Thursday, 27 December 2012

Eat for Victory; Make Do and Mend

Here is another chatty post for the Christmas holiday season, inspired by that World War Two heroine, Mrs Sew-and-Sew.  A saying of the time was:  "Eat it up or wear it out.  Make it do or do without."  That seems rather sensible to me, as a fall-back position for when belts have to be pulled tighter and tighter.

These are straitened times for many people.  Fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of inspirational books and internet resources.  Those of you who are keen to economise while continuing to enjoy the simple pleasures of home, may like to read the following.

A few years ago, two very interesting books were published.  They were compilations of official instruction leaflets for housewives, issued during and just after the Second World War.  One is called "Eating for Victory: Healthy Home Front Cooking on War Rations."  This is fascinating.   Many of the recipes would be considered very acceptable today.  I like the fuel-saving idea of cooking a casserole on the hob, with a pudding steaming in a cocoa tin in the centre of the pan.   I can't think when I last saw a cocoa tin, but if we were a family who were keen on puddings I think I could contrive something.

The other book is "Make Do and Mend: Keeping Family and Home Afloat on War Rations".  This is very good on darning, patching and repairing , turning collars and cuffs on shirts (but I think I'll give that one a miss), and making new clothes out of old garments.  The one drawback is that all the garments are of the complicated type of that period, with (to our eyes) unnecessary gathers and pleats, and plackets, which are very fiddly to insert; thank goodness for zips! But the basic techniques could easily be adapted for our simpler modern clothes.

There are two other books which I have had since the early years of my married life.  They are both by Jo Hatcher:

"Cooking on the Breadline: Tips and recipes for cutting food bills yet still enjoying a varied menu"; and

"Home-Making on a Budget: Cost-cutting and time-saving ideas for beating inflation on the home front"

My attention turned to these resources again recently, and to the cheery picture of Mrs Sew-and-Sew, after the work I had been doing for Mother-in-law on her admission to the care home.  She is almost completely blind, and so she is naturally unable to see any little mending requirements that develop in her clothes.  Taking charge of her things gave me the opportunity to do quite a bit of mending and darning.  I was able to save some garments of which she was particularly fond. 

During my childhood I had no interest or skill in sewing.  It was in my late teens that I started to have a go at making some of my clothes.  After initial guidance from my mother, I became largely self-taught.  The craft of sewing has stood me in good stead all my life since then, both for clothes and for household things such as curtains.  It is very satisfying, both in terms of practical economy and in the pleasure of creativity.

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