Sunday, 17 April 2011

Make Do & Mend versus Consumerism

Needle and Thread
“If you get me a needle and thread I can fix it right now for you,” I say to my friend K.

We’re in her son’s bedroom, crouched over his cot mattress. The zip is broken, and the best idea Bron had for fixing the problem involved cutting a hole. Only a little hole, but a hole nonetheless.

K gives me a slightly blank look. Or is it a bemused one? “I don’t have a needle and thread,” she says.

Now it’s my turn for the blank look. “You don’t have needle and thread?” I respond, dumbly. I know K’s not one for recreational sewing, but: “How can you not have a needle and thread?”

“I don’t sew!” she says, “so why would I?”

“But what do you do if you need to mend something?”

“I don’t,” she says. “I throw it away.”

Okay, like I said, I know K’s not one for recreational sewing - a stark contrast to me, who has a whole linen chest full to overflowing with sewing stuff. But, a week after our exchange, I’m still dumbfounded. To not even have one of those teeny tiny sewing kits you get inside a Christmas cracker just sounds insane to me. Maybe she wouldn’t know how to fix a hole, but what if she has a button that needs sewing back on?

On Make-Do-and-Mend
Tidying out my sewing chest this afternoon, thinking about this, I realise that she simply must not have been brought up in the ‘make do and mend’ mind frame. I wasn’t particularly – at least, not compared to my mum’s post-war generation - but my mum always had a pile of mending waiting for her on the kitchen table, so I guess it's something I've always been aware of. If K's parents didn't think this way, then she wouldn't do either. Yeah, I definately can't picture her mum with a needle and thread. And her dad? Well, if there was such a thing as the Cornish mafia, I pretty sure he'd be part of it, and a needle and thread doesn't really sit with that either.

But mending is something I’ve started doing more of recently. Bad economy and all that. In the last three weeks I’ve patched holes in two pairs of jeans (one in the crotch, one in the knee), replaced a missing button on a favourite shirt, and fixed holes in three different t-shirts. Most of my favourite people at work are knitters or sew-ers and I’ve even witnessed my highly fashion-conscious friend S fixing holes in her clothes.

Start a new trend
So, how did the ability to use a needle and thread, or the need to keep one in the house, fall out of fashion? One word is all the answer I need: consumerism.

Why mend something when you can just replace it? Throw it away, get a new one! But: hello piles of rubbish, hello cheap goods that fall apart after six months of use, hello homes with no needle and thread. I couldn’t live without having a needle and thread in the house, not just for fixing things, but for my own pleasure too (no, not like that… for making patchwork quilts, silly!). I say: bring back make-do-and-mend! It should be the next big fashion craze. Make the most of your stuff before you chuck it and that means: spending less of your hard-earned money, plus less stuff going to the rubbish dump.

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