Sunday, 31 May 2009

Do we have the skills for frugal fashion?

I read a very interesting piece by Angelique Chrisafis in the Guardian this morning, about wartime, ration-book fashion in Paris.

The French capital is hosting an exhibition at the Jean Moulin Museum to celebrate the ingenious ways French women, under the Nazi Occupation, managed to stay fashionable, using all manner of materials from scraps of cellophane, to bits of straw and from pieces of wood to fabric from old sofas. The platform shoes in the photograph were fashioned out of blocks of wood and pieces of canvas. As hot water was scarce, a new fashion was created when les femmes de Paris took to wearing turbans (made from paper or straw) to disguise their dirty locks.

The article quotes one of the show's organisers, Fabienne Falluel the fasion historian: "Women knew how to sew, and in that dark period they still took ideas from magazines and the street, but they made the pieces themselves. Today people don't necessarily know how to sew - we're still in a culture of consumption where the instinct is to buy, not make. But you'll see, people will soon start learning." I do hope you're right Fabienne.

There has always been a small (and recently growing) section of the population that possesses the skill of sewing and takes pleasure from making clothes and using unusual and interesting materials to do so. The sad fact remains that this is a significantly smaller proportion of the populace than was the case during the War, or even 20 to 30 years ago.

The disappearance or reduction of the domestic sciences from school curricula must account for some of this loss of skill. But if people really wanted to learn to sew they could have learned from mothers and grandmothers. The fact that they haven't, lies with Mde Falluel's point that we are living in a culture of consumption.

I grew up knowing how to sew. My mother was a good role model and I was taught at school. As a teenager, I made most of my own clothes and could follow a pattern with ease. Until I had a go at making a simple summer shift dress last year, I had not touched a sewing machine in 25 years.

Why is this? Lack of time maybe? - but had I really wanted (or needed) to do it I could have made time. There was a period in my life when I was a heavy spender on fashion and happy to pay for designer names, so there was no place in my life then for something run up on the old Singer. Most importantly and enduringly since, clothes simply cost too little to justify the time and effort to make them yourself. As a result many of us have acquired the behaviour of buy and wear for a season then chuck it away and buy new. At least my years of designer indulgence provided some classics that stood the test of time, but mostly the trend has been away from classics to disposable chic. Wear today, bin tomorrow. In such a climate of consumption there is no place for sewing. Creativity is reserved for mixing bought pieces together, not for fashion resourcefulness.

Is Mme Falluel right in saying we will start learning? Yes I believe she is. Making your own clothes is not just about thrift. There is also the creativity that goes into not just the making, but in the unique combination of fabric and pattern that makes your garment unlike any other. There is also the huge sense of pride and personal achievement that goes into wearing something you have created yourself. Careful fitting and adjustment of the pattern means there is also the means to ensure your garment fits you like a glove.

Looking at the craft-based blogosphere with the explosion of people show-casing their handiwork and the ever-increasing number selling their creations on sites like Etsy, indicates that we are seeing the start of a revolution. The recent dramatic increase in sales of sewing machines and haberdashery items backs this up.

Let's hope we will never face a need as great as the ladies of 1940s Paris, but that we will in future be able to apply a similar level of resourcefulness and skill to the creation of our own unique and stylish clothes.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Redneck Recycling

This is one type of recycling we didn't include in our recent Lexicon of Recycling.

Look at the picture closely and you’ll see this little summer top, snapped outside an Alabama Wal-Mart, is actually made out of a pair of men's jockeys!

Now who in their right mind is going to steal her man’s undies, chop the crotch out and make a top out of them? To quote the email that accompanied the photo: “Don't throw out yer feller's drawers when the skidmarks don't wash out no more. Just cut the crotch out and wear 'em. Redneck recycling at its best!”

Opinion is divided in MIAMI Towers about this one. On the one hand there’s Anne, who sent us the picture with these words:
“This was sent to me on the basis that it was something to be laughed at. I just think it is such an amazingly clever idea. I am in praise of this woman. I am so going to get my hands on an old pair of jockeys. After all, you cut the crotch out.”

The rest of us are determined that we aren’t going to be seen within a million miles of her if she carries out her threat.

What do you think? Whose drawers would you be willing to customise and whose would you avoid like the plague?

Friday, 29 May 2009

A bad worker always blames her tools

One of the problems facing novice DIYers is knowing what tool to use for the job. Another is buying the cheapest tool available then discovering it is unequal to the task.

Make it and Mend it's Anne Caborn is a bit of a fanatical DIYer. She likes nothing more than a sharp blade or a well-turned angle grinder - unless it's a nice knotty bit of html. We asked her to pull together a list of products to go into the ideal beginner's toolbox as well as her advice on choosing them and using them.

Anne's sensible advice made me think how many tools I have bought and then wasted. Like the (very cheap) electric screwdriver and cordless drill I bought in a mad moment at B&Q, intending to get back into the DIY habit. One of these tools (I forget which) I never even got to use as I couldn't get the drill bits to fit properly and then one got stuck inside and broke off blocking the whole thing. The other was so crap it didn't hold its charge and was always flat when I tried to use it. So they may have had cheap price tickets but they proved very expensive mistakes.

My personal DIY history has happened in reverse. I started out in my early 20s with great confidence and tackled anything that came my way. I wallpapered. I tiled round the bath. I painted the house from top to bottom. I stripped paint and varnish off old furniture and then repainted and changed the handles. I was given a power drill for Christmas and used it all the time. Whilst I never tackled plumbing, apart from fixing an overflowing cistern, I did some very basic electrical tasks and always knew my Dad was on the end of the phone with helpful advice if I had any questions. Then I stopped. I started telling myself I was far too busy to do this kind of thing. My spare time was for relaxing and enjoying myself. So I started buying-in help. Once embarked on, this became an irreversible trend. I spent a fortune on painters and odd-job men. My tool kit lay neglected in the back of the cupboard and as time went on, my confidence eroded. I am ashamed to say that when I last moved house, I actually paid for someone to come and hang all the pictures !

Am I alone in this backward progression towards 'de-skilling'? Have any other people lost the skills they once possessed? Has anyone got them back again? If so how did it happen?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Father's Day - thinking of role models

My dear old Dad died 20 years ago this year, so it's a long time since I have had to think about Father's Day gifts. Not that he was that bothered when he was alive, dismissing it as a piece of invented commercialism that did not have the longevity and stature of Mother's Day.

At Make it and Mend it we have been talking a lot about make and mend role models, since Hilary wrote her piece about her mother making dresses for her out of her Dad's old shirts.

My father was a great role model for DIY and gardening, despite the lack of a paternal role model himself as he lost his own dad when only 12 years old.

