Thursday, 24 September 2009

Make do and mend

I have decided that it is time to make a stand and go public - I have been a make do and mend adherent for some years now, and have tried to tread lightly on this earth and shop ethically, and sometimes even quietly congratulated myself on the integrity of my purchasing decisions, when really it would have been better not to purchase at all. I have also had my lapses, most notably at the shrine of the great Cath, and have recently been looking longingly at the Toast catalogue.

But Dottie Angel, bless her, has been a braver woman than I, and issued her Ultimate Challenge. For one year she has promised 'to buy only secondhand or hand-crafted goods for her house and her closet' (I think that means wardrobe), with the honorable exception of tights and underwear  (quite understandably).

And several other brave and ethical souls, such as Lola Nova, whose wayside finds amaze and delight me, and Floss of Troc, Broc and Recup' (the name of her blog says it all, really), as well as A Bun Can Dance have also taken the pledge. So Pomona, who likes to see herself as a latter-day eco-warrior, out to save the world singlehanded before breakfast, must join their illustrious ranks.

So from 1 October - and I promise that I won't cheat in the week that is to come, but I like a nice round number and easy-to-remember date - for a year, no, make that a year and a day, for this is a quest to make the world a better place, I will only buy secondhand or handmade - and also aim to buy only what I truly need, rather than merely desire.

We are allowed to make some provisos, so for work and educational necessities, we may have to buy new, but I will seek out alternatives first. (Abebooks is a good port of call for secondhand books.) And for things like underwear and tights, or other unforeseeable necessities, then I will buy ethical. Which may be more expensive, but (a) I will save on the rest, and (b) when you buy cheap clothing, etc, it tends to mean that the true cost is paid by someone somewhere else in the world, working in appalling conditions for pitiful pay. Gossypium, People Tree, Greenfibres, Bishopston Trading, and Howies all supply ethical clothing - and although some of these are not as cheap as shops that I will not even mention, I have found that their garments are far better made, and last much longer - in other words, it is not disposable fashion. But I am pretty well stocked up on most things, so I can't see any imminent purchases.

I will also make an exception for necessary (and I mean truly necessary) sewing notions, such as thread, needles, etc, which will enable me to make and mend my own things, or clothes for Princess Bunchy, or presents for others. But I promise faithfully that I will not increase my yarn or fabric stash, and will endeavour to use in-house materials first. And if I have any difficult ethical decisions to make I will share my rationale and conclusions with you.

As a little light relief after the serious stuff, here is a naughty dog sitting next to a very rustic (homemade and recycled) fire pit made from an old grate and two paving stones.

And to move on from the hair shirt side of things, I want to show you (and remind myself of) the potential of secondhand and recycled artefacts - all these things are pretty and covetable and a joy to live with - and not one was bought new.

I can't remember where the wicker armchair came from, but we found it somewhere years ago and dragged it home; I spotted the rush seat chair outside an old cottage that was being renovated, and the mystified builders allowed me to take it away. The crochet blankets are all charity shop finds - I haven't mastered the art of crochet yet, but I think Attic 24 is the place to go (apparently Lucy's tutorials are just the thing). The cushions were presents from my sister - one of the best presents ever, as they were made from old jumpers.

The lovely green and blue basket is my briefcase for work - you can tell what a high-powered executive I am just by looking at it, and is just right for my sandwiches and knitting. This, too, came from a charity shop.

I wrote about the large bag here - it was originally a dirndl skirt I made for Princess Bunchy, and the small bag was made from the leftover fabric.

I can knit my own socks (note to self, try to make both legs the same length next time), and gloves. But, of course, this all takes time, which is why in the past when people had to make their own clothes they didn't have nearly so many, and remodelled and mended them until they really were no longer fit for any sort of use.

And if you look at the gloves, they need a little mending and making do, too. As they took me so long to knit, I will certainly repair these -a stitch in time will save me at least nine hours' work knitting another pair, probably more, as I am not a very fast knitter!

