Do you see what I did there?!
Re-using stuff isn’t hard.
Anyone can take an empty jam jar, give it a clean and re-purpose it into a vase. Or a tin can into a pen holder.
Sometimes it might take a spark of inspiration, and often your first foray into re-use may well be driven by necessity (ie someone smashed the vase..!)
For our grandparent’s generation, during and immediately after WW2, re-use was an absolute necessity. And it was a way of life. They learned how to do all kinds of amazingly thrifty things, to make sure that they managed to get the very last ounce of use out of their precious resources.
Now, in the 21st century, in a time of seeming abundance, we are starting to run out of resources. And as our resources become scarcer, we will soon be forced to make better use of them. But that Make Do and Mend mentality has been lost to recent generations. And sadly, the skills and resourcefulness of that generation that live through the war appear to be dying with them.
Well I’m on a mission to change that!
A mission to re-skill a whole generation who might never have been taught how to sew, or even how to sew on a button.
But what do you do if you’ve never been taught, and you don’t have a knowledgable relative to show you how?
Here are some suggestions for people you can ask, groups you can go to ask for help, and places you can go and sign up for fabulous classes!
Ask around if anyone you know is willing to show you how to sew. You may well be pleasantly surprised! Especially if you offer to teach something in return, or failing that, ply them with cake…!
I’m not especially proud, so I would quite happily post on my personal Facebook status to see if any of my local Facebook friends could teach me a new skill, but if you’re a bit shy-er, then how about:
- Asking in a local Freegle or Freecycle group
- The Buy Nothing Project aims to connect people in their ‘hyper-local’ communities and really encourages people to ask their neighbours for help, and skill sharing. See if there is a group near you, or start one up!
- Joining Streetbank and asking on there if anyone in your local community is willing to do a skill swap, or just come round and show you some basics.
- Finding out if you have a Transition group near you-they often have skill share groups set up, and it’s a great place to start. Totnes is probably the ‘flagship’ Transition Town, and has more information about Skill Sharing here. And there’s an article here from Shareable, with some info on starting up your own skillshare.
- See if you have a Knit and Natter, or Stitch and Bitch group near you-these are often free or very cheap to attend, and the people there are super friendly and usually more than happy to help beginners to get started
- Repair Cafes and Restart Parties-I am a HUGE fan of community repair events. Repair Cafes are free events where a team of volunteer fixers are on hand to help you fix your stuff, and they rock! Restart Parties are very similar, but are oftern limited to just electrical items. Check out the Repair Cafe website to see if there is one near you, or theRestart Project site is here.
And if there isn’t one near you, here’s how to set one up!!
- The Big Mend-A wonderfully talented mender by the name of Eirlys (aka Scrapiana) runs a monthly mending session in Bath, where people get together for a couple of hours of gentle mending, darning, and sewing. There are regular talks from mending experts, and it’s a fab place to get help with anything you are stuck with
- If you live in/around Frome in Somerset, then the SHARE shop there has a skill share noticeboard where you can leave a note detailing the skills you have, and the skills you want to learn. And then you can get matched up!
Classes and workshops
There are LOADS of classes around, in every town and city up and down the country, where you can learn basic skills like sewing, or knitting or crochet.
If you are looking for specific re-use skills, then here are some wonderful re-use classes and workshops:
- Fabrications in Hackney run a whole range of clothes upcycling workshops, alongside their other sewing and craft classes
- The Sheep Shop in Cambridge host Darning Masterclasses with Darning King Tom of Holland. They book up quick though!
- Stitched Up in Manchester not only stock reclaimed fabric, patterns and haberdashery (my idea of heaven!), they also have Nip/Tuck alterations workshops, and host regular sewing machine servicing sessions! AND they haveSwishes too!!
- Make Do and Mend in Chelmsford run Alterations classes, where you can learn how to alter seams, take in waistbands, and turn up trousers and skirts
- The Goodlife Centre in London run a huge range of workshops and classes, including DIY, and Furniture Restoration
- The Ministry of Upholstery run courses in traditional and modern upholstery, and can teach you the skills you need to re-love and re-use old pieces of furntiure
- @The Farm run courses in painting techniques for furniture and show you how to upcycle all kinds of things for your home!
- Deborah at Rag Rug Textiles uses scrap fabrics to make beautiful rag rugs, and she can show you how!
- Gabriela Szulman can teach you how to revive a pair of tired old shoes or boots with decoupage!
- Make Thrift London run regular mending and alteration sessions in Shepherds Bush
- Vintage Fabric is an online store full of gorgeous vintage fabrics just waiting to be re-used!
- Sew in Brighton run regular workshops showing you how to ‘Re-work your wardrobe’ and alter or upcycle your exisiting clothes to get more use from them
- Rowan Tree Studio have a whole range of workshops for vintage Singer sewing machines! They not only have them for sale, but they can teach you how to use one, or service your trusty old Singer for you
- The Old School Club in Battersea have a range of furniture painting, upholstery, and upcycling courses that will get you re-using and upcycling everything in your house!
- Remade in Edinburgh not only have a weekly repair surgery, but they have a brilliant range of workshops, from darning to leather repair, AND they teach computer repair, and sell refurbished laptops too!!
- Lovingly Made Ltd in Sussex not only have furniture painting workshops, but also knit and natter and sewing clubs to help out with any projects you might be struggling with
And lastly, if you’re looking for a book to show you all the basic Make Do and Mend skills that you need to re-use more, and consume less, then I have just the thing…!
That’s quite a list! Which is fab, as it shows how many organsiations and projects there are out there teaching re-use skills.
If you have any recommendations of any favourite re-use or repair workshops near you, then do please leave a comment and let me know!