With Father's Day looming (at least in the UK it is - why does every country seem to celebrate these days at different dates?) we thought it would be a good idea to ask our readers to tell us about their own fathers. If like mine and Hilary's they came from a wartime generation, making do and mending will have been in the blood. But what about those of you with much younger parents? Did they also pass on the make and mend gene? Tell us about yours in Comments below.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Top Tip of the Week - storing plastic bags

Following last week's Lexicon for Recycling today's top tip involves reusing (plastic bags) and downcycling (tissue boxes).

If you're like me, you want to reuse those old supermarket plastic carrier bags - and avoid acquiring new ones. Trouble is I have so often arrived at the supermarket and found I've left my cotton carrier bags at home. I still have a number of old pastic bags that I don't want to just chuck into the recycling so they are crumpled up inside another bag in my understairs cupboard and are always spilling out everywhere.

Here's a handy solution. Fold the plastic bags flat. Get an empty facial tissue box (thus saving it from the recycling) and stuff the plastic bags inside. This keeps them neat and tidy and it's very easy to pull them out one at a time.

Now I keep one tissue box bag dispenser in the car so I have it to hand when I am doing the shopping and another under the kitchen sink for when I need a plastic bag at home.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Your advice to a novice make and mender?

"I've never done this kind of thing before - I have no confidence - I don't know where to start"
We often hear this from people who want to live more creatively and sustainably but aren't sure where and how to start. So I decided to share some suggestions and invite all our readers to chip in with your ideas too.

The projects I have chosen here cover different areas of making and mending and share the following points in common:
  • Fast to do - so there's a quick win - always good when you are starting something new (there's nothing worse than starting but not finishing something and then feeling guilty about it)
  • Produce big, visible results - so you'll feel it's been worthwhile and a good return on the time and energy you've invested. They'll make a difference to your life or your surroundings.
  • Easy - so this should give you confidence and enthusiasm to continue and to move on to bigger and more ambitious projects
  • Cheap - ideally you can do them with materials you already have.
So that's the brief. Here's my suggestions. Please tell us yours. We'll put 'em on the makeitandmendit website - with instructons how to do.

Get into Gardening - try growing courgettes (zucchini)

This choice was based on seeds (cheap) and vegetables (thrifty) - growing from seed can seem a bit risky, a bit slow and a bit chancy if you haven't tried before. So go for courgettes. They have big seeds (a bit like melom seeds) so they're very easy to handle and plant and don't require all that thinning and pricking out. They grow quite fast and are easy to grow. They also produce yellow flowers so you'll have some floral interest and colour as well as eventual vegetable bounty! - and you can bung 'em in the freezer after - and live off them for ages.

Get into Sewing - by making a cushion cover

Cushion covers are super easy and require no special techniques - you don't need to put zips in - you can either sew up all four sides or add a flap and a couple of buttons. You can make a few cushion covers in an hour or so and will have an instant impact on your room. Here's our instructions on cushion cover making

Get into knitting - by sewing blanket squares
If you are a complete novice knitter then starting off by knitting some simple garter stitch squares for charity is a brilliant way to learn. You can use odd balls of yarn and in no time at all you'll have a square - and the satisfaction of knowing it's helping someone needy to stay warm. Loads of charities have schemes - we like this one - and on their website there are step-by-step instructions.

Get into cooking - use some leftovers

One of the easiest recipes for leftovers is bubble and squeak. Very old fashioned - but real comfort food and so easy to do. Here's some other ideas for cooking with leftovers
But then you have to have cooked in the first place to have leftovers - so if you are a super novice then try a spaghetti bolognese - very easy, very forgiving and very tasty.

Get into DIY - hang some pictures
I'm almost embarrassed to include this but I do know people who are afraid to bang a nail in a wall. Just pick your spot. Get a hammer. Get a nail. Bang it in. Hang the picture - et voila'! Instant room transformation.
So those are my top of the head suggestions. What are yours? Please post your ideas in the Comments below

Friday, 22 May 2009

Wanted! - your unwanted building materials

We've been asked to spread the word on this appeal for building materials by the producers of a new TV series

We’re making a brand new TV series for Discovery Real Time called ‘Tommy’s Fix Your House For Free’. Presented by Tommy Walsh and featuring reclamation expert Liam Collins, the idea behind the series is to help five families complete a building project at their home by providing all of the materials for the job. The key thing is that the materials they supply are either recycled, reclaimed or would otherwise have been thrown away.
It might be perfectly useable bricks that have been thrown in a skip or timber that is left over from another job. Perhaps a builders’ merchant has some end of line stock or bags of cement that have been damaged in transit, or maybe a tile factory experimented with a new design of tile, made a batch of 1000 and then decided not to market them.
Whatever the reason, Tommy and Liam are on hand to collect these materials and make sure they’re put to good use. If you or your company are based in London or the South East, have any such surplus materials and would be keen to be involved in the series we’d be very happy to film Tommy or Liam coming and collecting them."
Please Contact : Hayden King
Tel: 0207 7136868
Email :

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A new lexicon for recycling

If you’re not ‘recycling’ some things at least some of the time, we have only one question? Which planet are you from and how recently did you arrive on Earth? It’s good to recycle but you also need to embrace a much broader set of principles to be a true Make it and Mender. Here’s our 're’ glossary to help you.

recycle – ensure that as much as possible is reused or reclaimed in some way. Thoughtful and careful rubbish sorting is all you need to achieve this.

Consider recycling as your last resort. The 2 ‘life steps’ that should always proceed recycling are reduce and reuse.
  1. Cut your consumption by careful shopping, so, for example, less food goes off.
  2. Compost any vegetables that can’t be used (because they’re too far gone for even soups and stews) and avoid packaged and wrapped items as much as possible.
  3. Reuse as much as you can – such as plastic drinks bottles. Try and buy fewer bottled drinks by always taking a drink out with you.
  4. Here are 2 things to do with plastic drinks bottles before you put them in the recycling:
  • Use them again to carry a drink in!
  • Cut the base off, remove the screw top and stick them (upside down) in the ground next to thirsty plants. Immerse about 2 to 3 inches of the upturned bottle into the ground. (You may also need to secure the bottle by driving a plant support into the ground and through the mouth of the bottle so it doesn’t fall over.) Water your plants via the bottle. This reduces the amount of water run off and directs the water towards to plant roots where it does more good.
We have some great tips to help you reduce and reuse >> Check out our Inspired recycling ideas
You can also find out more about >> Using leftovers , with a whole page dedicated to >> mashed potato tips.

upcycle – take something that was designed to be disposable and give it a second (hopefully more permanent) life and a higher value. The true principles of upcycling can be learned from, so called, ‘third world’ countries where upcycling skills have been developing for centuries.
Upcycling has been embraced as a clever way of dealing with our excessive consumption and waste - but beware. True upcycling is not about enthusing over abstract art created from paper coffee cups, only to carry on ordering takeaway (guilt free) lattes.
How to Upcycle:
As with recycling – the first step is reduce. If you do like your coffee from Starbucks, or Café Nero, take your own travel mug and get them to fill that.
And all of us should be campaigning to reduce the amount of items that are designed to be ‘disposable’ and or come with ‘built in obsolescence’.
Where we do need to upcycle, the emphasis should be on the practical first and the pretty second.

