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Make Do and Mend: A Response to the Climate Emergency

Make Do and Mend: A Response to the Climate Emergency

We’re making changes in the Green Heart shop on Gateshead High Street. We’ve opened up the back area to become a making place for the team, volunteers and customers. The obvious next step in our evolution towards becoming a sustainable community space in the heart of Gateshead, this move develops the Green Heart vision to reduce waste to landfill by reusing, recycling, repairing and upcycling.

Make Do and Mend: A Response to the Climate Emergency

In my Research and Development work around this project, I came across an inspiring article from the Imperial War Museums10 Top Tips For Winning At 'Make Do And Mend'– that is well worth a read. This article raised a smile as it resonates so much with the work of Green Heart and my own personal journey over the last few years.

Give your sewing skills a boost

When Andy and I formed Green Heart Collective in 2020, my sewing skills were limited to sewing on a button and my first foray into upcycling was adding strategically placed buttons to damaged or stained garments. After one formal sewing course and a supportive sewing group, I can now follow a pattern and have made several dresses and housecoats from damaged clothing and vintage curtains – I am the curtain queen! I’m no expert and am proof that anyone can learn to sew!

Turn old textiles into something new

This is my passion and I love entering the Transformation Challenge that Green Heart Collective runs twice a year. There is no better feeling than creating something beautiful out of something damaged and unwanted. It’s great to see the imagination, skill and creativity that is poured into all the entries. My latest entry was a lampshade made from a damaged dress, using the satin lining for the main cover and the chiffon top layer for the embellishments. And then I returned to my button love core and had the best time decorating the shade with buttons and ribbons.

Go to a clothing exchange

This is similar to what we now call a Clothes Swap, and I love a clothes swap! I have just got a fab 70s style dress from the latest Green Heart Clothes Swap that I plan to wear for a wedding in August – if I can wait that long to wear it! You just never know what treasures you will find and it is so gratifying to see others excited to be giving your unwanted clothes a new home.

Why Make Do and Mend?

But why do we need to do this now? Surely there is an abundance of clothes in our shops at this point in history. Patrick Grant from the Great British Sewing Bee asserts that there are enough clothes on the planet right now to last for the next six generations.

This is not wartime. We do not have the clothing ration books as were introduced from 1 June 1941, as fabric was essential for war purposes, such as uniforms.

Why should we bother with mending and upcycling?

Because we are living in a time of emergency. A climate emergency. The way we are living in the Western world is damaging the planet to a point where there will be no way back. We have a system of mass consumerism based on infinite growth on a finite planet. We’re producing and consuming far more than we need, creating far more waste than we can mange effectively.

This is not just me over-reacting. In a Guardian article from 8 July 2024, the Copernicus Climate Change Service confirm that temperatures worldwide have been 1.5C above the pre-industrial era average (before the fossil fuel era) for the past 12 months. This is beyond scary: we’re talking scorching heat, violent weather, catastrophic tipping points, a dystopian scenario in the near future.

This is the bottom line –

“The hotter the planet gets, the less people and ecosystems can adapt.”

And so yes, this is a crisis. An emergency. And a swift and effective response is needed.

Which brings us back to mending and upcycling. We have to break this cycle of over consumption. We have to stop buying new. We have to embrace this wartime mentality of giving unwanted items a second life.

At Green Heart Collective, we work everyday to create a sustainable business with resilience and community at its heart, that encourages customers to reject fast fashion, step away from mass consumerism and embrace a new way of living and being.

Make Do and Mend. Or Make, Do and Mend.

I’m a fan of adding that comma, because to me, ‘make do’ implies something second rate, scraping by, living a lesser life. My personal experience is that this way of life is far more rewarding than the alternative. Coming together to make things, to buy nothing new, to exercise our imagination and creativity is way more of a dopamine hit than walking into a High Street Store and buying a new item, knowing the cost to the planet and to the workers that made the garment.

So I’m super excited about the new Green Heart Making Place, where individuals can come together to share skills and make, do and mend. If you need further persuading, watch this newsreel trailer, made by the Ministry of Information in 1943 –

“All you need to get through this, we’re told, is a bit of imagination and a little help from your friends.

"Why not get together with your friends and form a Make Do and Mend group? Then you can all help each other.”

Join us over the summer in the Green Heart shop on Tuesday mornings from 10:30-12:30. It’s free of charge and you can bring your own project to work on or join us in learning how to upcycle unwanted textiles into something practical and beautiful.

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