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Sharon Bill Author & Music Tutor

Make Do and Mend

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Make do and mend, rationing of supplies, ‘cutting one’s cloth’ - none of these fall into our vocabulary much these days. However, if I’m honest I wish they were. If truth be told I wish I lived in a world where we still needed to patch our knickers.

Of all the chores that need to be done in our household mending clothes is my favourite. I get a real sense of satisfaction if I’ve managed to rescue a shirt or a pair of trousers and saved them from the rubbish bin, especially if it’s a particular favourite that we can’t quite bear to part with. Also, I hate waste! We can buy clothes really cheaply if we want to (although at what ‘cost’ is a different debate) and I’m not at all averse to buying new things (but I do really dislike actually shopping unless the moon and jupiter are in the correct alignment). My motives for patching and darning aren't fuelled by thoughts of slave labour in China or thoughts of the environment - sorry about that - it’s just that I actually enjoy sitting with a needle in my hand and rescuing an item of clothing from destruction. It’s foolish some of the lengths I’ll go to to rescue an item. My daughter’s fiancée has a particular chequered shirt that is renowned as ‘the chequered shirt of justice’ that suffered from mistreatment in the tumble dryer and it’s owner attending the gym too often and it looked like it’s doom was set. However, some iron on interfacing and a serious amount of careful stitching has restored it back into service. It was one of my proudest moments! (OK maybe not that big a deal, but I was chuffed nevertheless.) I’m sharing my joy by posting the photo below. Something within me longs to embrace the thrift and skill of the war time women who kept their families clothes in order with next to no resources expect an abundance of their own resourcefulness and a sense of dignity. I haven't yet resorted to extending the life of my knickers as the book suggests, but I feel that my life is lacking as a result.

Years ago, when the children were quite young, we spent a week living on WWII rations. I hasten to add this this was before it was trendy and such schemes were on TV (not that we had a TV back then either!) I was overawed with the creativity used to keep a family fed. OK so there’s no sugar - let’s make carrot cake instead! I’m glad that we don’t have to live through the hardships as they did, and I know for a fact that our attempts at a patch to ‘dig for victory’ wouldn’t have fed us for a week, but I do feel a strong sense that we’ve lost so much skill and inner resourcefulness that they were forced to rely upon.

A friend of mine and also a pupil’s parent bought me a ‘Make do and Mend’ book as a gift for Christmas. I love them! It’s so inspirational and I get quite emotional when reading what these women did for their families to maintain a sense of integrity and dignity. Of course, I often tend towards one of the funnier quotes from a book which stated that the only way the author could attain a clean cooker was to move house every two years!
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