Here’s a great home and garden upcyling project: this comes courtesy of Anne’s cousin John who has been experimenting with using old tyres as planters.
The simplest way of using them is to stack the tyres (they need to be the same diameter) on top of each other and fill them with earth. “The weight of the tyres tends to keep them in place,” says John. They’re particularly great for growing potatoes as you can start with one or two tyres and sow your seed potatoes and then put another tyre on top and fill with earth, ensuring they get a good covering.
“The other great thing about tyre planters is it brings the height of the bed up to a level where I don’t have to bend down so much and it saves my back,” adds John. Chat up your local garage or scrap yard to acquire tyres, or ask for your old tyre back when you get a new tyre fitted.

There’s >> a useful article about upcycling on our website and >>tips for sorting your recycling

decycle.1 – this definition defines decycling as anti-recycling (possible irony), the purposeful disposing of rubbish to landfill or ‘spoiling’ recycling by mis-sorting items to make them unrecyclable. We hate this definition.

– the Make it and Mend it definition defines decycling as reducing the number of energy consuming processes we use to get from one point to another, or to turn one thing into another thing in the most energy-efficient, least wasteful way. We love this definition.
For example, we should rinse bottles and cans before putting them into recycling but we shouldn’t use fresh water to do this. That’s a waste of drinking water and the energy used to purify it. Instead, use old dishwater. Use water swilled around the first bottle to rinse out the second and so on.

downcycle – this is the opposite of upcycling and describes the process of turning things into new items which are of a lower quality and lower value.
Some things might be better suited to downcycling than upcycling (particularly if the upcycling alternative involves more energy and creates something decorative rather than useful).
And a lot of recycling is, in fact, downcycling. For example, paper recycling leads to a shortening of the paper fibres, which means that recycled paper is more likely to tear and is therefore a lower quality with more limited uses. And often new raw materials have to be added to recycled paper to make it useable. (Thanks to Grant for this insight.)
So, again, it’s very important to try and reduce and re-use paper waste before even thinking about recycling. Downcycling should be viewed as better than nothing.

Here’s a home downcycling project for carpets for you to consider if all else fails.
Old carpet often ends up in landfill. Start by seeing if it can be recycled after cleaning or dying a darker colour. Old, good quality fitted carpets can be cut into rugs and ‘whipped’ – the edges are bound professionally. If that’s too expensive, try edging the rug with hessian tape using strong twine and a very thick needle.
But carpets that don’t find a second life as carpets can be downcycled into weed barriers for gravel beds in the garden, or under paving stones. Old carpet – ideally, hessian backed and wool - can be laid over allotments that have become overgrown with weeds. But check with your allotment first. Some have banned carpet as people start the job and then don’t finish it, leaving the carpet to become weed infested. Don’t leave the carpet down for longer than a year or the weeds may grow through, making your job trickier.
• Some animal shelters may accept old carpet for bedding.
• Use pieces in the car to protect the fitted carpets from footwear or in the boot, particularly when taking garden refuse to the tip (for suitable recycling).
So what sort of "cycler" are you? Please tell us in the Comments section

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Homemade Home - with a bit of help from her friends

Well now we've seen the rest of the series have we softened our tone about Channel 4's "Kirstie’s Homemade Home" after our rant following episode 1? Errr... no. Kirstie is a good presenter and we're glad she's trying to encourage us to think about traditional crafts. However she's missing the point of getting back to basics and using our own talents, creativity and more to the point, existing materials to create a fantastic home.

Over the last few years, television programmes have told us how make over our houses, but with other people doing the dirty work. Unfortunately this is true of Kirstie as well. Whilst claiming Meadow Gate is a "homemade home", she trots off to craftspeople for a brief lesson in basic skills, but never completes a project herself. She enjoys a cosy one-to-one tuition session and then pays her teachers to finish the projects off and deliver them ready for installation. Apart from the fact that this costs money that few of us have to spare these days, it also gives the impression that beyond the very basics skills, you need to have years of experience to be able to make anything. Not only is this misleading, but does little to encourage us to have a go at making things for ourselves.

With a little time and effort you can make some beautiful, practical things for your home. You may not get it right first time, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up and pay somebody else to do it for you. You just need to practice a little first. Half the fun of creating something for yourself is the process of mastering the new skill. This is where the real sense of achievement comes from, not standing back as yet another craftsmen knocks on your door to present you with a finished item.

In one programme, Kirstie throws out a perfectly good fireplace because it doesn’t go with her design. But who removed it and how? She seemed to have a secret team of elves that came in when the cameras weren’t rolling and miraculously did all those tedious building and plumbing jobs. Which leads to a second question, how much did it cost her to have the fireplace removed? And what did she do with it afterwards? Sell it and recoup some of money she spent on refurbishing? Throw it in a skip? Why didn’t she reuse it somewhere else in the house or even in the garden as an unusual planter, or change her design to fit around it, or make the fireplace over?

What's really frustrating is that it was meant to be about inspirational sustainable living, but there was nothing sustainable about it. Spending £100 a roll on hand made wallpaper, when a paint effect might have sufficed, is not sustainable living. In the final programme Kirstie made over the garden, using lots of professionals to do it for her. The garden was transformed without her having to take off one of her fabulously bright coats or get a fleck of dirt under a fingernail. Yet again her invisible trusty elves rushed to her rescue and laid a York-stone terrace that didn’t even merit a mention. And where was the vegetable patch? Yes this is a holiday home, but she could at least have given a nod to the idea of putting one in. We should be encouraging people to grow their own vegetables. It's not just satisfying, but good for us. Research has shown that children who are involved in growing veg are fitter and healthier and more likely to eat vegetables. I appreciate that Kirstie wanted a fabulous entertaining space, but vegetables can fit into this notion brilliantly. Vegetable patches don’t have to be boring, they can be bright, colourful and excitingly designed. I think she missed a trick here.

