Tag Archives: make do and mend

Unexpected clown trousers

On Saturday afternoon, Boy the Younger handed me a letter from his schoolbag informing me that, as it was Creative Week starting on Monday, the children had to go into school in clown outfits to start the week in a jolly way.  Oh blimey.

I bought a couple of yards of blue and white spotted fabric and some elastic and set to work.
I cut out four giant trouser legs and hemmed them all round.
I then stitched them together and made a wide hem round the waist, leaving a gap for threading wire through.
I opened out a coat-hanger and bent it into a circle, pinching hooks into the ends to link them together, then threaded it through the waist hem.
I squeezed the ends of the hanger shut with pliers and then stitched up the gap in the hem.
At the bottom of the trouser legs I did the same, but threaded those through with elastic so the trousers were really baggy.
I made braces out of ribbon, but I wish I’d bought extra elastic so that the trousers would have stayed on better AND bounced up and down.

To finish the outfit off, he wore some long striped socks and my Converse on his feet, a dark blue long-sleeved t-shirt with a red Indian waistcoat and I had made a bow tie out of the surplus trouser fabric.  I didn’t have time to make a hat, so he wore a wizard’s hat which I made years ago which has a big padded brim, a pointy cone and an old diamante earring stitched to the front like a jewel.

Children’s dressing up clothes can be made quite simply with cheap material and a bit of imagination.  You don’t have to have tailoring skills – just look at a pair of trousers, for example, take note of the shape of the pieces and copy them.  Even shirts, tops and dresses can be made with little skill.

Alternatively, you can pick up bits and pieces from charity shops which can be adapted with the application of a pair of scissors and a strip of Wunda-Web* into something marvellous.

I once made a Robin Hood outfit for Boy the Elder out of an old airtex shirt of mine, dyed green.  I made a little shoulder cape out of a remnant of green upholstery fabric and cut out a crenellated edge which I finished off with blanket stitch to make it look authentic.  Then I gathered the edge of the cape slightly with a drawstring thread and stitched it round the collar of the shirt.  A belt was applied round the waist and bingo!, a Merry Man as I lived and breathed.  Boy the Younger was wearing it only yesterday.  All day.  With my pirate boots.

* Wunda-Web is a  wunderful thing.  It is a long thin strip of something vaguely sticky which you fold into the hem of the garment you need turning up.  You then iron it on and it holds the hem or seam – no sewing required.  A boon, particularly if you don’t have a sewing machine.

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Filed under Children, Household Hints, Sewing

How to patch a hole in a pair of trousers

In which the Wartime Housewife explains how to mend a hole in a pair of trousers and make them last longer.

Blanket stitch

Over stitch

If your children are anything like mine, they rarely grow out of a pair of trousers, or shirts or shoes for that matter, as they always pour paint down them or wear holes in them through sliding across the playground on their knees, or falling out of trees.

I absolutely refuse to throw away a pair of trousers just because they have a small hole in the knee.  I also have no wish to keep handing out fistfuls of crumpled banknotes to huge retail chains or to send swathes of material to landfill when the wretched children will simply put another hole in the new pair.  AND I would have had to drive 12 miles into Leicester to buy new ones.  Outrage all round. Clearly.

If you are mending school trousers, keep a pair of old trousers from which to cut out patches.  If you’re mending jeans or casual trousers, my boys like a colourful patch made from fabric from my sewing bag and I leave the hole reasonably tatty.

You can buy iron-on mending strips, but you still have to tidy up the hole so you might as well do it with a needle and cotton.  It doesn’t take long.

Blanket stitch the edge of the hole

Utensils:
Cotton thread to match the trousers
1 x needle
1 x small pair of sharp scissors
Pins

Method:
Trim the hole so that there are no straggly edges.  This will make the hole a bit bigger
Turn in the edge of the fabric so the cut edge is inside and pin it
Sew round the hole using small blanket stitches
Cut a patch of material from an old pair of similar trousers (or other fabric for jeans etc) about ¾ inch / 3cm bigger all round than the hole
Pin this firmly behind the hole so that the whole hole is covered

Over stitch the patch into the hole

Using very small over stitches, sew the patch into the hole from the front of the trousers, trying to sew over the blanket stitch you used to neaten the hole, so that the minimum of stitches show.

A completed patch (darker to show the stitching) complete with grass stains

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Filed under Household Hints, Slider

Re-use, Re-cycle, Re-fuse to waste

I am absolutely fed up with being told how important it is to recycle.  I groan when I hear about councils threatening to fine people for putting recyclable waste into their normal dustbins.  I mutter to myself about the vicissitudes of waste management from county to county.  I feel genuine pity for the people who live within half a mile of our local rubbish tip, for whom the constant smell must be utterly unbearable.

