22 Apr 2009

To save buying new, mend and make do.

wardrobeIt’s funny, isn’t it? These little booklets have been hanging around for decades, unwanted and unread, gathering dust in attics and mouldering on charity shop shelves. While dimly aware of the Make Do and Mend campaign, and someone who cringes at the thought of throwing away usable fabric, I had never seen the pamphlets, or read them for myself, until about a year ago.

I was immediately captivated. The clever and frugal household tips transported me to a time when British citizens were permitted but one egg a week, a modest cube of cheese, a pat of butter, and a few ounces of meat. A time when coupons for clothes were cut from allowance books, and if you didn’t have the coupons, you couldn’t buy the clothes, no matter how much money you had in your purse. A time when enterprising women supplemented these rations with inventive recipes, and garments cut from recycled fabric.

In this era of economic uncertainty around the world it seemed particularly timely to look again at these lessons from the past and see what they can offer us today. Series 8 of Cast On, Make Do and Mend, will explore ideas around fashion and the clothing industry, sustainability, thrift, community, the creative use of resources. I’ll talk mending and darning with people who know how; explore ways to unravel sweaters, to reuse, revisit and recycle old stuff into new; and discover the knitwear home care secrets of ancient Wales. Frankly, this seems as good a time as any, and a better time than most to revisit some of our forebears’ thrifty ways and relearn their handiest household hints. Depression cake, anyone?

Please join me for Series 8, Make Do and Mend, beginning 1 May 2009.

Posted on April 22, in Blog


  1. deidre wrote:

    This new series sounds fantastic!! I can’t wait to hear all of the exciting things you have cooked up for us!!

    Posted on 4.22.09 ·
  2. Marge wrote:

    My 94 year old grandma is still alive, and still reuses first before she considers recycling. She finds our “new” move to sustainability funny. For her it is a way of life. I’ve tried to follow in her foot steps, and my mom taught me well also, and hopefully my kids have learned to.

    Posted on 4.22.09 ·
  3. Josie wrote:

    I love the idea for the new series and look forward to it greatly.

    I was taught to sew at an early age and for years used worn out sheets as my main material source.

    There’s the thing about kimono being taken apart for washing and resewn and also meaning if one part wore out it could be replaced.

    All very interesting 🙂

    Posted on 4.22.09 ·
  4. Cat wrote:

    I cannot believe how awesome this series sounds! I may just have to borrow this phrase, concept, approach — to apply to conscious thought about all my lifes’ projects. You’ve struck a wonderful chord here. Looking forward to hearing your take on things!

    Posted on 4.22.09 ·
  5. zknitz wrote:

    This sounds like a fabulous new series I can’t wait for May 11th. Thanks again for all the hardwork that you do! =)

    Posted on 4.23.09 ·
  6. Kathmaxted wrote:

    Hi Brenda,

    I have really missed your show these past few weeks, can’t wait for the new season. I love the subject matter and believe in recycling and reusing yarns in new projects where possible.

    I do search the internet for free patterns and came across this little gem, no idea if you have seen it before but I was looking at pattern ideas for a balaclava for a friends little boy and was astonished to find this page. I love vintage. Esp the 20’s.


    Only a week to go !!

    Posted on 4.23.09 ·
  7. Nicole wrote:

    This sounds great! I’m so excited about this new series. Thanks Brenda for your wonderful work.

    Posted on 4.24.09 ·
  8. Camille wrote:

    BRILLIANT! Great music too, I’m really excited for May 1st!

    Posted on 4.25.09 ·
  9. Sandy wrote:

    This sounds like a great series! I can’t wait to download!

    Posted on 4.27.09 ·
  10. JennJustJenn wrote:

    Wonderful Brenda – so much looking forward to the next series. I’ve missed you!

    Posted on 4.28.09 ·
  11. Karen wrote:

    Great idea Brenda! I can’t wait to hear the new series.


    Posted on 4.28.09 ·
  12. Jenna wrote:

    This sounds like an inspirational series and I love the music!


    Posted on 5.1.09 ·
  13. Kate wrote:

    Great idea. I grew up sewing and making do – I’ve gotten away from it and feel a deep seated need to go back to my older, better ways. This is fantastic, I hope it’s the push I and a lot of people need. In my own defense, I do still hang out laundry. I was doing it WAY before it was cool too, like since I’ve been tall enough to reach the clothes line. We need more of that too. I’m the only one on my block.

    Posted on 5.1.09 ·
  14. SallyT wrote:

    This sounds really interesting! I was brought up to mend and make due but these days the attitude seems passe. Most people I know don’t even cook their own meals let alone mend. It’s good to see that valuing handwork may be back in vogue.