The final irritant was when she audibly whispred, while dressing the table with someone else's flower arrangements "Eat your heart out Martha Stewart". At least the old jailbird does know how to do her own flower arranging and ice her own cakes! Overall, Kirstie – good work for showcasing some talented British craftspeople, but homemade it aint!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Top Tip of the Week - soft clothes

We all have our dark secrets. One of mine is that when living in France, I earned my crust by managing the fabric softener business for a big global company. At the time the morality of this never gave me a moment's pause (it was 20 years ago and I didn't have much environmental awareness) and I have always had a weakenss for nice soft fluffy towels.

Lately however, since pursuing a make it and mend it strategy, I have not been able to square my conscience with pouring chemicals down the drain, just so that my towels don't feel scratchy.

But now I have discovered the power of white vinegar. Every wash, I pour a dose of vinegar into the fabric softener compartment and I've been amazed at the results. Not only is vinegar an effective stain remover (great for pre-treating if you mix it to a paste with some detergent and rub it into the stain) but it leaves everything incredibly soft and smalling fantastic. The last point amazed me as I expected the washing to come out smelling like the local chippy - not a bit of it.

I already knew of some of the other numerous benefits of vinegar - such as getting rid of limescale and as an ingredient in a variety of home-made household cleaners, but it's the effect on my washing that has blown me away. And not to mention the fact that a litre of vinegar costs substantially less then the same of a fabric softener. Give it a try - I promise you won't be disappointed with this top tip.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Love it or hate it ? - Lakeland

I have long had a love-hate relationship with Lakeland (or as I still somehow want to call it, Lakeland Plastics). My kitchen drawers are replete with Lakeland gadgetry, the shelves of my home office are regimented by their plastic files and they have also begun to advance upon my garden.

Lakeland, founded in Windermere in the 1960s and now run by the founder's three sons, has mastered the art of the "I have to have that" factor in kitchen wizardry. Their colourful catalogue arrives complete with a chatty letter from Wendy, the Customer Ambassador, who has taken on the epistolary duties of Michelle the Marketing Director who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. When the catalogue lands on the doormat it is hard not to grab it and curl up on the sofa to test one's self control. Do I really need that bag to keep my potatoes fresh? Yes I know I keep meaning to take up baking, but if I splash out on a collection of non-stick bakeware will it languish untouched in the kitchen cupboard along with so many other symbols of my good intentions?

There is a lot to love about Lakeland - but also a lot to feel uneasy about. As well as providing some brilliant solutions to everyday problems, they are also creating needs that are so non-esssential as to be bordering on eccentricity. I often try to imagine the Lakeland "heavy user". She (for it is surely a she) must have the largest kitchen on the planet, with expansive worksurfaces to carry and display such must-have items as the Flexicado: "for getting the most out of an avocado", a collection of "ice cream sandwich moulds", a plastic banana guard, a plastic "avocado saver" (evidently very demanding of gadgetry are these avocados!), and my personal favoutite, the Tea Tool for squeezing your tea bags. There are bowls designed specially for storing berries, 3 in 1 pineapple slicers, strawberry hullers, herb mincing machines, corn strippers and lettuce shears (what's wrong with a pair of hands?). These types of gadgets are so specialist, that by the time you needed to use them you'd have forgotten you even had them.

So as a make and mender, I'm in two minds about Lakeland. They sell all the essentials to encourage a more creative and sustainable way of living, from making jam to growing spuds, but they also seem to be indulging our worst tendencies towards consumerism. What do you think?

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Calling "DIY virgins" - here's the book for you

Following our piece yesterday on building your DIY confidence here is a great book to help you. If like me you are a bit of a DIY virgin, you need "DIY Doctor :- Know-how with Show-how". This is a perfect gift for the would-be make and mender who wants to get some confidence and gain some more skills.

The book is divided into tabbed sections covering Alterations and Repairs, Decorating & Finishing, Outdoor Repairs, Kitchens & Bathrooms, Electrics and Plumbing & Heating.

It is packed with really clear full colour photographs, taking you step by step through each of a series of the most common DIY tasks. I love it because it covers all those annoying jobs that are quite simple to do when you know how, but otherwise would have to get someone in and pay them to do it for you - like moving the strike plate on a rattling door, filling gaps between floorboards, reviving tired grouting or drilling a tile without cracking it.

Each task lists the tools and materials you'll need to get making and mending around the house and includes helpful tips and explanations, as well as the very easy-to follow illustrated steps. Navigation through the book is helped by the coloured tabs and a bar on the edge of every right hand page showing what else is in that section - a bit like website navigation bars

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Building Your DIY Confidence

Make it and mend it team member Anne has some personal tips for getting over your DIY inhibitions. She did.
Every journey starts with a single step and gaining DIY confidence is no exception. I used to be willing to give most small DIY projects a go. But then I met and fell in love with a man who had a whole range of DIY skills. I got lazy. Then, many year’s later, I got divorced.

I found that, along with the cat, I’d also acquired a certain reluctance to undertake anything that involved hammers or – even more daunting – power tools. Every picture hanging exercise conjured up images of water pipes punctured by errant drills, or me getting an instant perm as electricity from an exposed cable coursed through my body.

But it’s very hard to sign up to living creatively and sustainably, making and mending, repairing, restoring and remodelling if you don’t embrace the concept and the practice of DIY.

With a new life and a new home to deal with (plus the need to save money) I had to get back in the DIY saddle. Here are my top tips for gaining DIY confidence:

1. Safety first - You’ll feel a great deal more confident if you know you’ve taken adequate safety precautions before you begin.
Most homes now have RCD (Residual Current Device) fuse boxes. If you don’t know, go to your fuse box and check. An RCD quickly trips out the power when it detects the current flowing to earth (which is what happens when you nick an electric cable).
If you don’t have an RCD fuse box, attach an RCD adapter between the plug of the electric appliance you are using and the socket. >> You can buy one cheaply in our shop

Better still, don’t drill or nail through pipes and cable:
• spend few moments considering your drill point in the context of nearby plug sockets, taps etc
• buy yourself a metal, stud and voltage detector. These used to be worse than useless a few years ago but are now much more sensitive. Read and follow the instructions carefully. >> 3-in-1 metal, stud and voltage detector

And if you do burst a pipe (which you won’t) damage can be averted if you know where (and how) to turn off your water supply.

2. DIY is 10% perspiration and 90% preparation - Make sure you have the right tools. Tightening crosshead screws with the blade of a steak knife simply won’t do. The first step to DIY confidence is acquiring some (well made) tools and a box to put them in.

If you buy nothing else, invest in a screwdriver with interchangeable heads. I use a cordless electric one made by Bosch. >> You can buy it in the shop

3. Give yourself plenty of time - DIY projects are better undertaken on days off and begun in the morning. If you wake up and don’t feel like starting a task, consider putting it off until another day (unless this becomes a recurring theme).

