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

Recruitment Genius: Finance Team Leader

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for a Compa...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for a Compa...

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an innovative a...

Recruitment Genius: Production Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Production Technician is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower