It used to be said that if you sat around too long in Pomona's cottage, you would be turned into a bag, but today's thrifty little idea is even easier than than that: a quick way to give yourself a warm glow of economic domesticity, and assuage the guilt you feel when you catch a glimpse of the immoral quantities of fabric and yarn you have stashed out of masculine view.
First, take your husband's shirt - preferably an old one, unless he has been particularly tiresome this week. You will note that shirts often wear out around collars and cuffs, or have mysterious indelible stains down the front, but the back provides an expanse of pristine fabric. You do not even need a tubby husband with voluminous amounts of shirting - a modest size 15 will be enough for our purposes.
Now, after thriftily removing the buttons and tucking them away into the overflowing box full of boring shirt buttons, for which you will find no earthly use except to be bequeathed to your children, you can snip and rip out the back panel (ripping is more fun), and consign fronts and sleeves to the oily rag drawer (Thrifty Hints 1 and 2).
Iron the back flat and remove any little gathering stitches, then we need to straighten the edges and cut out a big square - you might have guessed by now that your husband's shirt is metamorphosing into a hankie.
If you are feeling nice, and the pattern is not particularly fetching, you can make the handkerchief for him (I tend to keep the more attractive fabrics for myself). For a big, snorty man-size hanky you need a square of 18-20in (45-50cm), 14-16in is more ladylike, and 10-12in is moving into the realms of dainty and child.
So taking it that we are going for snorty, straighten the edges (easiest to use a rotary cutter and ruler as in the pictures), fold the fabric into four and cut a 10in (25cm) square.
Put the scraps in the compost bin - cotton is compostable (Thrifty Hint 3).
Now you need to turn a double hem* - 1cm is quick and easy, but you could always go narrower or even rolled if you are feeling skilful.
*For a double hem fold over 1cm of fabric and press, then fold over another 1cm and press again. I find that 1cm is easy to do by eye and iron flat, thus avoiding the need for pins.
In fact, I do the two steps in one making it even quicker. This is not tailoring - all measurements can be very approximate, and I usually do the whole thing by eye.
Stitch all the way round - remembering to check that the bobbin is full, the tension setting is correct, and you are also using the appropriate presser foot. Don't ask me why I am reminding you of such simple things ... but if you stitch the whole way round with an empty bobbin case the bits won't stick together, and your daughter will point this out to you. (You will then realize that you really do need to go and get your eyes tested, and most probably have to buy some new glasses, or possibly just wear the ones you have more often.)
And hey presto! You are the proud creator of a recycled handkerchief.
I always stitch a couple of little hearts on the corners of the hankies I so kindly fabricate for my husband using the fancy stitch on my machine (just the ordinary thread, though, to remain thrifty), as a small reminder to him of how wonderful his wife is (Thrifty Hints 4 and 5).
A word of advice: cotton shirting and dress fabric is a perfect weight for hankies, but those blue Oxford shirts are quite thick and scratchy - not suitable for delicate flowers like ourselves, but absolutely fine for chaps with big, snorty noses (Thrifty Hint 6).
And on the strength of a little hankie-making, you will find that your reputation for thrift is only enhanced by returning from the shops with lots of carrier bags marked 'SALE'. Just remember to save the bags for when you want to go to the shops outside the sale time - those big bags hold an awful lot of fabric, yarn, or whatever you want to smuggle back into the house without tarnishing your thrifty halo (Thrifty Hint 7).
So that's it: a week's worth of Thrifty Hints, and it honestly took less time to make the hankies than it did to write about it. Take it from me - just start ripping up his shirts, and make the world a better place.