4. Test and practice - DIY is not a too cold swimming pool. There is no advantage in holding your nose and plunging right in. Never used a sander before? Well, practice on an old plank, not that lovely wood floor. The same goes for filling, painting and varnishing. Try painting or varnishing a small patch of wall that doesn’t show before beginning in earnest.

5. DIY with a friend - Don’t choose anybody from your ‘dizzy’ or ‘panicky’ lists but have you got a friend who’s DIY competent or just plain sensible, who can mentally hold your hand for the first few projects? IMPORTANT: Don’t let them do the project for you. This is all about gaining confidence not passing the buck.

6. Remember, it’s only DIY – This is a really, really important point. Think about all the things you do do and feel perfectly at ease and confident about.
Can you ride a bike? That’s much tougher than plugging in an electric drill.
Can you make a stew? There are more things to remember when putting together a good casserole than you’ll ever face with most everyday DIY projects. If you hold down a job, care for a family, understand how to thread a sewing machine and sort your recycling, you’ve have all the transferable skills you need to be a DIYer.

Now pick up that screwdriver and fix something!

Send Anne an email
Anne says: “I’d love to hear how you became a DIYer. If you have a story to share you can contact me at”

Friday, 15 May 2009

Recycling Roundup

Inspiration for recycling, reusing - or upcycling as it's now becoming known. We've pulled together a quick guide to help you find recycling inspiration, whatever your interests.

Ideas and tips -
ways to make new things out of old from beds to plastic bags:

Old beds into bowers - how to turn unwanted beds into fantastic garden furniture
Top 10 Ideas for Inspired Recycling at Home
How to make fused plastic out of old carrier bags
New life for old sofas
Re-using tin foil to clean your silver

Recycled Fashion - from vintage fashion to revamping your wardrobe you'll find loads of inspiration here:

Refashion, defashion, upfashion, downfashion - there's no limits!
10 Ways to update your wardrobe without spending a fortune
Bags from old tyres and Debenhams' suit made from plastic bottles
Checking out the Vintage Fashion Fair
Shoes made from London Underground seats
Charity fashion show of restyled clothes
Recycled dress for breast cancer
How to knit with recycled plastic carrier bags
Charity shop clothes on the Oscar's red carpet
Hairy legwarmers made from an old jacket

Creative inspiration - how artists and sculptors have used materials that might otherwise have been thrown away to create some fascinating new pieces:

Tim Gentry’s “Pleasure Spheres” and Paul Matosic’s “Landfill
Photography - seeing beauty in industrial waste
MEND - an exhibition in New York using recycled materials
Sculpture from living trees
Art from toilet rolls
Art from the floor-sweepings of China's factories
Sculpture from old shopping trolleys
The Knitted Brain
A Buddhist temple from old beer bottles

Advice on Recycling

Top Tips from Which? magazine to ensure your recycling actually gets recycled
Third World Wisdom - what we can learn from others
Start a fixers' collective - a Brooklyn scheme sets a great example
Five top tips for sorting your recycling
Go to work on an egg - why eggs are highly useful materials for inspired recycling
All about upcycling
A new lexicon for recycling

Recycling News
How London Transport is "oiling the wheels" with recycled cooking oil

How to get away without going away

The Make it and Mend it philosophy can extend to summer holidays.
Why spend money and add to global warming by jetting off to the sun, when you can turn your home into a holiday destination?

Okay, it’s great to enjoy a holiday abroad with all the trimmings, but staying at home can also be fun, restore your energy levels and save you money. Make it and Mend it's Anne Caborn is daft as a brush but why not give her ideas a try? at least it isn't going to cost you any money!

Here’s Anne's Top 10 Tips for holidaying at home
1. Take a few days off
You don’t need a ‘paid for’ holiday – in the UK or abroad – to take time off work. As you’re not going to be spending the best part of a day getting to your holiday destination you can even take a shorter break ( for example, tag a couple of days onto a weekend). In the current economic climate many people are worried about taking too much time off work. A shorter home holiday gives you the break without the anxiety.

2. Get planning
Select your dates, mark it up as holiday in your diary, book the time off work and begin to plan – even plan your holiday wardrobe. Half the fun of a holiday is getting ready. Choose a couple of books to read. Sticklers for authenticity may want to pack a suitcase. Before your holiday starts, get everything ready in the same way you would if you were going away – mow the lawn, sort out your holiday money. Do your food shopping before your holiday starts. Treat yourself to a few luxury items – see 5. Exotic home holidays.

3. Don’t forget about sightseeing
Check out your local bus, train and tourist information offices for interesting destinations nearby. Chances are there are several of them you’ve never visited, because they’re too near. Cut excursion costs by packing picnics.

4. Holidays are all about de-stressing, so make your home stress free
One of the reasons we ‘go away’ to be on holiday is to leave behind on the chores and rituals that fill our days when we’re at home – the daily commute, reading the paper, putting another load of washing through the machine, cooking supper...
While you're on holiday you’re not allowed to: do the washing, clean the house, mow the lawn... You could even prepare and freeze evening meals to cut down on time spent cooking. If the weather’s warm enough, barbeque instead of using the cooker (it just feels less stressful).
Those seeking to super de-stress may want to avoid answering the phone (even put the thing on silent and check for messages at the end of your break). Make sure you set your emails to Out of Office Autoreply and make sure if you have a laptop or a Blackberry that they are switched off and hidden away.

5. Exotic home holidays
Ever wanted to visit the orient, or India, or the South Seas? Why not bring these exotic destinations to your home?
Read up on your chosen destination’s cuisine. Pick some of the more simple recipes to cook yourself. Often the difference between home cooking and holiday fare is as simple as an additional spice or herb. Treat yourself to your chosen destination‘s local beer, wine or liqueur. Try your hand at cocktail making.

6. Sounds like we’re on holiday
Another way to get yourself into the holiday mood is by listening to the indigenous music. You may find a great deal available for free on the internet. Even if you end up buying a CD it’s certainly going to be cheaper than flights and a hotel.

7. Make your home more like a hotel
• Lay the table for breakfast before you go up to bed.
• Make the bed in the morning and put chocolates on your pillow.
• Put a small basket of fruit on your dressing table.
• Put fresh flowers in the bathroom.
• Treat yourself as if your were a ‘guest’.
...oh and don't forget - nice clean towels laid out ready.

8. A change is a good as a rest
One of the reasons we enjoy holidays is because they give us a break from what we normally do. So try and behave differently. For example, if you don’t normally watch TV while you’re away, could you do without the TV on your home holiday? Cancel the papers.

