Posted in Activity, Fashion History, Film, Historical Hair and Make-up, History, Literature, Vintage, Vintage Retail, World War Two

Rationing Fashion in 1940s Britain – Make Do & Mend

The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

  • June 1943, Berketex Utility Fashions. Those shown in the picture were designed by Norman Hartnell (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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  • World War Two Utility clothing for women, c.1942. Photograph by James Jarche. (Photo by Daily Herald Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

Every now and again, scavenging in local charity shops pays dividends. Lurking behind a glut of seventies kitsch my mum (Queen of retro scavenging!) found two cloth-bound publications. She had a ‘hunch’ they might be something special and was right.  The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) and The Complete Book of Sewing: Dressmaking and Sewing For The Home Made Easy by Constance Talbot (1948). Both books cost the princely sum of £2. Mum had struck gold again and I am very grateful that she combs her local charity shops on a regular basis.

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  • ‘Make Do & Mend’ World War Two poster. (Photo by The National Archives/SSPL/Getty Images)

These books are superb examples of the 1940s ‘Make Do and Mend’ culture. A trend borne out of economic necessity and inspired by government legislation. Home dressmaking became extremely popular in the 1940s. In recent times, this approach to needlecraft has returned, although is now referred to as ‘upcycling’ or the ‘pre-loved, re-loved’ trend. Whatever term you choose, it still makes perfect economic sense.

During World War Two, clothes rationing come into effect in Britain on the 1st June, 1941, lasting until March, 1949. Initially, clothes were rationed on a points system and no clothing coupons were issued. Britons were asked to handover their unused margarine coupons if they wanted a new item of clothing.

  • ‘Mrs Sew and Sew’ (1944) British Pathé, Ministry of Information Government film. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

When clothes rationing first began, the government allowed each adult enough coupons to buy one new outfit a year. However, this standard issue soon became unworkable, as the years of rationing progressed you would be lucky if your coupons purchased you a coat, let along a whole new outfit!

  • ‘Make Do & Mend Trailer’ Aka Clothing Coupons Trailer (1943) British Pathé. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

Coupon values for women: lined coat over 71 cm in length (14), jacket or short coat (11), wool dress (11), non-wool dress (7), blouse, cardigan or jumper (5), skirt or divided skirt (culottes) (7), overalls or dungarees (7), apron or pinafore (3), pyjamas (8), nightdress (6), slip, petticoat or combination undergarment (4), corset (3), stockings (2), ankle socks (1), pair of slippers, boots or shoes (5).

  • A book of clothing coupons dated 1947-8, plus three sheets of coupons

Coupon values for men: unlined cape or mackintosh (9), raincoat or overcoat (16), jacket or blazer (13), waistcoat or cardigan (5), wool trousers (8), corduroy trousers (5), overalls or dungarees (denim) (6), dressing gown (8), pyjamas or nightshirt (8), wool shirt or combination (one piece undergarment) (8), shirt or combination, not-wool (5), socks (3), collar or tie or two handkerchiefs (1), scarf or pair of gloves (2), slippers or rubber galoshes (4), pair of boots or shoes (7).

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  • ‘Deft Darns’ by Mrs Sew and Sew, 1939-1945 (Photo by The National Archives/SSPL/Getty Images)

In order to make a purchase, the shopper handed over their coupons as well as money. The more fabric and labour that was needed to produce a garment, the more points required. Children’s clothes had lower points value, pregnant women were given an extra allocation for maternity and baby clothes. Furnishing fabrics were also used for dressmaking until they were placed on the ration too.001

The government tackled the problem of clothing civilians in three ways, rationing, Utility and Austerity. In 1943, the British Ministry of Information issued a Make Do and Mend pamphlet which was:

…intended to help you to get the last possible ounce of wear out of all of your clothes and household things…No doubt there are as many ways of patching or darning as there are of cooking potatoes.

(Hugh Dalton’s Foreword from Make Do and Mend by The Ministry of Information (1943))

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  • Mannequins parading before service women are showing the latest Utility fashions and the ‘731’, an artificial silk-plated stocking called ‘Mr Dalton’s Stocking’ after the President of the Board of Trade, Hugh Dalton. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

During the first week of February 1942, the Utility Apparel Order came into force, all garments produced would now be marked using a ‘CC41’ label (‘Controlled Commodity 1941’).  It carried a reference to 1941 because the mark had been designed by artist Reginald Shipp during the early planning stages for Utility dress. In 1942, 50% of all clothes produced came under the Utility scheme by 1945 this number had risen to 85%.

