This is one of my treasured posessions. Published in 1944 “in complete conformity with the authorized economy standards” it is an amazing window into a difficult world where women used their skill and imagination to keep things together for their families.
Its full of wonderful quotes, including this from the introduction:
This little book is, quite frankly, one for hard times and scarcity of materials, when thrift and make-do are the greatest of all household virtues. We are all passing through such a time now and so I hope that’Economy Knitting and Patchwork’ will help the knitter, the crochet worker adn the needlewoman all equally.
And when the national hard times are over, I believe that this book may still aid any women who are unluckily passing through individual hard times, when sixpences are scarce and each must somehow do the job of a shilling. I have tried, therefore, to choose economical ideas which will not readily date when the wheel of Fashion turns more rapidly again than it is in these days of coupons…
Well, that wheel has spun a fair few times since 1944 and while I wouldn’t pretend that our hard times are even a shadow of wartime hardship, I certainly don’t have much to splash out on materials. ‘Thrift and make-do’ are definitely virtues needed around here, so, inspired by the lovely Butterfly Balcony blog amongst other things I’m doing a bit of making do, using some oddballs, mostly of Rowan Felted Tweed:
I’m planning on making a patchwork cushion cover, trying out some of the knitting stitches in ‘Economy Knitting’ as sample squares.
This first, green, square is in what’s simply called ‘Triangle Pattern’: “An effective design for skirts, shawls and blankets, and looks best in thick wool on a comparatively heavy article.” Personally, I’m really taken by the idea of a cardigan using this stitch and despite the fact that I’m fully embroiled with pattern testing for my ‘Baby Queen Bess’ sweater I’m already turning ideas over for how that would work.
The second, red, square I’m working on is ‘Barred Stripe Stitch’: “A decorative pattern, which looks well on jumpers, jerseys and boys’ or men’s sports stockings.” Can’t see myself knitting any men’s sports stockings anytime soon, but I’m sure it’ll look great on the cushion.
More making-do and mending is planned for the rest of the weekend, so will hopefully have more to share here soon.
Our baby girl is nearly one! With her brother turning three the week before it’s going to be a busy time. Somehow I’ve managed to swerve organising duties on both counts, as each of the grandmothers are taking a turn at hosting. All I have to do is send out the invitations, make a few cakes (including one like a Combine Harvester, gulp!) and turn up with the little ones. As we’re not exactly sending out a huge number of invites to M’s party, I had a go at making my own cards today, doodling with some felt pens. The theme, like her Christening is ‘All Things Bright And Beautiful’, partly because she’s a summer baby who arrived with the flowers and partly because she is just that…bright and beautiful.
Sometimes you just need to get out and breathe. This was very much the case today, after a tough week that had left us emotionally wrung out and rather uncertain about what happens next. The thing about going out walking is that once you’re there, with sandwiches and fruit for lunch in your rucksack, it doesn’t actually matter how much money you have (or don’t have). The heavens will open on anyone’s head, prince or pauper. In actual fact, while the rain was almost horizontal as we toiled up to Blea Tarn (hoorah for our new-old veg-oil powered Jeep! Potholes? Who cares?) and lashed at the windscreen as we ate lunch in the car, it actually more or less held off as we walked, played hide and seek and in some cases paddled round the tarn and back. Wind swirled around the Langdale Valley, threatening to bring the slate-grey cloud down onto us, but for some reason the sun decided it would keep smiling for just the right amount of time. With tired babies and soothed souls, we headed for home.
Like a lot of families, heck, like a lot of people, we’re finding things tough financially at the moment. It was never really the plan for me not to be working at all while the children were babies (much as I know that’s what some people choose to do) just as it was never really the plan for C to be made redundant, or for us to have to move house, three times within two years, with all the attendant expenses. On top of this there’s the rising cost of living and just as food gets more expensive, we’ve two little people who want to eat more and more of it!
Still, we know we’re still better off than most of the people on the planet so we breathe in and tighten the old belt a few more notches. That said, I refuse to eat dull uninspiring food just because every penny has to be watched at the supermarket. So it’s even more cooking from scratch, more poring over recipe books and more building of skills in making everything go further.
For example, on Sunday we bought a Freedom Farms chicken (we just can’t stretch to organic sadly) and had a family roast. That evening, C stripped and chopped up the carcass so I could make stock, which I then froze in measured portions (the measuring was, I thought, remarkably forward thinking of me!). The next day, keeping some cold chicken aside for lunches in the week, I used the meat and leftover gravy to make pasties, using the River Cottage ‘Everyday’ cookbook for guidance and a rough puff pastry recipe and had enough filling left over to make a few baby meals for M. I have to admit to being a bit of a fan of the River Cottage books, although I do find that ‘Everyday’ is pushing it a bit as a description for a lot of recipes, at least on our budget.
While I was in the baking mood, I also made some olive focaccia bread, from the same recipe book, and some hummus using a recipe my sister-in-law gave me. Today this was added to Tabula Kisir (recipe from guess what? That book again!) which is a lovely tabouleh type thing with bulghar wheat, fresh herbs, tomatoes, peppers etc, and made a really rather superior lunch for an otherwise ordinary Tuesday. The bread is all gone, but the hummus and Tabula will do us for the rest of the week I think.
Given that we stayed more or less within our miniscule budget this week, it’s gratifying to have such good eating going on.
>I feel for prisoners of old who had to sew sacks. I’ve been trying it out recently- sewing hessian sacks using old fashioned garden twine and it’s shredded my fingers. The reason for doing it was not because I was doing time, but rather to make up the Scarecrow Kit from Hen and Hammock we were given as a Christmas present. As we’re currently seeding a new area of lawn, we put ‘Jeff’ (for some reason P decided to name him after his Godfather) to use straight away, keeping the birds away, we hope, and holding the hosepipe as we gave the seeds a good soak.
While Jeff was doing his job outside, I was clearing out the greenhouse. This is a job I’ve been meaning to do since we moved here last year, as I was so excited about having a greenhouse. Things (usually child-related!) got in the way and I’ve only just found the time to get in there. I filled two rubbish sacks with old trays and pots made brittle by UV exposure, discarded packets and weedkiller botttles, saving what was worth using again. I love the ‘make do and mend’-ness of gardening.
As outdoor growing space is still only ‘on the list’ rather than a reality this years sowing has been mainly stuff that will stay in the greenhouse: a selection of tomatoes which have gone in late but hopefully will do okay; strawberries, which I cheated and bought as plantlings; herbs including basil, oregano, sage, parsley, coriander and sage; butternut squash which will end up outside (somewhere!); borlotti beans that P sewed with my mum when we visited her and which will also need a home outside and sunflowers to squeeze in somewhere, grown from seeds sent to P and M by my sister.