Thrifty Living: Learning to sew makes marathon running look easy
Saturday 26 April 2008
so, emboldened by Make Do and Mend, I am embarking on a summer of sewing. Make Do and Mend is a collection of Second World War instruction leaflets which have been bound into a handy hardback book (£9.99, Michael O'Mara books), and which gives tips on things such as how to darn a jumper, how to make slippers out of cardboard and bits of old carpet, and how to let out a frock. With the exhortations from Miss Sew and Sew, (the character featured in the leaflets) ringing in my ears "Each woman a Clothes Doctor", I popped into Woolworths.
Opposite our local Woolworths is a deeply tempting branch of Gap, whose windows are showing posters of impossibly groomed toddlers in perfect summer smocks. Ha! I think. My children will not be kitted out for the summer in things from Gap! Instead, they will be sporting a range of Millard-tailored smocks, frocks, and, for the 10-year-old, a pair of hot pants (her current obsession).
In Woolworths I bump into some school mothers. "Sewing machines?" one gasped. "I haven't got mine out for years," she said. Oh, but you will, I say to her. They are all the rage. Woolies are shifting something like 600 of them a week. They giggle maniacally. "Good luck!" says one. I stalk off and find what I'm searching for around the back, by the ironing boards. An E&R "Ease and Reliability" sewing machine for £49. Reduced from £179.
The lady behind the counter, who tells me she used to be a seamstress, assures me that it's childishly simple. I remember that phrase being something of a tautology when applied to the mysteries of a sewing machine during Craft lessons at school. Let's hope modern technology has caught up with the sewing machine. "Does that mean it has no bobbin?" I ask hopefully. She looks at me oddly. "No, but there are markers on the machine showing you how to thread it up. It really is easy. I gave it to my sister and she made a wedding dress on it." Blimey. However I'm starting with more humble ambitions. Get each child into something that is wearable, and washable, and rewearable.
Plus, I'm not going into this just with Miss Sew and Sew as a guide. I've already staked out the Make Lounge, a sewing club in Islington ( www.themakelounge.com), which offers Beginners Sewing classes, as part of a programme teaching long-forgotten skills including millinery, crocheting, and knitting. The Lounge promises to unveil all the secrets of a sewing machine by virtue of lessons showing how to construct a) a shopping bag, b) a cosmetics bag and c) a swingy skirt. I sign up for them all. I'm dying to get going with a waistband. I can't wait to learn how to put in an invisible zip. My E&R sewing machine and I will become the best of friends. I'm going to hang out at John Lewis's haberdashery department all summer.
I spend a few moments in the company of Miss Sew and Sew, flipping through Make Do and Mend. Did people really darn the gussets of their knickers in the war? Seems like they may have done. They also "freshened up" coats by cutting them down to blazer-length, turned old knickers and slips into bras, and created cami-knicker/pantie sets out of old underwear. All the women in the beautifully drawn pictures look impossibly glamorous, hour-glass and elegant, probably because of all that ration cooking. There is even a very practical section on how to take in a belt, which is rather moving, given the circumstances. 'Some Dressmaker Stitches' deals with Stitched Seams, French Bind Hems and Regulation Plackets, which all look very tricky but which I'm sure the Make Lounge will make into a mere bagatelle for me and my pinking shears.
I then turn to the instruction leaflet of 'Ease and Reliability'. It may well be reliable but this sewing machine doesn't look at all easy. Spools, bobbins, balance wheels and delivery eyes, all of which have to be connected by a thread carrying the right tension and involving "figure of eight" threading. And there's a chapter called Cleaning the Feed Dogs, which looks as tricky as it sounds. Running the London Marathon now seems like a doddle compared to cleaning feed dogs, but I'm not going to be put off. I've bought my machine, and I've signed up to the courses, and I'm determined to keep out of Gap, and its fellow brethren on the high street, all summer.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way
Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down
The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Mark Dampier: Woodford’s young companies could be the stars of the future
Money round-up video: Low-rate mortgages; comparison sites; ethical finances
The best - and worst - investments in 2013
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Bargain Hunter: Cut-price radiator reflectors can stop all that heat going to waste
- 1 Salisbury ranked seventh-best city in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015
- 2 Disney announces new female-led film Moana
- 3 Banksy has not been arrested: Internet duped by fake report claiming artist's identity revealed
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'
Jose Manuel Barroso warns David Cameron against making 'historic mistake' over immigration reforms
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...
£23000 per annum + pension and 22 days holiday: Ashdown Group: An established ...
Day In a Page
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village