Why granny would approve

Thrift is hip, says Annie Deakin. Gone are the days of throwaway fashion as the long-forgotten era of make do and mend is back

Last week, my father asked me to find him leather elbow patches to mend his hole-y woollen sweater. The ancient garment was almost threadbare but it didn’t cross Dad’s mind to chuck it and buy a new one. I thought it rather sweet and quaint but later cottoned on that his self-sufficiency is not exclusive to his generation. The "Make Do and Mend" movement, powered by the thrift trend, is taking the fashion and design world by storm. A reluctance to buy new is dominating what has previously been a throwaway culture.

Search for the perfect furniture with The Independent house and home database, powered by mydeco.

The economic malaise is a loud wake-up call to the consumer bubble. We want to make our lives more sustainable by making and mending stuff, rather than buying more stuff. Eight months ago, if I broke a kitchen appliance, I’d replace it with a new model without thinking. Why fix something when it’s probably cheaper to bin it for a new model? But this blasted recession is teaching all of us, myself included, to make do and mend. We were treating our belongings as disposable and upgradable but now the handmade and mended is king. We want longetivity. Online marketplaces for handmade goods, like Etsy and mydeco.com's design boutique, are seeing a rise in listings and transactions.

"People who haven't woken up to the need to economise are going to soon," said Robert Opie, curator of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill. "In the 1940s everyone had to take responsibility; it binded people together and they were able to pull together as a result." Next week, Opie is opening an exhibition Waste Not, Want Not to remind people how times were during the Second World War. "They will see how it was, how they overcame it and show it can be done again."

This new way of thinking is an unexpected return to scrimping values and repair trends. Cobblers, tailors and furniture repair specialists are among the few who are holding strong in this uncertain retail market. Instead of buying new, Dad recently upholstered two tatty old chairs with pretty tapestry. Bryonie Porter, a former masseuse, is on his wavelength; Instead of throwing out her old desk five years ago, she covered it in floral wallpaper from Osborne & Little. Porter now sells re-covered old furniture sale - for one client, she wallpapered the units in a camper van. She shows we can save without scrimping on style.

There's a lesson in Porter's madness: flair and imagination makes even small-budget changes more effective. My friend Bix (weirdly also a masseuse) is decorating her new Barons Court flat on a shoestring budget; instead of splurging on expensive art, she is framing pretty wallpaper and music manuscripts. She could decoupage entire walls with photographs, letters, deeds and family history documents.

Hysterically, doctors are recommending crafting as a major form of stress relief. A recent study showed that knitting, no longer a fusty affair, is one of the best ways to beat the recession blues. Led by keen knitters Kate Moss and Julia Roberts, there's a growing number of twenty-somethings with attitude who knit regularly. These style-conscious young, who previously wouldn’t have been seen dead holding needles (knitting ones, that is), meet up at groups called Stitch n'Bitch and I Knit London.

"Knitters are rebels,” says Rachael Matthews, founder of knitting group, Cast Off. "A knitter doesn’t have to shop: they don't ask for permission, they are practical people who can just get on and do it.” Matthews caused a scene in 2003 by knitting in the Savoy bar.

Danielle Proud, author of House Proud: Hip craft for the modern homemaker, simultaneously attacks mass consumerism and fustiness. "'Traditionally, craft was a nesting pastime, as housewives would make do and mend. Now, it’s an expression of creativity," says Proud. "And your gran would fall off her rocking chair if she saw how we’re sticking two fingers up at how it used to be done."

As we look for inexpensive ways to entertain ourselves, the month's launch of The Knitter, a niche 100-page glossy magazine, was timely. Cath Kidston, who was inspired by the make do and mend ethos of post war design, sells knitting sets. Her sewing baskets are a bestseller. Making do and mending is a reaction against the mass market. It’s only by sitting down and making something yourself do you realise the time and effort that goes into design.

I can't see Dad knitting quite yet but sewing on patches is a pretty good start. "To make or customise your own things gives you a real sense of achievement," says Kidston: "That feeling of self-worth is better than anything, don’t you think?"

Annie Deakin is acting editor of mydeco.com

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will also work alongside their seasoned sa...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Property Manager

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for your first step into...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical Design Engineer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This innovative company working...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat