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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones