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jane goodall

"You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make."

These blog posts started life as My Make Do and Mend Year, when my family and I spent a year Buying Nothing New. It was initially a method of documenting our journey, but along the way this wonderful community sprang up, and I knew I couldn’t walk away at the end of our challenge.

We have relaxed the buy nothing new ‘rules’ a little now, but I learned during the year (and in the years that have followed) the power of our individual choices. The choices we all make every day. They really do have the power to change the world

Click images below to read my monthly blog posts throughout the entire year of buying nothing new.

TEDx Talk: My Make Do and Mend Year

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Happiness, Instant Gratification and My Make Do and Mend Year…

Cripes-that must win the prize for longest ever blog post title…

I was e-mailed recently by a company called Happify– “a NYC-based company with a vision to bring the science of happiness to mass market in an entirely new way” to see if I would be interested in piloting their Pioneers programme.
I was intrigued so I clicked on the links and had a read. I am not sure it is really for me, but it got me thinking about Happiness and whether Making Do and Mending could make us all happier.

And I think as long as you are not trying to blog about it, and save the world at the same time, then yes, it really does.

We are all told that money and ‘things’ do not equate to happiness. There are numerous studies that hit the headlines periodically about how we are now less happy as a nation than we were 50 years ago, even though most of us now have a better standard of living, and possibly more disposable income, and certainly more gadgets and ‘stuff’.
But who of us actually believes that enough to de-clutter and live a minimalist lifestyle? To give away our wordly goods and live a truly simple life.
Who of us is brave enough to really chase our dreams and give it all up to live The Good Life like good old Tom and Barbara?

Since starting My Make Do and Mend Year, my life has got busier and more complicated rather than simpler. But that is only because I have chosen to blog about it, and try and do 80 million other things, like start up an Upcycle Exchange, a Repair Cafe, and run Charity Sewing Days. Oh, and look after, feed and entertain 2 Smalls. That aside, I think it would be simpler. Yes, everything may take a bit more thought and time, but in some ways that is good. It forces us to slow down and focus on what we really want. If I’m not prepared to spend an hour of my time making someone a gift, should I really be giving them anything at all?
Buy what My Make Do and Mend Year is missing, and what I think we all sometimes mistake happiness for nowadays, is….

Instant gratification.

The curse of our generation, it would seem, or so we are told anyway.
We have grown up in an era pretty much untouched by the needs for constraint or waiting.
We have been told, endlessly, day in and day out, by the very clever ad-men and ladies, that we need newer, shinier, bigger, brighter, more. And that we deserve it. And that we need it NOW. And that it will make us happy.
We have been brainwashed into thinking that we need all these things to makes our lives complete, and that our lives will be better, we will be happier, if we go out and buy stuff.
And maybe for a minute or two, we are happier, we are chuffed to bits with our newer, bigger, brighter, shinier whatever. But then they bring out another even newer, even shinier one, and ours now looks dull and boring and out of date. And we feel sad.

It’s a little bit like the choice between going for a run and eating a chocolate bar, or having a glass of wine.
I like eating chocolate and drinking wine.

Just to prove it, here is the lamp we made from a bottle of wine I selflessly drank...

Just to prove it, here is the lamp we made from a bottle of wine I selflessly drank…

But I know that in the long run it makes me feel pretty pants (doesn’t stop me doing it though), I gain weight and feel pretty rubbish about myself.
I am trying to make myself go running at the moment and it is the polar opposite. I don’t especially like it, I am not one of these people who gets a huge endorphin high after plodding slowly around the block, but in the long term  it makes me feel much better about myself. Much happier.
So why is it soooo much harder to get out of the door and go for a run than it is to sit on the sofa and scoff Maltesers?

I think it all comes back to our need for instant gratification.
If I sit on the sofa and eat Maltesers, they are yummy, I am happy for a minute or two, I feel I have given myself the treat we are all told we deserve, and it is not until later that the guilt sets in.
If I go for a run, it is hard work, and hot and sweaty, and it is not until later that the smug self-satisfied “I have done a good thing” feeling kicks in, and I am happy!

What I am trying to say in my very rambling way, is that Buying Nothing New is a bit like going for a run.
It can be harder work than the instant fix of modern day consumerism. It can take a bit of patience, and (heaven forbid) a bit of waiting to find or make what you are looking for, but then that self-satisfied smug feeling of having done a ‘good thing’ kicks in. Along with the happiness!