9. Dare to be different
Holidays often give us the opportunity to be a little different. Office workers who spend 5 days a week in suits suddenly develop a penchant for flip flops and Hawaiian shirts.
Okay, you’re not going away and you don’t want to frighten the neighbours, but could you enjoy doing things differently? If your day usually starts with a mad dash, try a leisurely bath. If you dress up for work, dress down for your break. If you’re naturally a casual dresser try applying mascara (or shaving) before breakfast. Drink coffee instead of tea or vice versa.

10. Take things as they come
The great thing about going away is not knowing what to expect. Seek out the unfamiliar. This may be as simple as choosing alternative routes and road less travelled. So what if you get lost – you’re on holiday. You don’t have to be anywhere by a particular time. Just enjoy yourself – you deserve it.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Fashion! Refashion! Defashion! Upfashion! Downfashion!

‘Refashion’ is a buzzword right now. Dictionaries tend to define it as making over an item or garment, but in the world of Make it and Menders it means so much more. So here’s our definition of refashioning, a few ideas on how to get started, plus some new terms that we came up with in the pub.

refashion - make something not fashionable, fashionable, provoke the envy of your friends and never again walk into a party to find someone else is wearing the same High Street bargain as you.

Take a look at what’s ‘hot’ in the fashion industry right now and pick out the signature elements. Think about what will work for you rather than what works for a 6ft super model strutting her stuff on the catwalk.

Sometimes refashioning can be as simple as taking a skirt up an inch or two. >> See our step by step guide to using iron on tape to do this Sometimes you’ll need to lengthen a hem using additional fabric. You can sometimes drop in fabric in at the waist, rather than round the hem.

Fashion signatures at the moment include the Grecian goddess look. Although it officially came in last year, it proved a hit with celebrities and is still around. This involves swathing fabric round your body so it hugs the bust and hips. An old flowing gypsy skirt or sarong might be suitable for refashioning this way.

One option is to wear something figure hugging and then swath the fabric over the top, holding it in place with safety pins. (It’s best not to dance on tables if you take this approach. Pins can let you down.)

Strong colours are also marching down the catwalk so re-acquaint yourself with Dylon dyes. >> Check out the fashion section on their website

Hilary Bruffell, our resident uber-seamstress, is passionate about refashioning: “I have a photo of me and my sisters in little dresses made from our father's old shirts and in sweater dresses knitted from old jumpers of my fathers. In my parent's very glamorous engagement photo my mother is wearing a coat that she refashioned from her mother's old coat.” See Hilary’s article on the subject. >>
In the meantime, there are some great ideas in our Clothes tips section

defashion - get rid of 'aging' fashion elements eg shoulder pads (okay we’re going back a decade or two), frills, lacy bits... The secret here is to create something that’s plainer than the original. Defashion projects often come unstuck when you try to replace last year’s fashion elements with this year’s. Keep it simple. Make it classic.

One of the simplest last-year-into-this-year defashion tricks is taking the bottom layer off a dirndl skirt (so last year). Dirndl jackets were also fashionable but they’re harder to defashion unless you have good seamstress skills. With a jacket you’ll need to remove the gathered layer, recut the removed fabric so it lies flat and sew it back into place.

upfashion - make something even more stylish using your imagination and creativity. The world (or, at least, the button box) is your oyster.
One of the simplest upfashion tips is replacing plain buttons with more ornate ones. When scouring the charity shops for clothes, check out the buttons, not just the style of the item. You may want to purchase something just for the great buttons and then use the fabric in other ways.
Sequinned appliqué patches can be added to pockets. Try crimping in waistlines on boxy jackets by adding a fab belt. (As well as buttons, it’s amazing how many beautiful belts you find in second hand and charity shops.)

downfashion - make something that’s too dressy or formal useful for everyday. For example turning a bridesmaid's dress into a Saturday night frock or turning a plunging ‘nightclub’ neckline into something you can wear around Tesco.

There are 2 key areas that need to be addressed with most defashion projects – necklines and bling. Outfits bought for weddings are a good example. They work great on the day but are a bit too up themselves for everyday wear. By the time the next wedding comes along they’re out of fashion (see defashion above).

Can an outfit be ‘separated’? A jacket may work without the skirt and vice versa. Can the bodice part be removed from a dress, leaving you with a skirt than can be dressed down – or up? (Anne has a great purple netting underskirt, originally part of an over the top dress, that she now wears with leggings and a denim jacket.)

Necklines can sometimes be made more modest with a few careful stitches or the insertion of a cloth or lace panel. Non-sewers can also try wearing a high neckline top underneath something more revealing.

Remove and hold on to the back pockets from old denim jeans and sew them on to too-smart skirts and jackets for a more down-market-but-so-fashionable look.
Oh, and remove overly-fancy buttons and replace them with plainer ones. The fancy ones are great for upfashioning. But you knew that already.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Tip of the Week

This week our thanks to OneStop Organisers for these two useful tips if you are doing a spot of decorating.

If you need to stop for a break or overnight while painting, wrap your paint brushes and rollers in clingfilm so they won't dry out. That means you only have to clean them once at the end of the job. This not only saves time, it also saves water and cleaning materials. Good make and mend behaviour!

If you need to drill a hole in the wall, blu-tac an open envelope under the spot so you catch all the brick and plaster dust. Genius!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Top tips from Which? to ensure your recycling gets recycled

According to the May edition of the UK's Which? magazine, some 229,389 tonnes of recycling and composting material put out by households in England last year ended up in landfill.

The experts spoken to by Which? say recycling only gets rejected if it is ‘contaminated’ – for example when the wrong type of material gets put in or the items are in poor condition (soggy newspapers).

Rejection levels vary around the country. The 5 authorities with the highest rejection levels, according to Which?, had rejection rates between 22% (Hertsmere Borough Council) and 11%.

We have our own views on whether local authorities truly embrace recycling or are just going through the motions but, as make and menders, we should give them the least possible excuse for rejecting what we put out.

Which? published some excellent tips from Philip Ward at Wrap for improving your recycling skills. Wherever you happen to live, this is sensible advice to follow if you are consigning items to a recycling facility or kerbside collection.

Top tips from Which?
1. Only put something in a recycling box if you know your council will accept it. One wrong thing could result in the whole box being rejected. Ask your council or use the postcode checker at
2. Wash and squash – use old washing up water.
3. Remove lids and labels if your council asks you to do this.
4. Find alternatives for items your council can’t deal with.

We’d add one more tip: On the morning of your recycling, double check if a passing pedestrian has tossed something into your box that would lead to it being rejected (crisp packets and half eaten sandwiches seem to be particularly popular).

TheWhich? guide to recycling has tips on what to do with those difficult-to-recycle items, how to make the most of your council's services and a detailed breakdown of the materials councils typically accept for recycling.

