‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ is a war-time slogan we have all become used to seeing on greetings cards, mugs, and aprons, but another phrase we should think about reviving is Great-Grandma’s old favourite: ‘Make Do and Mend’.
What a great idea to work towards, bearing in mind the efforts so many of us are going to, in order to try to tackle the problems caused by climate change and to limit our carbon footprint.
It’s a solution that could help to keep garments out of landfill for as long as possible and is becoming increasingly popular in the sustainable clothing movement – but this time with a twist!
There is a growing trend towards returning to old practices like darning and patching which, during the early twentieth century, were still popular. In those days there was no such thing as fast fashion, and when you bought a new item of clothing you chose the best you could afford and expected it to last.
If, by any chance, these precious garments did get torn or damaged in any way, the owner would try to mend them as discreetly and invisibly as possible. Now however, there is a growing movement towards highlighting your mending and showing off your creative skills at the same time.
In other words, rather than masking the damage, make it pretty or quirky, adding your own individuality to your jacket, jeans or any other piece of clothing.
Don’t limit yourself to simple stitching either. Create a real focal point with embellishment, applique, embroidery, ornamental stitching, or braiding, and have fun creatively highlighting your mending, rather than trying to hide it!
Some of the most attractive stitching techniques are based on Japanese sewing skills which have been passed down through the centuries on kimonos and traditional dress. Another Japanese technique is Boro, which involves patching. This is particularly popular for children’s clothes and can be a fun way to add appeal to hand-me-down garments.
If you have a large family, it makes sense to pass things on for economic and sustainable reasons, and upcycling or customising a jacket, sweatshirt or any substantial piece of clothing can help the new owner feel it is their own.
You could make it a family activity by visiting a haberdashery department or hobby shop, buying some brightly coloured thread, braid or buttons, and having a fun ‘craft-ernoon’, when the children learn some new skills and end up with a ‘new’ piece of clothing that they have personalised just the way they want it.
I have upcycled a plain, white western-style jacket with velvet braid around the front and decorative patches on the pockets, and it’s now a unique, individually styled addition to my wardrobe.
This does not have to be difficult and if the younger members of the family are not quite up to attempting some of the sewing techniques, you could simply buy them some ready-made patches to sew on, or even some of the larger sized coloured iron-on or sew-on labels from nametags4U to add to their clothes - with funky fonts or pictures too!
So, make-do-and-mend, re-make, re-model and transform your family’s clothes into sustainable garments which will make you all look and feel good!