In Leicestershire we have a green bin for garden and a ‘limited amount’ of cardboard waste, a box for paper including junk mail and another box for glass and tins. We then have a black bin for everything else.  Recycling is collected weekly and the black and green bins are collected bi-weekly.  The refuse collectors have the right to refuse to empty your bins if the lids won’t close.  I have to drive to the nearest recycling centre.  But every county is different accordingly to which refuse company has been awarded the contract and how much the council is willing to spend.   My family in the south have a far greater range of recyclable rubbish collected from their houses than we do in the Midlands. 

I am not an expert environmental scientist and I am not a guru in the field of waste management.  I am simply a Housewife (Wartime variety, naturally)  who doesn’t want to see my country disappear under a mountain of rubbish.  Recycling is all very worthy, but it is not the answer to the massive refuse problem that we,  and the majority of the developed world, is facing.  In times of recession, many waste management companies are not buying this recyclable waste, so what happens to it then?  And let’s not forget the energy involved in producing recycled goods.

If we really want to ‘do our bit’ for the environment, we have to produce less waste in the first place.  We must consume less.  In some aspects of life this is easy; one excellent reason for cooking from scratch is that you don’t have to contend with all that packaging from pre-prepared food.  But I scream with rage when I am told, all too frequently, that it is cheaper to buy a new appliance than it is to repair the old one.  At one time, one assumed that if you bought an expensive brand of kettle, it would last you several times longer than a £4.95 one from Argos, but even that does not appear to be true any more.  Lady Marjorie recently had to throw away a £70 Dualit kettle after only 18 months and was told she had done well to have it last that long.  Apparently, she should have spent another £12 on an extended warranty.

So what can we do?  And how can we do it without completely disrupting our lives?  Here are a few tips (to reduce the tips!) that I follow when I can, with which most of you will already be familiar, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded!:

  • Plan as many meals as you can in advance so that you can get the food you need, thereby potentially reducing waste
  • Cook from scratch to avoid packaging
  • Take tupperware boxes to the meat, fish and deli counters in the supermarket and ask them to put your food in those with the bar code stuck to the lid.  Some will refuse, but most won’t and if they do – make a fuss!  Independent shops are much more amenable to this idea.
  • Always have a couple of cotton shopping bags in your handbag or car
  • If you need to use carrier bags, keep them for use as bin liners
  • Sugar bags and flour bags are ideal for re-use as they are lightly waxed on the outside to keep the original contents dry.  Use them to wrap sandwiches and cake for packed lunches.
  • Keep some of your interesting rubbish for junk modelling as an activity for the children.
  • Keep some jam jars and small bottles with screw lids.  Next year they will be there when you have a go at jam, jellies and syrups!
  • Wash foil and use it again
  • Use the milkman if you can afford to.  If not, plastic milk cartons, cut in half, make very effective cloches for seedlings in your garden. You can adjust air flow through the lid.
  • Mend your  clothes and darn your socks.  I will do an item on darning if this will help! Just because you can buy a new pair of trousers in Primark for £2 doesn’t mean you should.  You can do mending while watching TV or listening to the radio.
  • If clothes are beyond the pale, cut them up for dusters and cleaning cloths.  Old pants make super dusters, shirts are non-linty for shiny surfaces. A man’s shirt will make a practical painting overall for a child.
  • Don’t buy separate cleaning fluids for every different job.  It’s a con.  A decent, all-purpose household cleaner will manage most things as will an own brand bleach and a packet of soda crystals.  Better still, invest in some eco cloths.  My sister bought me some four years ago and they’re still doing the job.
  • Lemon juice in the cleaning water will disinfect work surfaces as well as anything else
  • Essential oil, such as lavender or lemon, on a damp cloth, wiped over your radiators will fragrance your house as well as any air freshener, costs much less and can be tailored to your own taste.  Why does your house smell so bad anyway?
  • If you need odd bits of furniture for general use, see if your local tip has a shop and look there first.  You’ll be amazed at what you can find.
  • Auctions – the ultimate in re-use from expensive antiques to general houseware.  And it’s great fun.
  • Have a go at E-bay – you’d be amazed what people buy and if it doesn’t sell, it’s cost you nothing
  • Use charity shops – again you’ll be amazed and the benefits are two-fold; less waste plus a charity donation

Right, that’s enough to be going on with.  I would love to hear your own  tips for reducing waste or saving energy. 

I am now going to save my own energy by switching off the computer and going to bed.

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Filed under Cleaning, Ethics, Food, Household Hints, Re-use Recycle