    Posted on 5.3.09 ·
  15. Anne Howe wrote:

    Hi Brenda

    I am simply going to love your next series. We run a shop that has been here for 100 years plus and actually not much has changed. My daughter who also is a knitsib, apart from being related, thinks we will learn a thing or two although she told me I have always done the mend and make do. Currently I am spinning a jacobs fleece free from freecycle ( you know all about those free fleeces), and well, apart from 50 hours spinning etc, it will be a free sweater, Alice Starmore, Baltic. I love the idea of complicated knitting from a free fleece. Always up for a challenge. It is going to be awesome! Your series I mean, the sweater will be , well OK, warm!

    Posted on 5.6.09 ·
  16. sUsAn wrote:

    I am so excited about series 8!!! I loved this little tease!

    Posted on 5.7.09 ·
  17. Will you be making these snippets available for download at some point? I don’t have internet at home (that’s how you can tell I really live in the middle of nowhere) and both my workplace and the library frown at playing music or other sounds for all to hear…

    Posted on 5.8.09 ·
  18. Karyn wrote:

    Sounds like a great idea. I was raised on “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. I was into conservation before it became chic. I can always use some new ideas.

    Posted on 5.10.09 ·
  19. Just last night a friend called me and asked, “Aren’t you glad you know how to do the things you know how to do?” We talked about our gardens, our knitting, our spinning, our dyeing. I grew up with 2 grandmothers, 2 great-grandmothers, and 1 grandfather. I learned how to “make do”. I dropped out of the consumer rat race as soon as I got “downsized”, and the income dropped as fast as my anxiety rose. I just now finished washing out my handknitted socks so I can put them away for the summer. I also have a skein of yarn on the yarnblocker drying. Oh, the current discussion in my knit group is buying Thrift Store sweaters and “repurposing” the yarn. I have done that for quite some time, and I showed some that I had skeined, washed, and blocked. They couldn’t tell it from “new” yarn. Oh-recipes have improved from Depression Cake. I do not want to dig out my grandmother’s recipes using Karo Syrup for everything. I am eager to see what direction you take this new theme. It is great to start a movement! Arlo would be proud.

    Posted on 5.10.09 ·
  20. Hi Brenda!

    I learned about your podcast back when you posted episode #73. I loved it, and downloaded and listened to all of the previous episodes. This weekend, I listened to episodes 74-78. Now, I’m all caught up!

    I just love your podcast – you have such a way of painting word pictures! I remember when I was listening to the episode, where you describe the view out of your back window – I was loading wash into the machine, and I was transfixed – stuck there – with a piece of clothing in my hand – waiting to be dropped into the machine – but I just stood there, looking with you out of your window – seeing your back garden, and all of the green and the light on the sea. Ahhhh….. in the same issue, you mentioned walking tours of the Pembrokshires, and now my hubby and I are thinking of actually taking one! We’ll stop in and say hello. I’d like to show you my knitting.

    Thank you so much. I love everything about your show. I listen while knitting, or walking, or cooking, or driving, or spinning, or staring at the shelf above the washing machine. I wonder what you listen to when I’m listening to you.

    Rosemary in Colorado

    Posted on 5.12.09 ·
  21. Oh Yay! My favorite topic – so much so that I build my blog around it. Make This From That is all about upcycling stash, flea market treasures, yard sale finds, and junque du jour into wonderful, useful items. The blog launched with making lunchbox napkins from men’s dress shirts. I felt wool sweaters and make them into all kinds of wonderful accessories and gifts – there’s a picture of an adorable spring bag on the blog reminiscent of an English stone wall garden, and I unravel hand knits from yardsales – some with holes to repurpose the fiber into new garments. After losing my job a year ago, I have found something wonderful and energizing and I can’t wait to jump into this new series to explore with you all!
    Brenda, as always, you rock!

    Posted on 5.15.09 ·
  22. Leanne wrote:

    like so many others, i am THRILLED about this new series!! thank you so much for choosing this theme. i always enjoy your podcast but i cannot tell you how utterly inspired i am by the “make do and mend” way of life!

    take care!

    Posted on 5.15.09 ·
  23. EstherGrace wrote:

    I am so excited, looking forward to hearing what your next podcast will be – whenever you are up to it. Finding your podcast has really given me a new outlook. Make do and mend is just in time as my faith community has been making commitments not to buy anything new for some time. I told them I might HAVE to buy new yarn! Feel better soon!

    Posted on 5.19.09 ·
  24. Barbara Senior wrote:

    I have been listening to your podcasts for the last several months. I’m up to # 49, so have a bit of a way to go. I must tell you that your podcasts are my treasure through my walks and most recently through my personal challanges. I tune to you and your podcast and immediatey feel “peace”, Thank you for that, can’t fix my problems, but can give me the measure of peace and serenity that kntting can provide.

    Posted on 6.4.09 ·
  25. Brenda…I LOVED this entire series! Just picked up my new Fall Issue of Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine and guess what i found on page 10? It’s a photo of Debbie’s original copy of the pamphlet!

    Posted on 9.19.09 ·

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