Useful links
>> Make it and Mend it tips for sorting recycling

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Old beds into bowers

Make it and Mend its Hilary Bruffell (our resident psychologist and all-round MIAMI superstar) showed us her homemade garden furniture last week, shared her top tips and really inspired us.

Hilary made "Titania's Bower' a garden daybed from her son's childhood bed that had lain neglected in the shed for years. She tells us how she wove her magic with a bit of hard work and a lot of imagination. Hilary loves sewing so the daybed has been adorned with homemade cusions and she is growing trailing plants over it to create a bower effect. At night it is lit up with tea lights. Truly magical!

Not content with that, she went on to make a fabulous Moroccan sofa for the patio out of an old pine bed her mother was throwing out.

It looked a bit like this before
By using the foot of the bed sawn in half and refashioned to make arms, Hilary created this sumptuous and inviting Morrocan sofa. She has piled it with more of her homemade cushions (made from remnant fabrics). The result is perfect for lazy days in the sunshine. Mine's a Sauvignon Blanc please.....

These gardeb seats are great testiments to the fact that living creatively and sustainably can also be done stylishly. Hilary explains how easy it was to do these projects and gives her top tips to wannabe make and menders on the Make it and Mend it website.
She also explains how to make cushion covers
Have you managed to salvage old furniture and give it a new lease of life? Please tell us about it.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Growing vegetables in containers

My recent experiments with vegetable gardening in my tiny London garden also include growing vegetables in containers. The inspiration for this has come from a fabulous book Crops in Pots by Bob Purnell. This is packed with delicious photographs of fruit and vegetables growing decoratively in containers - they make most floral displays look bland in comparison.

The visual drama of bright red against green foliage from a display of tomatoes or peppers with some orange nasturtiums tumbling between them is stunning. You can even grow "Tumbling Tom" tomatoes in a hanging basket. Or for a more subtle colour combination, how about yellow courgettes with red leaved banana plants?

The book has some great tips on growing from seed, pests and diseases, planting and proposgation as well as guidance on the types of fruit and vegetable to grow. It is orgranised into Starters, Mains and Desserts and each double page is a different easy-to-do project with a beautiful full colour photo of the plant display, the list of "ingredients" you'll need to recreate it, a clear explanation of how to do it and a little recipe idea using the featured veg. There are also good ideas for unusual containers.

I defy you not to get inspired!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Come off it Kate!

There have been several articles in the media over the last few days about Kate Winslet and whether or not she is working class. Aside from the obvious cultural debates about the nature of class, the reasons as to why it is still so important and whether Kate is belittling those that are really suffering, what did interest me was her description of what she believed made her ‘working class’.

In an article that first appeared in Marie Claire, Kate Winslet, whose parents are actors, claims that she comes from a working class background because money was tight. She says

“we had these dreadful second-hand cars that would always die a death, or we’d go on holiday to Cornwall come back and it would have been nicked. It was like a Joe Orton farce, my family...Honestly, it was hand-me-down-shoes and 10p pocket money on a Saturday that didn’t go up until I was 11.”

What was interesting for me is that I too come from a theatrical family. My father ran a West End theatre and my mother was an actress, as were her parents and grand parents. The lifestyle that Kate describes is very similar to mine and yet I didn’t ascribe it to class or poverty, or for that matter being a ‘theatrical’; for me it was very much part of the way that most people lived in those days. It was a normal part of growing up. We all wore hand-me-downs, we all saved our weekly pittance to buy a special toy, and we all had second hand cars (if we were lucky enough to have a car at all).

This was the way of life for most of us back in the fifties, sixties and seventies, regardless of whether our parents were posh or poor. To define working class as being about wearing hand-me-downs and driving second hand cars is ludicrous.

Find out how Hilary Bruffell's actor mother and grandmother were real make and mend role models (despite the Royal Garden Parties and the very glamorous lifestyle) in this fascinating article. That's Hilary's parents in the picture.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

How to grow vegetables when you have no space

Now that many of us are facing tough times with the economic crisis, growing some of our own food has to be a good idea. But what do you do if you don't have much space? I had always thought you needed a sizeable vegetable plot or an allotment before you could even contemplate growing vegetables.

How wrong I was! I have now discovered the joys of sneaking vegetables in amongst the flowers in the few small beds I have in my little town patio garden. I had no idea how decorative they can be and how well they mix in with the flowers that are already there. Courgettes for example give a plentiful crop from a couple of plants and also reward you with their flowers.

This olive tree in a tall container last year was surrounded by geraniums. This year I've planted Mediterranean herbs (thyme and oregano) around it with some colour to come soon from a few blue sweet peas and some blue salvia. The different shades of green, different leaf textures and shapes make a wonderful combination. I'm now going to grow some real peas in with some sweet peas in a different corner of the garden, so I can have the benefit of the colour and scent of the sweet peas and the yummy taste of fresh peas form the pod. I can't wait!

(That's a fig tree just behind - there's already quite a lot of fruit appearing so fingers crossed!)

Monday, 4 May 2009

More recycled art

If you live in South East England then you have until 10th May to catch the exhibition Recycled By Design at the Lightbox in Woking. This features the work of two artists, Tim Gentry’s “Pleasure Spheres” and Paul Matosic’s “Landfill”.

The exhibition explores "the subtlety and ingenuity required to turn waste and found items into beautiful and unique objects". In their own ways, each questions what we throw away and explores what can be done by reusing and recycling creatively.

The Lightbox

Top Tip of the Week

This week our first ever Tip of the Week comes courtesy of Miss Thrifty

If you want to keep cakes fresher for longer, all you have to do is put a piece of orange peel or half an apple in the tin with the cake. It's as easy as that!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Hey Pesto!

There are just a couple of weeks left at the time of writing this, to send in your ideas for using pesto.

At Make it and Mend it we are big fans of pesto as it is so easy to get a jar out of the store cupboard and with just a couple of spoonfuls make some magical dishes.

The MIAMI team get together every two weeks. We rotate between each other's homes and last week we went to Hilary's place. She rustled us up a fantastic lunch and the piece de resistance was this delicious pastry tart that she reckons only took a few minutes to rustle up and 10 to 15 minutes in the oven.

All you need is some filo pastry (you can buy this frozen if you're not a pastry cook) to line a baking tray, spread some pesto on top, cover with some sliced tomato, peppers and goats' cheese, et voila' just top with a sprig of fresh basil to serve - delicious!