So how do we break this endless cycle of instant gratification and consumerism and not really being all that happy?
How do we make living sustainably, and being happy about the choices you have made, ‘cool’ and mainstream and normal. Not just because it is a ‘good thing’ to do, but because it is the ONLY thing to do if we are to stand a chance of preserving the way of life we have at the moment, and the beautiful planet we live on.

How do we, truly, get happy?

Answers on a postcard please….

Hit, Miss and Maybe…

You may or not be aware that My Make Do and Mend Year is now a whole 9 months old, so we are three-quarters of the way through our adventure! (A sobering thought, that I could have gestated a baby in that time, and in many ways, I guess I kind of have-the blog seems to take up an inordinate of time, and sometimes keep me awake at night-much like  a newborn, but with less poo…)
And in that time, we have acheived a phenomenal amount-over 100,000 hits, nearly 350 blog followers, finalist in the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards, over 2,300 Twitter followers (you can follow me too…@makeandmendyear ;)). Oh, and we’ve bought nothing new (with only 3 teeny tiny slips!)

I thought I would share with you some of the best makes/make-dos/mends, some of the fails, and some of the ‘not quite sures’…


1. One of the first things I made was a new strap for my watch.

watch-finished on1

And I am delighted to report it is still going strong. I wear it everyday, and get lots of compliments on it!

2. My second attempt at a crocheted hat (attempt number 1 was a very definite MISS-see below..)


3. Homemade deodorant! Who would have thought it? But this is a definite hit. I would even go so far as to say I think it is better then the ‘real stuff’…

deo and flannels2

4. The EggBox Christmas Tree. I know I wasn’t entirely sure about it to start with, but by the end of Christmas, I loved it!

Egg box91

5. The visible mending of our salt pig fish thing with Sugru

sugru fish3


1. As I have already alluded to, my first attempt at a crocheted hat was fairly disastrous….

Crochet hat1

2. Our attempts at fixing my slippers with Sugru-we tried twice, the second time with more success, but it still failed after about 3 weeks 🙁

slippers and sugru2

3. The Trailgator-this particular secondhand purchase, resulted in BigSmall face planting on the floor at speed-ooops….

4. My boots-those of you who have been following from the beginning will be sick to the back teeth of my moaning on about my trials and tribulations finding new boots. If by some miracle, you have escaped reading about them, you can catch up here, here, here, and here. I am still searching…

5. The Dino hats I made for the Boys at Christmas. It took me 3 attempts to get vaguely the right size, and then they still just a fraction too small and have never really been worn.

Dino makes91


1. Patches on jeans. It has taken me several attempts, and I am still not sure I am really doing it ‘right’ but the monster patch I put on BigSmall’s jeans seems to be holding-for now….

mending dec 91

2. The Trailgator-hubby has instigated a Make Do and Mend job on it, and it seems to be doing the job at the moment…


3. My homemade slippers. I made them, and wore them quite happily until my brother and his wife gave me a pair for Christmas. So then I wore the ‘normal’ slippers, and they were admittedly much warmer, but then they fell apart, so maybe my slippers weren’t all that bad after all..!!

slipper make71

4. The washing basket-it is still holding out. Will it make it to end of My Make Do and Mend Year..??!

Washing basket61

5. My crocheted cushion. It was my first ever crocheting project, and I was (and still am) delighted with the crocheting, BUT I made my own insert for it, and it only occurred to me after I had made it that I should really have made it out of really thick material to stop the feathers poking out. And now the feathers keep poking out and the cushion is slowly deflating… It is also pointlessly small for a cushion.

Crochet cushion-finished1

So it hasn’t all been plain-sailing, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it-it is proving to be a huge learning curve, and one I am thoroughly enjoying. And I hope you all are too!

Make Do and Mend Silver Polish-Take 2…

After the rather disappointing outcome of Make Do and Mend Silver Polish-Take 1-Tomato Ketchup, I am embarking on Take 2…

Thankyou to everyone who left comments on the blog, on Facebook and on Twitter with vastly superior methods of homemade silver polish 🙂

The two most popular methods suggested were:

  • Toothpaste-rub it on, and polish
  • Foil, bicarb and hot water-put some foil in a plastic tub with the some hot water and some bicarb and your silver. Let it all fizz and do it’s science’y thing.

