Sunday, September 30, 2012

M is for Make Do and Mend

This wartime slogan encouraged families not to waste anything. Severe shortages of new clothing and fabric were widespread (due to lots of reasons including the sinking of ships carrying supplies, the refocus of the garment industry to making uniforms and the shortage of fabrics available that weren't diverted for the war effort, etc.).  Clothing rationing was introduced in 1941 in Britain and each year, everyone received only 66 coupons.

Here are a few sample coupon values for some common garments:
  • Non-wool skirt — 4 coupons
  • Wool or wool-blend trousers — 8 coupons
  • Non-wool dress — 7 coupons
  • Stockings — 3 coupons
  • Pair of boots or shoes — 5 coupons
  • Non-wool fabric, 44″ wide — 2.5 coupons per yard (from Fashion on the Ration, Cargo Cult Craft)

 Image from the Imperial War Museum, London

In 1943, the Ministry of Information began the "Make Do and Mend" campaign through a series of publications to help women and families get the most out of their existing clothing due to the  severe shortages during the war. The Make Do and Mend materials encouraged refashioning or making new clothes from old ones, mending any existing faults, and reusing fabric and yarn material to make new things. 

Clothes had to last longer in order to save precious coupons, so they needed to be taken care of and washed and ironed more carefully. Nothing was thrown away, especially if it could be made into something else.  These booklets are full of great ideas for refashioning and reusing.  My favourite is making a woman's suit out of a man's suit as seen in the photo below:

Image from 'Make and Mend for Victory' booklet, at Cargo Cult Craft

The entire booklet, 'Make and Mend for Victory' is available for download at Susannah's blog 'Cargo Cult Craft'.  It's a great read and full of inspiration!

 Image from the Cargo Cult Craft blog

Also, check out Charlotte's Make Do and Mend posts over at her Tuppence Ha'Penny Vintage blog.

Shelly over at New Vintage Lady is also hosting a month-long Make and Mend sew-along.  Here's the details:

Definitely check out the New Vintage Lady blog, it's one of my favourites!

Do you have any refashioning or mending projects on your list?


  1. Growing up with this philosophy provided me with the incentives I needed to be inventive with limited resources. Surrounded by family members who survived the Great Depression and a World War or two, it was second nature. My Paternal Grandmother was a seamstress by trade and was immensely talented in lengthening sleeves, hems, turning collars etc. Rugs braided from strips of wool suits were typical. I am looking forward to you challenge.  

  2. I love this, refreshing when you think about how disposable everything in our society has become! I thrifted a fabulous men's navy suit last year that I'd like to rework into a suit for myself at some point. Thank you for sharing these other blogs, I always like a great new read!

  3. This is always a good ethos. I try to do this as much as possible, both to save money and to avoid pitching one more thing into the landfill. I hate that, especially in the U.S., there's this whole "stimulate the economy by spending money you don't even have" thing going on the past several years. And we're entering the worst time of year for it — the pre-Christmas shopping period. It's hard not to want, want, want. (I stay off Pinterest for that reason. It just makes me want to consume.) I understand the desire for something new...but transforming something old into something useable is highly satisfying, and most of the time you will never look back and say, "I wish I had bought those overpriced potholders from Anthropologie instead of making my own!"

  4. So interesting about the coupons for clothing.  I  like to use fabric from my husband's old shirts for muslin/toile when I can and one of the reasons I got back into sewing was to alter some of the clothes I owned that I didn't like the fit on.  I also have made envelope style covers for decorative pillows to birghten them up instead of buying new ones or buying pillow forms.

  5. I'm not particularly good in this department. I do tend to fix things - taking in or letting out or fixing an unsewn seam - and give gently worn clothing to good charities. But beyond that, well, my siblings would be merciless if I showed up with decorative patches on anything. HA! That said, I wonder how most of my fellow Americans would do if we had to make Old Navy or H&M clothing last through a world war. I can't imagine that it would go well!

  6. Since I tend to be very hard on my clothing, wearing and washing it to the point of thread-baredness, my make-and-mend projects usually involve turning the non-wearable item into rag yarn. But when I took out winter garments to assess them, I ended up switching out buttons on at least two blouses; and I'll probably remake a skirt or two into a style that I'll actually wear. I am now too short and wide to carry off that extremely full, floor-length skirt that I was only keeping because my mother gave it to me and expects to see me wear it every winter. It's been ten years, Ma. I'm not going to wear it anymore.

  7. Like this concept very much, and have been doing bits of it through the summer.  Have a large project due mid-month, but would love to take this challenge anyway.  We'll see.  Thanks so much for passing it along!  enjoying your comments, as always!

    PD/ My 1940s Simplicity Sewing Booklet has a section on making over men's clothing, too!

  8. I bought Successful dressmaking in Australia recently and I swear this book was probably written in that same era.


I read each and every comment--thank you so much!

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