Make Do and Mend

In wartime Britain, clothes were on ration and shopping wasn’t an option. Instead, women were told to Make Do and Mend.

Now, in times of economic hardship and environmental concerns, this idea is being made current again. The reasons behind it, though, couldn’t be more different. The problem today, according to those promoting Make Do and Mend is not that there is too little, but too much.

In 2009, UK retail sales totalled £285 billion and high street brands have made the price of clothes lower than ever before. A disposable attitude towards clothes has developed, as cheap clothing makes people ask ‘why not?’ rather than ‘why?’

Those supporting Make Do and Mend believe that by sewing buttons back on, altering hemlines and refiguring old pieces,people can help to tackle clothing consumption. Nathalie Craik, founder of says:

“If people could start looking after their clothes a bit better, and consider what they are buying… then that would be a great start”.

Nathalie, 26, is originally from Hamburg, Germany. She now lives in London and works full time for a consultancy that helps companies to improve working conditions in their supply chains. She promotes Make Do and Mend in her spare time.

Nathalie became concerned with shopping habits after she began a masters degree in ethical fashion.

“I only really started to realise what a huge impact cheap clothes have on the workers making our clothes and the environment during my research for my masters.”

Her research led her to discover the truth behind supply chains.

“All of this experience inspired me to come up with something that tackles both environmental and social issues”, Nathalie explains.

The Make Do and Mend movement is based on basic sewing skills and garment care – skills that, although they may have dwindled over the years, are still around today.

“I think there are still people who know how to sew and enjoy sewing, knitting and all the other crafts.”

In today’s society, the need to mend clothes is, Nathalie admits, gone. But it doesn’t mean it can’t continue to be done.

Make Do and Mend can be about appreciating and caring for clothes while they are still in good shape. Nathalie advises: “Avoid tumble drying which can shrink clothes” and instead lay them on radiators to save them from the wear and tear of the machine.

Shopping wisely is the easiest way to incorporate the ideas behind Make Do and Mend into every day life. Considering alternatives to the high street, such as second hand shops and clothes-swap events, can all help to tackle clothing consumption when sewing and darning just won’t cut it.

The Sunday roast: A family feast

For the Cousans’, the Sunday roast marks the end of the weekend. A day for the family to get together and cook a traditional Sunday roast from scratch.

Their Sunday routine is long established; where they once used to go to Grandma’s for Sunday lunch, Mum has taken over the reigns and now cooks for her children and mother.The Cousans’ are conscious of healthy eating so have a lot of fresh vegetables accompanied by meat, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings.

Mum, Sarah, likes to source things locally where she can.

“On a Saturday I make a trip to the butchers and greengrocers for the veg and meat. Anything I can’t get there I pick up at the supermarket.”

A family of Northerners, the Yorkshire pudding plays a main role in their sunday roast. Son, Tom, inparticular won’t accept anything less than 100% homemade from his Grandma’s recipe. He says,

“I can tell instantly if they’re not homemade – I won’t stand for an Aunt Bessies pud!”

Dinner dominates most of the afternoon in the Cousans’ home. Sarah can do little else as the food needs constant tending to, though she is happy to do it:

“I don’t mind cooking a large meal, I enjoy seeing everyone appreciate the food.”

The Ingredients

•Roast beef from Leo the butcher
•Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts from the local grocer
•Yorkshire puddings homemade according to a family recipe
•Roast potatoes homemade from supermarket potatoes
•Gravy made from meat juices

The Schedule

11.15: Sarah turns on the oven to heat whilst she prepares the beef and peels potatoes.

11.35: The beef goes into the oven and Sarah begins preparing the veg.

11.53: Sarah makes the Yorkshire pudding mixture according to her mum’s recipe.

12.00: Sarah spends 20 minutes cleaning up the mess made by making Yorkshire puddings and preparing the vegetables.

12.30: Potatoes are put on the stove to part boil.

12.45: Potatoes are transferred to the oven to roast.

12.59: The Yorkshire pudding mixture goes into the oven and the carrots are put on to boil.

1.05: The peas and brussel sprouts are add to a pre-boiled pan of water to cook for seven minutes.

1.10: The meat is taken out of the oven and its juices are mixed with instant gravy granules.

1.14: Exactly 15 minutes after they went in, the Yorkshire puddings are cooked to the satisfaction of Tom.

1.24: With everything out of the oven and the veg cooked and drained, dinner is served. The family eat at the table.