Given that I have two ears, and therefore two earrings, I thought I would be a bit geeky and try one method per earring, and then compare and contrast (I think I may need to get out more…)

Here goes:

  • Toothpaste
    Materials: 1 tarnished silver earring; Boot’s Smile toothpaste (or similar-other toothpastes are available); flannel/piece of tissue
    Method: Apply ‘blob’ of toothpaste to earring,
    silver polish2
    rub with flannel to remove tarnish, admire
    silver polish3Results: Brilliant!
  • Bicarb, foil and water
    Materials: 1 tarnished silver earring, plastic pot, hot water, bicarbonate of soda, scraps of foil
    Method: Place earring, a couple of foil scraps, a ‘shake’ of bicarb, in the plastic pot
    silver polish1Add hot water, shake and stir, examine earring, think that nothing is happening so add more bicarb and repeat the shaking and stirring, examine earring again, mutter about rubbish methods and stomp upstairs for a shower, come back down and re-examine earring, squeal in delight
    Results: Brilliant!

So I can scientifically conclude that both of these methods work very well.

My super shiny non-tarnished earrings, complete with Small person's shades and car backdrop

My super shiny non-tarnished earrings, complete with Small person’s shades and car backdrop

I will probably stick with the toothpaste for my teeny tiny earrings, but if I had vast amounts of silver to polish, then I would go with the foil and bicarb method.

Hurray for blogging and lovely readers who leave brilliant tips that actually work 🙂

Make Do and Mend Silver Polish…

I have a pair of silver earrings that I wear pretty much everyday, and in the way of silver things, they get pretty tarnished.

Now, we are not in possession of a vast amount of silver…and even if we were, given the state of the rest of the house, I am pretty sure that polishing the silver would not make it onto the weekly chores list. So we don’t actually have our own pot of silver polish.
In the past, I have ‘borrowed’ a little smidge from my mother-in-law, but I keep forgetting, so I want to have something I can use at home, and I don’t want to go and buy a whole pot of silver polish.

At the Waste Watcher’s Green Clean event earlier on this year, I was introduced to the delights of making your own, by basically whizzing up a banana skin with some bicarbonate of soda.
This worked surprisingly well, and I think would be good to do if I was cleaning lots of silver, but I’m not, and I really can’t be bothered to get the whizzer all mucky just for one tiny pair of earrings.

So…. I read somewhere-I think in this book

Ketchup earrings21

that you can use tomato ketchup to clean tarnished silver, and I decided to give it a go. And I can exclusively reveal…..

That it doesn’t work 🙁

Here is the before….

Ketchup earrings1

Here is the during…

Ketchup earrings2

And here is the after…

Ketchup earrings3

No discernible difference except they now have the faint whiff of tomato ketchup.

I am starting to think that maybe the people who wrote the book were having a bit of laugh.
Maybe I should try out some of the other tips too in some kind of (un)scientific experiment to see if any of them actually work or if it’s just one enormous hoax…

A very visible mend…!

We had a small accident the other day (not the bike crash, another one..) involving SmallSmall and a fish shaped salt pig thing that we keep all sorts of random keys and bits in. He has a fascination with keys and all the sorts of small things that Small children should never be allowed to play with for fear of choking-like coins and marbles…So I can only assume he was trying to get this down, and it fell on the floor (hubby was in charge at the time…!).

It ended up in several pieces

sugru fish1And hubby did what most sensible people would do, and swept it up and put it in the bin…

When I got home, and the news was broken to me, I did what every sensible Make Do and Mender would, and wailed and stamped my feet demanding that we should at least attempt to try and fix it…

Poor hubby trailed off out to the bin, and managed to extract all the pieces, and went to fetch his extensive range of glues….

sugru fish2And it was at this point that we decided that maybe we should make it a Visible Mend….

sugru fish3So we employed a little Sugru!

sugru fish4

sugru fish5

sugru fish6I think it looks rather funky. You could tell it had been mended when it was all glued back together, so why not stand up and be proud and make a feature of the fixing?! And the Sugru will make it stronger as well.

Now, I just need to find somewhere nice and high to put it….

Our Make Do and Mend Christmas

Well, we did it. We made it through Christmas without buying anything new!

We had ‘alternative’ Advent calendars

Advent21I had a small rant about Christmas and ‘stuff’

We did a Gift Exchange with the lovely Pugh family from A year without supermarkets

Our gift to them

Our gift to them

Our fabulous 'quillow', handmade by Beckie

Our fabulous ‘quillow’, handmade by Beckie

We made a Christmas tree from egg boxes (Which I am sure you are all very sick of me banging on about!)

Egg box91

A peg star to go on top

Egg box131

Upcycled and homemade decorations

Egg box101

Egg box111

Egg box121A wreath for the front door from baubles


An Inn-keeper’s costume for the Pre-School nativity play

Cutest Inn Keeper ever..?!

Cutest Inn Keeper ever..?!

And all the presents were either homemade or we found them secondhand-here are just a few..!

This isn't one of the Smalls, obviously...

