well, that’s Scotland in June for you.