 And here is a thrifty little basket, full of scraps left over from my thrifty bunting, and a handy darning mushroom. There is a lovely post on A Bun Can Dance about a delightful pale blue darning mushroom. Mine was a present from my dear mamma about the time I was married. She always used to darn my father's socks, and this was one of the few sewing skills that I thoroughly learned when I was a child. My mother was taught by nuns who could invisibly darn cotton sheets - my skills are a little more clumsy, but I have darned elbows in jumpers and knees in woolly tights, and bolstered my image as a thrifty, industrious little person in the process.

As you can see, there is plenty of food for thought here - and much potential for pontification on my part; you can be sure that I will be keeping you posted on my journey, and do visit the other participants to see what they are doing, too. There is a list on Dottie Angel's blog - why don't you join our merry little band, too? Surely together we can save the world, or at least make it a better place!


Barbara said...

You certainly look like a busy bee with all the crafting skills and renovation skills too.

Floss said...

Welcome, welcome, welcome! (Officially that is, of course you were in anyway...)

Great to see your philosophy of this challenge. I've been a bit quite about my reasons and will also keep quiet about any struggles I have, because I blog for my mum, who's terminally ill, and who tends to get worried about us if I post less than positive things. I feel a bit shallow but obviously that's a good reason.

I am going to have to feature my darning egg (seems to be the French equavelent) soon!

marigold jam said...

Well done Pomonba - I do so hope you don't have too many struggles. I feel I should offer to join in too especially as I grew up with my mum's mantra of waste not want not ringing in my ears. Can I give it some thought and come back to you on that one?!

Good luck and I'm really rooting for you.


Hen said...

Oh golly, very commendable indeed, I look forward to watching to see how you do. Good on you!
Hen x

bekimarie said...

I'm looking forward to seeing how you get on. you sound very determined and i'm sure you'll get on brilliantly!
I would so love to be able to knit my own socks, handmade socks always look so snuggly and let's face it snuggly socks are a must in the winter!
So, does this mean you will be making/buying second hand all your Christmas presents too?
Beki xxx

p.s love the woolly jumper cushions!

A Bun Can Dance said...

Hi Pomona
Great! So pleased to see your post and your reasons/exclusions for the Challenge! The pictures are great and I love seeing your darning mushroom, it looks like beautiful wood. Thank you for the links too. Gosh, what fun we will all have sharing ideas and tips with each other. Good Luck, Happy Thrifting and Creating,
Denise x

A Bun Can Dance said...

"Toast" .... aaaah now there's temptation for you! We can resist! We can resist!

Lola Nova said...

Oh hurray!
I know that we can all provide each other with inspiration and much 'food for thought.'
I love your post, so well said!

Sew Scrumptious said...

Brilliant! Well done. Cant wait to read about your adventure over the next year. Love those bags you made by the way and the crocheted blankets. Gorgeous!!

Karen L R said...

Oooooh, Pomona, what a wonderful challenge! This is food for thought! You inspire!

Sophie - Chez Sophie said...

Love you mantra.
Good luck, I look forward to reading your comming posts.
Love Sophie xxxx

Duchess of Tea said...

Admirable goal darling, I am so proud of you . My philosophy has always been need over desire at all time, with the exception of vintage bone china adorned with roses in which case desire always wins.

Good luck my darling
Love , Hugs & Tea

Serenata said...

Good on you and I love all your reasonings. I'm fairly sure I'm going to be joining in soon. I just have a bit of a busy few days to contend with first but I do like your date of October 1st so I think I will aim for that as well. Oh and I will have to include my darning muschroom as well!

Lyn said...

Wow you are brave-good luck. I will give it serious thought though.

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm with you my secondhand sister!

Cast-on podcast has 'make do and mend' as its current theme. It's been giving me lots of inspiration, and reminding me of the things I already do towards these goals without even thinking about it. But I can do better too, and gain more awareness.

Looking forward to following your progress!


The Garden Bell said...

Keep us posted. Loven' the socks on the line. Very cute

Eternal Magpie said...

Yay, go for it! :D

I made a similar commitment a couple of years ago, although I did exempt fabric, yarn and shoes. That was a mistake, as it enabled me to cheat a bit too much. ;)

You've inspired me to renew my commitment, and do it properly this time. Thank you!