Dino hats for the Smalls-this isn’t one of the Smalls, obviously…

Dino mittens1

Dino mittens for the Smalls

Little Star bath bombs for my Little Stars!

Little Star bath bombs for my Little Stars!

Reindeer poo (balls of homemade fudge) for the stockings

Reindeer poo (balls of homemade fudge) for the stockings

The finished article-the woolly jumper hat/mittens/scarf, complete with crocheted trims!

The finished article-the woolly jumper hat/mittens/scarf, complete with crocheted trims!

Knitting bag, festive fudge and bath bombs for my mother in law

Knitting bag, festive fudge and bath bombs for my mother in law

Homemade flavoured oils in etched glass bottles, complete with a secondhand stir-fry book for my Dad

Homemade flavoured oils in etched glass bottles, complete with a secondhand stir-fry book for my Dad

I’m pretty sure this was hubby’s favourite present from me…

An old Reader's Digest Repair Manual-got to make sure he's doing it right...

An old Reader’s Digest Repair Manual-got to make sure he’s doing it right…

Not to mention batches of fudge, mince pies, Christmas cookies, bath bombs, festive Rocky Road, and a Christmas cake which I decided needed a crocheted trim (I didn’t have piece of ribbon long enough, what else what I supposed to do…?!)

This may have been a step too far...

This may have been a step too far…

and Chelsea buns for breakfast on Christmas morning

Chelsea buns1

followed by turkey with all the trimmings!

We have had a fabulous time, and I can honestly say that having a Make Do and Mend Christmas has made this Christmas even more special. I said at the beginning of December that all I really wanted was the chance for the family to spend some time together, and do all the things that families do at Christmas, like eat too much, make lots of poo and fart jokes (or is that just my family..?) bicker, play stupid games, laugh, hug…and we did all of that.

We have had a bit of a pants year as a family, and we have no idea what next year will bring, so it was important for us to all make the effort to get together and celebrate being together this year, and I’m so glad we did.

But now, please can I have a sleep…?

A mending moment..

Amongst all the frantic making that has been going on for Christmas (remind me to start in June next year), I had to pause briefly last night for a few ‘running repairs’…

Firstly, the buggy snuggle.

SmallSmall seems to like kicking this off and the zip has ripped:

mending dec 1So, I pinned it all back together, and then had to dig out the zipper foot for my sewing machine. It looks like this, in case you were wondering:

mending dec 21and then sew as close as I could to the zip, keeping the fabric bits out of the way but still stitching it all together-I’m making what should be a simple job sound quite tricky, but it was a bit. In fact, I missed a bit:

mending dec 31To make sure I caught it in, I turned the buggy snuggle over, which did the trick, but it now has a contrasting wobbly line of brown stitches down the side of the zip…

mending dec 41

Apologies for the very blurry photo :/

Second on the list, was BigSmalls jeans. You may remember I patched them previously. Twice.

My very first (and second) attempts at patching small boy’s trousers. You can read about it here and here.

The second repair worked beautifully, and I had a couple of months feeling quite smug UNTIL, he has now worn a hole just above the patch-ggrrrrr! And the other leg still hasn’t got a mark on it-wierd huh?

mending dec 51

I unpicked the original patch-no mean feat given how crazy I had gone with the sewing machine, mending the mend, to make sure it didn’t come off again. I may have managed to inadvertently create a further small hole with my seam unpicker as well-oops.

mending dec 61

Then I cut a really big patch from an old pair of my jeans and bondawebbed it in place (I go into more detail, if you should want it, on the original posts-see above for links!).

mending dec 71

Then came the sewing on part.

At one of the Big Mends I went to, the mending Goddess that is Scrapiana, had shown me a patch where she had sewn backwards and forwards over it in a zig zag style and it looked really effective. So I thought I would give this a go, as it was going to prove very difficult to sew along the perpendicular bits of patch. Scrapiana’s patch was much smaller than this one, and it looked really good. My patch is very large, and it looks a bit of a mess…

mending dec 91

I’m not sure how secure it will be up the side that is not completely stitched, but we’ll give it a go. And the bonus is that BigSmall is pleased and thinks they look “funky”.

He’ll probably grow out of them now in about 2 weeks…

And third on the list, was my jeans. But it got too late, and bed was calling. So we will have to save that excitement for another day.

The Big Mend

Quite early in my ‘journey’ I met a lovely lady called Scrapiana on Facebook. She is not really called Scrapiana, but that is her interweb alter-ego, so I’m sticking with it (she is also the first to admit that her real name is kind of hard to pronounce!)