1.59: After dinner, Sarah spends 35 minutes clearing the table and cleaning the kitchen, before retiring to the lounge with a glass of wine. Three and a half hours after dinner was started, Sarah can relax.

Read part one of this feature ‘A quick fix meal’ here

The Sunday roast: A quick fix meal

Young couple Rachel and Rob Upton enjoy a Sunday dinner, and are happy to buy it ready made on the shelves of their local supermarket.

The ready prepared and freezable ingredients fit in with their lifestyle and mean that they don’t have to worry about finding time on the day to make a trip to the supermarket.

“I don’t think that cooking a Sunday roast should lead to any stress or inconvenience. It is a meal that should be enjoyed. There are enough things to worry about without getting stressed over cooking a Sunday dinner as well.”

Rob DJs at a club until four in the morning on a Sunday, so an early start for slow-roasting the meat is out of the question. Rachel says,

“If I had to spend all day doing it I would want Rob to help, which I know he wouldn’t because he is so tired…we would probably end up having an argument about it. Sunday’s are our only day off together, its not worth ruining for the sake of saying we made the meal from scratch!”

The Ingredients

•Birds Eye Traditional Beef with Homestyle Gravy
• Aunt Bessies 12 Irresistable Yorkshires
•Aunt Bessies Honey glazed roast parsnips
•Aunt Bessies Delicious Sage & Onion Stuffing Balls
•Aunt Bessies finest roast potatoes•
Freshlink Sausage and Bacon Rolls
•Sainsbury’s cauliflower cheese
prepared vegetables
• Bisto instant gravy

The Schedule

12.20: The oven is switched on to heat up while Rachel prepares all the elements of the meal – taking them from packets to baking trays.

12.30: The Parnsips, potatoes, stuffing, sausage and bacon rolls and cauliflower cheese are put out into the oven for 25-30 minutes at 190 degrees.

12.47: Rachel pops back to the kitchen to boil the water for the bags of beef.

12.53: The microwave is set for seven minutes to cook the bag of vegetables and the instant gravy is made.

1.03: Just over 40 minutes after the oven was first turned on, dinner is served. Rachel and Rob settle on to the sofa, dinner on their lap, to watch Formula One.

1.30: Plates and cutlery into the dishwasher,the clear up is done before the kettle is boiled for a cup of tea.

Read part two of the feature ‘A family feast’ here

A Taste for Tea

A stand filled with the most delicate finger sandwiches, fresh cream filled patisseries and the lightest of homemade scones takes centre stage. This is the quaint essential experience of afternoon tea at the Black Swan Tearoom & Patisserie.

The Black Swan Tea Room, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, has been buzzing since it opened nearly three years ago. During its short life, the tea room has been adopted into the prestigious Tea Guild, joining the likes of the Ritz and Tea at Liberty. It has also been awarded the highest accolade in the tea world – being named the UK Tea Council’s Top Tea Room – and has become known for it’s top quality teas from around the world.

Alison Souter, Tea Room Manager at the Black Swan, believes that the success of the tearoom goes much further than selecting some of the best teas – it’s in everything that they do.

She describes: “It’s a venue, an event and an occasion. I see the tearoom as a little stool with three legs: quality, service and food. Without any one of those it wouldn’t be as successful as it is.”

The Black Swan maintains a mix of quirkiness and an air of exclusivity which everyone can enjoy. “Every tea room has to have its own personality. I think ours is a bit rustic and quirky, which I think makes it that bit more accessible.”

“If you went to London you would go to the Ritz, and if you’re in Helmsley, you would come to the Black Swan.”

This simplicity and underlying quality that is reflected through out the tearoom, whether it be through the white Wedgewood tableware or the cosy cottage interior. It is the ultimate experience, which ought to be savoured.

Alison says: “I don’t want people to come here and feel rushed, as though they have to leave within half an hour of arriving.  It’s about enjoying the experience.”

This is one of the reasons, Alison argues, why afternoon tea has seen a strong resurgence during more difficult economic times.

“I don’t know whether it is something more recessionary… as people become more reflective they realise that they want to enjoy and savour things more . So something like an afternoon tea, which is presented so daintily, is perfect.”

“But all together, it’s a British tradition to go home at the end of the day and put the kettle on. It just seems to make all the stresses of the day go away.”