MelMel said...

I take my hat off to you....will be interesting to see how you get on...myself? I'm so rubbish I know I'd break in days....however...I do have one thing stopping me buying at the £££££££ LOL!!

So maybe if Olly took away my card once ££££ goes in the bank it could be done!


Cottage Garden said...

That's an impressive challenge you're setting yourself - looking forward to following your progress.

Jeanne x

dottie angel said...

oh pomona, look at all the lovely comments you've got... i found your post truly inspiring, especially as you live the lifestyle of a thrifty handcrafted mama anyway. yet you gave me food for thought and i am most happy to have you join the challenge...

plus, may i mention, i am coverting your odd lengthed knitted socks... they look just wonderful :)

looking forward to our year together with all the other challengers as well...

Tif :) said...

Pomona! What can I say, i admire you utterly! I love your socks( so funny about the length!) and the gloves. Oh and the bags. I love your whole philosphy on life! Suzie. x

Menopausal musing said...

Phew! I was reading this wonderful post and thinking about joining in, only I have a set of ideas in my head that demand white linen and I had planned to buy some. Luckily I spotted the date of October the 1st and think I will splurge before then and join you.

haptree said...

Good luck - this is a great idea, I imagine you'll end up with products of far higher quality in almost every situation. I can't wait to see how you get on at xmas, will other people be able to buy you new gifts, or is that a loophole!

jennyflower said...

Well, what a journey to make! I am not ready to make the commitment but will offer my absolute support for yours! If there is somethinng you need and want to swap just ask! (You'll be able to have your undies made by Rigby and Peller with all the cash you save!)

Surfer Rosa said...

Wow, what a challenge!!! a year ago i would never have envisaged that such a feat would be at all achievable but as a family we're gradually moving towards a less wasteful style of living and only buy new what we cannot beg, borrow or thrift!
I look forward to reading your progress and picking up tips as I'm eager to steer our family more down this route and adjust our mindsets, for example, I've already warned the relatives that it's a 'handmade Christmas' in our house this year!!
Good luck

Pipany said...

I would love to say I'd join in Pomona, but due to constant lack of dosh I already don't buy new clothes (haven't for far too many years...groan) and always have secondhand, make or mend. Do buy underway though! Also never buy stuff for the house and am beginning to feel I must be due a shopping session surely by now? Ah well, I can say I do my bit I guess. Must perfect siock knitting skills though as I am painfully slow. Looking forward to following your journey x

Pipany said...

I meant underwear....

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, make do and mend. I admit I am not there 100% yet but where I can I aim to do just that. I am always undoing jumpers and cleaning and reusing the wool again, and used fabric cotton from T shirts that don't fit anymore. My bed frame was second hand, the wood was rubbed down and redone. Most of my books are second hand, apart from a few new ones that have been bought for me. I guess there is allot more we can do, but I do think today we all do more than we used to. best wishes Julie.C

Duchess of Tea said...

Have a lovely weekend.

Love & Hugs

Greedy Nan said...

I LOVED this post and will be back to see how you are doing with your quest on a regular basis. Just wondered what you'll do about things you sell - will the materials for them also be recycled [what about needles and thread for instance]? Some things can be taken a little TOO literally and become impossible. Don't beat yourself up unnecessarily. Well done for trying in anycase. I'm routing for you [and the others]. x

Forest View by Jayne-Marie said...

Thanks for your visit, I’m looking forward to the challenge and it has inspired me to get knitting and crocheting again. Surprisingly it is also taking the pressure off when I go shopping with my daughter as I now have a bonafide reason for not buying something! While I am trying to craft the main xmas gifts for family I know time is against me in view of the number of family members so a portion of those will be purchased. I will pop by regularly to see how you are doing and hope you will visit me too. best wishes

Donna said...

how exciting to connect with like minded people through the challenge. Thanks for stopping by my blog - I look forward to reading about your journey too.
Donna x

Country Bliss said...

Wow, I am impressed and look forward to following your challenge. I would love to do this myself but know that I wouldn't be able to last a year without buying any new books.
Yvonne x

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DM said...

I really love this post !


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