Scrapiana has a fab blog, here, and also runs The Big Mend, once a month in Bath. Scrapiana describes it much better than I could: “The idea is to attack the mending pile in a convivial atmosphere, with mending advice and tips, necessary tools on hand, and the option of a nice cup of tea. And cakes.”

What’s not to like?!

I have been trying for ages to carve out the time to go, and I finally made it! Yay!

The Big Mend is held every month on the last Wednesday of the month, in Bath at the Museum of Bath at Work. (I have, to my shame, never been to the Museum of Bath at Work, but it looks pretty cool, so I may well be going back with the Smalls one day soon.) And did I mention that this is a FREE event? (all that is asked for is a small donation towards the running costs of the museum)

It was cold. And dark. And raining. And Halloween. So I had to really force myself out of the nice, warm, light, dry house, and into the dark night, to venture into hitherto unexplored areas of Bath.

But I’m so glad I did.

Scrapiana is lovely. So helpful, and unintimidating (I am quite easily intimidated) and so full of enthusiasm for all things mending and sewing and cake.

There were only four of us all together, but as I said, it was not the nicest of nights to be out, and it is usually busier. It was lovely to meet like minded people, including an inspirational lady who has not bought ANY clothes for the last year (not even secondhand), and is planning to carry it on for another year.., and sit and have a natter and get some help with some of my mending dilemmas.

I took with me the coat that I bought recently at the Bristol Vintage Fair (see blog post here)

The zip was broken, so I had bargained the price down to £5 and was very pleased with my thrifty find, until I realised I had no idea how to replace a zip in a coat… And had no zip to replace it with…

Scrapiana to the rescue! She had very kindly tweeted me to find out what size and colour zip I needed, and had raided her own stash for me, AND found a chapter in one of her many mending books to help us to figure it all out.

In the end, after much reading and head scratching and debating, I unpicked the zip,and then we decided that poppers would be a much better closure method for this coat!

So now I am on the hunt for poppers and decorative buttons for the outside, but I think, all in all, much easier than trying to source and replace the zip (cop out? No!)

If you are in the vague area of Bath, do come along to the next Big Mend (28th November). If Scrapiana has anything to do with it, The Big Mend will be the next Big Thing!

The very first mend…

Let the mending begin...

But before it does, just a quick note to plead with you not to ridicule my efforts too much..! I am very much a mending novice, so will be learning as I go along. If you are a mending/stitching aficionado then I would love to hear from you with any hints and tips, and constructive criticism of what I'm sure are going to be quite unorthodox methods!

I'm sure I'm not the only one unfamiliar with mending and fixing clothing. Clothes now are so cheap that no-one really seems to bother to mend them anymore. And fashions come and go so quickly that by the time something has had enough wear to need mending, it's probably been consigned to the charity shop/car boot anyway.

Even when I was a Small person, not so very long ago (OK, so maybe 25-30 years ago now) I remember my mum patching trousers and sewing up hems and my mum wasn't really a sewer, so it must have been pretty commmonplace. But I will confess to never having sewed a patch on a pair of trousers, and until not so long ago I had never hemmed trousers or sewn on a button either (shocked gasps or nods of agreement..?!) It seems these skills are being lost to a whole generation, unless maybe it's just me...

Well I am going to start a one-woman campaign to learn to look after our clothes. And it's starting here now.And I thought that if you are like me, then you might like to join me, muddling along, mending, probably getting it wrong sometimes, but making do.

So on that note, I am going to try and do mini-tutorials along with my makes, or basically tell you how I did it and any problems I encountered. I know I'm probably not doing it right, but I'm having a go, and if someone would be kind enough to come and show me a better way, that would be lovely.

Here is my very first, very simple mend.

A while ago (before the start of my challenge) I bought some cheap t-shirts from Tesco to decorate for a birthday present for one of BigSmalls friends. There was one t-shirt left over and so I decorated it for BigSmall-here it is (it is a W with a whale picture in case you can't tell..)

Unsurprisingly, the hem has now started to unravel from around the bottom, so I thought I should sew it up before the whole thing came undone.

I did it on the machine, and I used contrasting thread as I was being lazy and didn't want to change the cotton on my machine as I thought it might look quite cool in a White Stuff type way. It does however show up the wonkiness of my sewing...

I did a zig zag stich over the flapping bit of hem to secure it down, but then was worried that I hadn't managed to catch the loose threads at either end so oversewed the ends of the original threads with running stitch. Does that make sense? I hope it doesn't look too rubbish. I probably should have gone with green thread to hide my sewing somewhat but never mind.

Let me know what you think, and if you are inspired to start mending..!

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