The Black Swan Tea Room will keep building on its success until it “becomes known for its quality and service” and so successful that it becomes “synonymous” with what they do: “If you went to London you would go to the Ritz, and if you’re in Helmsley, you would come to the Black Swan.”

Save Our Streets

The Save Our Streets Campaign initiated by English Heritage aims to return the nation’s streets to their former glory. It does this by protecting them from needless street furniture, which blights the sight of local landmarks and destroys the individual character of an area.

Clive Fletcher, Historic Areas Advisor for English Heritage, believes that the need to protect the nations streets has never been more timely.

“In recent years there has been a great deal of concern about the state of towns and cities – it really has been a wake up call to the British public and to those who preserve the nation’s heritage that we could lose it all.”

Launched over ten years ago, the scheme was initially a London based programme. It was intended to solve some of the aesthetic problems caused by the lack of consistency amongst the several Borough and Town Councils in the city.

Clive notes that: “The streets really were a disgrace, chaos was caused by the proliferation of road traffic signs which were blocking historic buildings and landmarks. There was also a mis-match patchwork of pavements and barriers designed to protect pedestrians which weren’t really required.”

“That’s where the Save Our Streets campaign, then the Streets For All Campaign, came in. It was entirely designed to stop this huge amount of clutter and re-invent London so that it could be appreciated fully.”

“It allows people who are concerned about their streets to start to make their own observations”

One of the biggest challenges English Heritage faced was getting people to see that some of the safety measures put in place to protect the pedestrian weren’t necessary and were simply adding clutter to the streets.

“Management of streets is one of those things which is done by engineers and there is a certain amount of risk aversion which results in intrusive safety measures coming in. Research underpinned our belief that assertions on things like barriers were of ten unnecessary – it’s all about constantly pushing to show the problems in the design process.”

As a result, the Department of Transport looked in a more enlightened way at combining traffic with pedestrians – forming the beginning of the current thinking and wisdom on the design of streets and traffic management.

Clive says, “They re-adjusted the priority of pedestrians to work with the traffic. Although it is not a new phenomenon, this goes against what has been happening in the UK for years, where places have been wholly pedestrianised whilst concentrating traffic in busy ring roads.”

“But, the idea with this approach, is to see urban whelm of traffic regulated the same as you would else where… The basis is that the existence of traffic should not spoil our enjoyment of towns.”

“I think many people have walked down a street thinking ‘that looks shabby’ and have no understanding why or what could be done about it.”

The success of this campaign saw it  re -launch four years ago as a nationwide project. This encouraged the public and communities to get involved by actively conducting street audits and lobbying their council on behalf of English Heritage.

These actions were encouraged by the Government, who wanted to tap into the general public’s enthusiasm for their area, something which Clive says proved to be immensely popular.

“It allows people who are concerned about their streets to start to make their own observations and it certainly gives legitimacy to the concerns they may have. It has definitely been a popular campaign in that respect.”

The regional basis has meant that English Heritage has been able to target specific areas, concentrating on certain local land marks and regional distinctions and allowing residents to drastically improve the surroundings in which they live.

“I think many people have walked down a street thinking ‘that looks shabby’ and have no understanding why or what could be done about it. So it is absolutely about trying to show the public what can be easily achieved with some imagination.”

But Clive says that the scheme doesn’t only improve the aesthetics of an area. It also act s as a ke y to improving communities and cultural values, especially insignificant historical sites.

“These buildings are a part of our life that we don’t have to make an effort to go and see, they are all around us”

“The setting is critical to how we appreciate buildings. If the settings are a wreck the contribution those buildings make to the public and society is greatly diminished. These buildings are a part of our life that we don’t have to make an effort to go and see. They are all around us, whether they are potentially significant or historically important.”

“If your enjoyment is spoilt by having signs outside or huge pedestrian barriers and all the rest of it that makes places look messy, then the cultural contribution that they make gets diminished because we appreciate them less.”

The Listed Building Act 1990, states that a special regard has to be given to preserving the setting of conservation areas and historic buildings. But Clive says this should not be a reason to settle for a lower quality and standards in our streets.

“The law says we must preserve and enhance, but it is limited by highway advances such as pavement and road allocation.”

“But it is possible to design beautiful streets – the continent has shown us this and they have even enhanced safety for the public. For us not to follow suit it is a massive loss as it impoverishes us all of experiencing something special… It is something which we all share ownership of and something we should strive to achieve.”

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