Make Do and Mend

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

18557251_1397913886914578_1270310445997979841_nMake do and mend is a basically philosophy and mindset that I grew up with as a child, as much as I grew up in hand-me-downs whether this were clothes, bicycles, or what-have-you, and it is something that has stayed with me to this day. I still practice this philosophy – which nowadays is often known as practical recycling, reusing and upcycling – in various forms to this very day.

Already as a small boy I developed the habit, which was actively nurtured by our parents and other elders, and it has – unfortunately, some of my friends would say – stayed with me too, of picking up anything from the streets, the woodland paths, the hedgerows, and so on that might just come in handy. Old nails and screws; nuts and bolts; tools that have been lost or thrown away; even “old” knives; and much more are in that category.

Among the knives that I have found there have been knives for the re-working into sheath knives, as well as pocketknives with nothing wrong with them; there have been spanners and wrenches, screwdrivers, and many other tools, including a Leatherman Wave, in its holster, that was almost new and only required deburring the two knife blades. It had been deliberately thrown into the trash in a Park and had not just been lost accidentally. Some people simply seem to have too much money to know what to do with it, it appears, and more money than sense, that's for sure.

The habit of making do and making things also stretches with me to making use of everything that can be, in one way or another, re-worked into something else, whether this be old and worn Jeans into Ditty/Possibles bags or other things; old kitchen and butcher’s knives into “new” sheath knives. The leather of old boots, shoes and bags will be made into the sheath for such knives and/or into other items such as belt pouches for folding-knives, compass, pocket-watch, and so on.

There is only one severe drawback to such a habit and that is the need for a fairly large storage area in your home for all the things ”that might come in handy some day”.

During WWII in England booklets galore were published by the Ministry (and there was a shortage of things but they seemed to have enough paper to produce those official booklets) on the very subject of “Make Do & Mend” telling people, for instance, of how to change adult clothes into underclothes for children; to convert Dad’s old cotton shirts into nightshirts for the boys, and so on.

The philosophy and attitude of making do also applied in those days to digging up one’s flowerbeds and “digging for victory” by growing vegetables there instead of flowers in one’s garden. That could also still be a very valuable philosophy today too – instead of filling the garden up with grass and flowers, which may be esthetically pleasing to the eye and all that don’t feed no-one. Growing at least some of one’s own vegetables and such could give one some more cash in one’s pocket. Vegetables can – in actual fact – grown behind say a flowery border in a garden and look quite nice as well. The trees in one’s garden should not be ornamental this or that but fruit trees such as apples, pears, cherries, walnut and hazelnut, and anything else in that league and the ground beneath such trees should be utilized by vegetables and soft fruit such as strawberries. Also grow your own culinary and medicinal herbs in your garden, including such beneficial plants as Aloe Vera. If the climate isn’t suited for growing the latter out-of-doors than grown those in pots in the house. The same can also be done with many other herbs and spices.

And if you have no garden to speak of to grow your own vegetables and such then you can use various forms of containers such tubs made of various things such including old bathtubs even. Almost everything can be grown in containers, fruit trees even. Hanging baskets of all kinds also can be employed for growing fruit and vegetables. Strawberries do well there, and even beans and peas can be grown in such containers.

But back to the make do and mend philosophy per se.

While make do and mend seems to be coming back into fashion to some degree many people still have the disposable attitude and seem to have to have the latest in fashion, be this with regards to clothes or anything else.

Among children and young people peer pressure may have something to do with it in that clothes from a charity shop don't, in their minds, have much street cred and all that. Years ago it had to be Adidas, then Fila, then Nike, and the wheel keeps turning in that department. But what makes them better then non-brands? The name only, not necessarily the quality, and the price is often astronomical. The same goes for other things. And ordinary cell phone doesn't cut it; it has to be an iPhone, and ideally always the latest.

All need to learn, and the children and young people have to be taught, that it does not have to be the latest and that the latest and most expensive is not always the best, especially not for the Planet and the wallet.

Staying with what we have, making things ourselves even from things considered “waste” in the common perception, and generally making do and mending, buy secondhand, and so on, must be the way to go. The latter also and especially keeps money in the local economy, though only if we are using local secondhand shops, thrift stores and charity shops. And, if things can be repaired and you cannot do it yourself then use local repair shops to do it. Keeps the money local and also work.

© 2017