I can remember being at Brownies and working towards my “thrift badge”. Basically it involved making something new from something old. I made a pot holder out of an old towel. A square piece of yellow towel, double thickness with blanket stitch round the edge and the words POT HOLDER embroidered in the middle just in case you had any doubts as to its identity.
And a “pot holder” is? Well it lived in the camping box and was used for lifting the kettle off the camping stove to stop you burning your hand in the process of making a pot of tea. But that would have been too much to stitch on a small scrap of fabric.
I got my thrift badge which had a bee on it. Are bees renowned for their thriftiness?
The strange things us young girls got up to in the seventies! I’m sure there is no longer such a thing as a thrift badge. It's not a word we use much any more. The name of course could have been changed to a "recycling challenge badge" but not having girls I have no idea.
The idea of "recycling" or "thrift" or "make do and mend" mentality is not new at all. It’s come full circle and is all back in fashion.
There is a lady at our church who has for a long time made handbags from recycled materials, old coats, curtains, skirts. She has plundered the charity shop for buttons and beads, oddments of wool and made some amazing creations – several of which reside in my wardrobe to be matched and co-ordinated with the appropriately coloured outfits.
As a fundraising idea in the holiday she held a day in the church hall to teach us how to make a bag with a view to sharing her skills and getting more bags made up ready to sell near Christmas in aid of our church hall development project.
We’ve been inspired and several of us have taken up the challenge to make more bags. I have a few in various stages of manufacture and now I have the hang of them I’m sure I can knock up several more before November.
I have my own limited supply of fabric and buttons but no end of ideas….
One of my many notions involved making a bag out of one of Andrew’s sweatshirts.
Most of his clothes went a long time ago, I didn’t see the point of holding on to them. I’m glad I did it then because whatever is still left I can’t bear to let go of now. I was sniffing an old decorating T shirt I found only yesterday. I think it mostly smells of the wooden wardrobe it was left in but it’s still comforting and reassuring…
The particular sweatshirt, I wanted to make the bag from, was one of his favourites and he probably had it the first Christmas we were married. I know it was a present from my mum and dad. It came from C&A so that dates it!
He wore it on the first day of the new millennium, I have a picture of him in it; he’s holding son number one on the balcony of our old house looking out at the sunrise. About three years earlier he had been wearing the same sweatshirt when our eldest son was born. Again there’s photographic evidence.
It had a soft feel to it, a slight fluffy texture which over the years of wearing and washing had worn flat but it was always very cosy to snuggle up to.
Many times over the years I had tried to put it in the draw of work clothes for him to take away off shore but he’d persist in wearing it out and for special occasions. For a man who loved anything plain to wear he did have a thing for patterned sweatshirts.
I took it out of the wardrobe and folded it into a bag shape with the arms as the handle. I figured it would work quite well so with trepidation I laid it out on my cutting board and cut the precious garment.
“You’ve murdered dad’s sweatshirt!” Was youngest son’s cry of horror.
Too late now. There was no going back.
It was a real labour of love as it wasn’t an easy fabric to work with. I’m not used to sewing knitted fabrics which stretch as you go along. However yesterday I finished it and today I used it for church.
I didn’t get many compliments; it’s not the kind of special bag that would warrant much attention and adulation. It’s a bag to carry while wearing jeans, something very casual which is very fitting.
Something of Andrew I can keep by my side every day.