Send us your pesto tips and you could win a book of Sacla' pesto recipe cards (UK only)
This offer has now closed - we will shortly be publishing the recipes you sent us on our website

Saturday, 2 May 2009

10 ways to update your wardrobe without spending a fortune

It’s spring and the temptation to go out and buy a new wardrobe is huge; but in the current economic crisis few of us can afford to go on a shopping spree. Frugality is important, but one of the most important things in a recession is YOU: you are your most valuable asset and how you package yourself is vital to your success. So what can you do to ensure that you look your best, without spending a fortune?

Here are 10 tips for looking good on a budget.

1) Sort out your wardrobe – most of us have wardrobes that are overflowing with long forgotten items of clothing that should be either worn or passed on to a new home.

Firstly, put aside the ‘no brainers’; the clothes that you truly love and make you feel great and you know you will wear again.
Next go through what is left with a really discerning eye. Ask yourself a few simple questions.
Does it fit?
Do you truly like it?
Does the colour flatter you?
Does it make you feel really good?

Anything that doesn’t tick any of the boxes should be put aside into a separate pile that you can then go through and decide if items can be altered to fit or give a new lease of life, or whether it is past redemption and should go to the charity shop.

After eliminating the dead weight, what remains should be old favourites that are ready to be rediscovered and added to your daily wardrobe. It's time to organize and put everything back into your wardrobe and organise them in the following way.
• By type of clothes: shirts together, trousers together, skirts together, dresses together
• Shortest to longest: short sleeves to long sleeves, shorts to trousers,
• By colour--light to dark: beige short sleeves, beige long sleeves, brown shorts, brown trousers
Now you are ready to explore your wardrobe properly.

2) Learn to Sew
Buying a sewing machine and learning to sew is one of the best investments you can make. Even if you just know the basics, being able to sew can save you a lot of money and waste. With even the most basic sewing skills you’ll be able to fix rips and tears, replace buttons and alter the sizing to fit.
And if you keep practising you could eventually be making your own clothes from scratch. Making your own clothes doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you are canny and adopt the true Make it and Mend it style, you could find fabric all over the place: such as old curtains, sheets, tablecloths and fancy scarves and even vintage items and fabrics.

3) Clothing Repair
Just because your clothes might have holes or rips, be missing buttons and not fit properly, does not mean that you have to throw them away.
With some very basic sewing skills clothes can be given a new lease of life.
• Trousers and skirts that are too long can be hemmed
• Rips and tears can be mended
• Replace missing buttons
• Replace or repair zips
• Soak whites in pre-wash whiteners to give them a fresh, new, brilliant whiteness
• Polish and re-heel your shoes - getting rid of scuffs will lift everything you wear and radically improve your appearance
• Shine and mend your jewellery - you can rediscover old favourites. (For silver jewellery try this great "free" polishing trick)

4) Adapt - Making Old Things New Before you throw something away think about if there’s any way you can do it up, modernise it or otherwise revamp it. Clothes that no longer fit too well or that have some tears or holes in them can be made into a brand new outfit. Trousers can be shortened to form Capri pants or shorts. Dresses can become skirts. A jacket that is too tight to fasten at the waist can either have the buttons moved to allow more space or be shortened into a cropped jacket that buttons at the bust line. Add a couple of button accents on the sleeve near the wrist and a patch pocket from the leftover material and no one will recognize it as the same old jacket. New buttons can breathe new life into a coat.
Sprucing up your wardrobe can be fun and creative. With a little time and effort you can have something new to wear that is stylish and individual. Go out there and visit those arts and crafts stores, keep those extra buttons from clothes that you are getting rid of, and fabric scraps, because you never know what new article of clothing they can help you create.

5) Think like a fashion stylist
Now comes the fun part – creating a new look. Mix and match your pieces and see how they can be worn in new ways. Try layering, clashing colours and combining smart with casual clothes. Get creative or use magazines for inspiration, you'll be amazed at how many new outfits you can create with the pieces you already own.

6) Have a clothes swap party
Gather your friends and swap clothes, footwear and accessories for free. Clothes swapping or Swishing is a great way of recycling your unwanted clothes and, at the same time, the chance of bagging yourself a real bargain. One woman's cast offs are another girl's steal. Get some tips on how to do this.

7) Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise
Invest in accessories. If you know how to match accessories with your outfit, you will look stylish. Buying accessories would actually cost less and will update your wardrobe immediately. Scarves, belts, bangles, bags and shoes are great for re-energising a tired outfit or creating a completely new look for a well used dress.

Accessories needn’t cost the earth. Make friends with your local charity and vintage shops and keep your eyes out for those fabulous pieces that will revolutionise your wardrobe.

8) Shop for what you need, not what you want
Having sorted out your wardrobe you now know what is missing and what you can’t live without. If you do have to buy something new, think carefully about what you buy. Don't obsess over the latest must-have: focus on what you need to round out your wardrobe instead. Do you really need a 10th pair of flip flops or another little black dress? No, but perhaps that fabulous statement necklace is just the thing to make your little black dress or classic white shirt pop.

Remember the key to savvy dressing is ‘quality over quantity’. Fashion editors follow the 70/30 rule which means that 70% of your closet space should hold the classic pieces, while the remaining 30% should be reserved for the seasonal pieces. It is never easy to shop on a tight budget, but you can do it if you stick to the basics. Classic pieces never go out of style and can be wearable in whatever season you are in. Invest in quality. Make sure that anything you buy makes you feel fabulous and always go for flattering cuts and simple, yet stylish, silhouettes that will last for years.

8). Invest in quality pieces that are flexible and are capable of multitasking.
Only invest in pieces that can be worn to a variety of different events - day or night, casual or dressy affairs. Also try to focus on pieces that can cross the seasons, with clever layering, clothes can be worn all year round

9) Highlight your wardrobe with cheap chic trendy pieces
Only when you have gone through the other stages are you ready to go out and buy the fun fashion pieces. Whilst the majority of your wardrobe should consist of quality pieces that will last, a few well places fashion items will lift your wardrobe and bring it slap up to date without costing a fortune. And don't forget, vintage can be a great way to add fabulous pieces at reasonable prices. Have a look at Catwalk Creative for some eco friendly fashion pieces

10) Take care of your clothes
Finally the most important bit of advice - Take good care of your clothes and you'll wear them for years. Clothes care tips.

STOP PRESS! Take the Pledge
If you want support and an incentive to remake your wardrobe check out Wardrobe Refashion.
This has been going for a few years and particpants pledge to abstain from the purchase of new manufactured clothing for the period of 2, 4, 6 months or LIFE. They pledge to refashion, renovate, and recycle preloved items with their own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium or make their own from scratch. Anyone falling off the wagon has to confess by displaying a "Get out of Reafshionista Jail Free" card. Check it out - there's loads of examplesto give you support and inspiration.