Make Do and Mend: Reuse at Home

sewing box
Source: Annie Spratt, Unsplash

image: Imperial War Museum

During WWII, the British Ministry of Information released a pamphlet titled “Make Do and Mend.” It provided tips on how to be both frugal and stylish in times of harsh rationing. Readers were advised to create pretty “decorative patches” to cover holes in warn garments, unpick old sweaters to reknit into new styles, turn men’s clothes into women’s, as well as darn, alter, and protect against the “moth menace.”

Times have changed. We’ve lost those skills—seven out of ten young adults don’t know how to sew on a button. Often, clothes end up in the discard pile because they need a simple mend.

If you are one of the seven, Martha Stewart has an extended list of how-to tutorials on under “Homekeeping Solutions.” The site has tips on sewing on a button, patching a hole, fixing a hem, even darning a sock. has repair manuals for almost every item in your closet.

Alternatively, your neighborhood dry cleaner is also usually a tailor who can do repairs at affordable prices.

Here are some online salvage and repair services that can help preserve the life of your favorite pieces of clothing:

  • Cashmere: Stella Neptune—Sells iron-on cashmere patches in unique shapes and styles for self-mending.
  • Denim: Denim Therapy— Ship them your favorite jeans, and they will repair and reconstruct.
  • Knits and Sweaters: Alterknit New York—Mail them your treasured knits or sweater to have moth holes, burn holes, and tears repaired by reknitting. Other types of damage like snags, runs, and breaks in seams are also repaired.
  • Leather Coats and Jackets: Leather CARE Specialists—will repair, re-dye, and restore all jackets.
  • Shoes: NuShoe—are masters at handcrafted shoe or boot renewal; they also rebuild shoes.

Think your garment is beyond repair but you are loath to part with it? What about a refit? These designers and brands that will help you reshape existing pieces into new treasures:

  • Deborah Lindquist (also in Special Occasions) will take your cashmere sweater and design a unique, reincarnated, bespoke sweater for you, your child or a beloved pet.
  • Shannon South (also in Handbags) runs Remade USA, a custom service that repurposes individual vintage leather jackets into handbags.
  • Project Repat will help you wrap yourself in your T-shirt memories. Send them your collection of T-shirts, and they’ll send back a quilt or blanket.



image: Magnifeco book cover

Kate Black has lived and worked in the major fashion centers of the world and written over 1,000 articles about designers and ethical fashion from her global perspective. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of, the digital source for eco-fashion and sustainable living. Kate is also the founder of EcoSessions, a global platform bringing together designers, industry, and consumers to discuss sustainable change.


Adapted with permission from Magnifeco,Your Head-to-Toe Guide to Ethical
Fashion and Non-toxic Beauty, by Kate Black (New Society Publishers, Gabriola
Island 2015).



Fall 2015.

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From Green American Magazine Issue