Crafts and Handwork

We have some fabric that was given to us that is some of the ugliest fabric ever created.  (And it was given to us for just that reason, so no worries that I’m offending anyone by saying that.)  

The point is, it was free and useful.  In fact, just yesterday, my sister used a large piece of it to “carpet” the ramp in the chickenhouse.  (Their roost is raised up off the ground, for critter protection, and the ramp helps them get up to it.)  The older chickens, who can pretty well fly (well, flap, anyway) can get up it okay, but when Tory’s babies hatch out, I’m afraid it will be too steep for them.  Having fabric on the ramp instead of slick wood will give something for their little toes to grip to get back into the safe place. 

 Similarly, the fabric comes in handy when I’m putting a patch under embroidery on my jeans.  You never see the fabric, so it doesn’t matter how ugly it is.  But it gives a solid base to anchor the embroidery to.  You don’t get very far when you try to embroider in a hole! 

Frugality to me means using whatever you have, and if you can get something for free, finding a use for it.  This isn’t fabric I would want to wear or turn into items around my house, but it has use and purpose and value–when you take the time to see them. 


It’s really sad how much this concept has fallen out of the public awareness.  If something is worn or torn or damaged, we tend to replace it automatically–even if the damage is only cosmetic, and doesn’t actually affect the item’s functionality. 

Case in point: I tore the knee of one of my jeans the other day.  So are they a write-off?  No way!  It was a nice straight tear, so a little flat whipstitching kept it from tearing any farther.  (A stitch in time saves nine, remember!)   But the fabric around the mend is still very weak, so I’m probably going to put in a patch inside the jeans (you can put them on the outside if you want; I prefer embroidery to patches, so my patches go on the inside) and embroider them as I have time.  The inside patch gives them added strength, so they don’t tear further, but the embroidery will reinforce the patch and make sure it doesn’t tear away from the jeans.  (Plus, it looks really nice.) 

 Or, consider this: the handle breaks off one of your stainless steel pots.  You don’t have the necessary skills to fix it, and there’s no one around who can do it for you.  Is it time for the trash can? 

Nope.  If possible, continue using it as a pot; just use two potholders when lifting it off the stove.  Or, if that makes you nervous, find another use for it.  We lifted one of our broken pots off with potholders for several years.  Then when we got a new pot as a gift, we “recycled” the old one; it replaced a plastic margarine tub as a water bowl for the dog. 

But sometimes, making do means just living with what you have until a new one comes along.  That towel with the tear in it will still dry you off.  The cup with the chip in it will still hold coffee.  The shirt with the stain on it still offers protection from the elements and a covering for your body.  If you can mend, clean, or reuse something, go for it.  But if not–sometimes the best thing you can do is just live with it. 

 Here’s a challenge for you: find one thing over the next week that you can live with or mend.  A stained shirt, a torn sheet, a shoe with a hole in the toe…all these are things that can be lived with or mended.  Obviously, make do and mend won’t work all the time for everyone; the working woman who gets a stain on her blouse that simply won’t come out probably shouldn’t show up at work the next morning and tell her boss that she’s just making do.  But over the next week, I challenge you to find at least one thing that you would normally throw out and see how you can make it do.  If nothing else, you’ll realize that the world doesn’t end when your sneakers get a little ratty.  Stains don’t spell certain doom.  And some cups are designed without handles. 

 I leave you now with a thought from one of my favorite songs: 

Got some highs, got some lows, but the wise man, he knows what it’s really about/You get by doing without. ~Surviving the Life, Neil Diamond

At first glance, those two may seem like oxymorons.  Embroidery is fancy stuff, decorative stuff…”pretties”.  Not frugal. 

In fact, however, I’ve found a basic knowledge of embroidery to be one of the most useful and frugal skills I’ve ever learned.  I use it all the time for mending my clothing–including jeans!  Maybe the hippies had it right all this time. 

 Embroidery has the benefit of being more attractive than patches or simple stitchery mending.  I don’t feel like a ragbag when I’m wearing embroidered clothing; instead, I feel like that noble wife of Proverbs 31; she maketh herself coverings of tapestry!  Well, perhaps she had to; they would have worn out, otherwise. 

 The key to mending your clothing with embroidery, especially jeans, is to catch the problems when they’re still tiny holes or tears.  If you can, catch them while they’re still nothing more than weak spots in the fabric. 

If the hole has progressed to the point that you can’t embroider it because there’s no fabric left to embroider onto, add a patch  on the inside of the hole and cover it with embroidery. 

There’s something a bit daring about working in embroidered jeans.  It’s fun.  🙂  It also makes you feel good–at least it does me!–to know that just because you’re being frugal and relying on “make do and mend” doesn’t mean that you have to be drab or ugly, or that pretty things can’t be a part of your life. 

That’s the magic of frugality and embroidery. 

My first basket is finished.  It’s a darling little thing–a bit whopsided, but then, it is my first.  And the bottom is actually flat, which means it stands up just exactly as it’s supposed to.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s quite an achievement! 

This particular basket is rather small, with an upright handle–I’ll post pictures as soon as I upload them–but I’m thinking next time I may try to do a large, shallow basket.  We’ll see.  I don’t have the vines for another basket at the moment; I’ll have to cut some more on my walk tomorrow morning. 

One of the books I borrowed from the library last week was on making your own baskets.  It’s something I’ve wanted to learn how to do for a long time, actually, but I only just took the initiative to get a book that would help me learn how to do it. 

The book is quite interesting, although a lot of the baskets look much too complicated for a complete beginner such as myself.  Some of them look doable, however, so this morning I brought home some kudzu vines which are currently soaking in water to make them more pliable. 

I can’t wait to get started.