Clothes have simply got to last longer than they used to, but only the careful woman can make them last well. If you want to feel happy in your clothes as long as they last, start looking after them properly from the very beginning.

(Make Do and Mend by The Ministry of Information, 1943)

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  •  June 1943. Models wearing Berketex Utility fashions designed by Norman Hartnell (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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  • Utility Clothes,1943. A model leans against a window sill as she shows off her mustard-coloured wool Spectator dress, costing eleven coupons. She is also wearing a dark-coloured turban and holding a handbag with a large metal clasp. (Photo by Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer/ IWM via Getty Images)

Top 10 Make Do And Mend Tips

A selection of tips and hints from Make Do and Mend (1943), advice that is just as useful in today’s cash-strapped times. Upcycle your wardrobe don’t go out and buy something new, most importantly, look after the clothes that you do have:

  1. Mend clothes before washing them or sending them to the laundry, or the hole or tear may become unmanageable. Thin places especially must be dealt with, or they may turn into holes;
  2. For grease use a hot iron on a piece of clean white blotting paper placed over the stain [brown parcel paper is excellent when used this way to remove candlewax from fabric];
  3. Use dress shields to protect clothes from perspiration, but don’t leave shields in when putting clothes away for any length of time [this also cuts down your dry cleaning bills for silk/satin dresses/blouses. Simply remove the dress shields and wash those in hot soapy water];
  4. When folding clothes, put bunched-up newspaper [or tissue paper] between the folds to prevent creases;
  5. Never hang knitted wool or silk clothes, wet or dry. Store them flat in a drawer, and dry on a flat surface. Spread them out flat in the open air after shaking them gently, to air them;
  6. Remember that even the smallest scraps left over from your renovations will come in useful for something: patching, tea-cosies, coverings for buttons, hanging loops, binding for buttonholes, trimmings, kettle holders, polishers, and so on;
  7. Open the front of a blouse which has become too tight, and put in a contrasting button band, complete with collar. Or, if it has long sleeves, make them short, and use the material left over for your button band;
  8. A useful skirt can be made from a dress, the bodice of which is past repair. Cut it away at the waist, make a side placket and mount it on a Petersham band. The best parts from the bodice can be cut into a belt to finish the waistline or to make patch pockets on the hips. Pocket patches would hide any defects in the front;
  9. A man’s discarded waistcoat can be made into a woman’s jerkin by knitting a woollen back and sleeves. Beige with chocolate-brown, or canary coloured sleeves and back on a black pin-striped waistcoat would be very effective;
  10. Felted or matted wool. Have you a hopelessly-looking, thoroughly shrunk and matted old jumper or jacket? Unpick the seams carefully, don’t unravel it. You can then treat it just like cloth, cutting it out from a paper pattern. If, of course, it is not matted all over, you must tack the parts where stitches are likely to run, before cutting. Machine round the edge of the pattern and join up by hand. This keeps the garment firm and stops it from stretching. This cloth will make boleros, waistcoats, children’s coats, caps, gloves, capes, hoods, indoor Russian boots and many other articles. Old white wool, dipped in cold, clear coffee, will make attractive accessories.
From my copy of The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time.
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

How To Make A Wrap-Around Turban (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Use soft woollen, a wool jersey, or a very firmly woven rayon crêpe. A yard of 40-inch material will make two turbans. Cut the turban 36-inches long and half the width of the material. Fold at A and seam the folded end. With a series of gathers, gather this seam into a 2  1/2 inch measure. Place the gathered material at the beginning of your hairline in the centre front, mark the turban, as shown at B. Split the unfinished end through the centre of the fabric up to the mark on the material, so that the ends can cross and wrap around the head. Tie the turban and make sure you have split it so it ties at the most becoming angle. When the effect is just what you want, hem the unfinished edges.

  • February 1943. Model wearing a dress, Green Park is the colour and herringbone allies with plain yoke. The dress costs sixty shillings to buy. (Photo by James Jarche/Popperfoto/Getty Images)

How To Make A Pill-Box Hat (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Cut a band and a circle of buckram as shown in the diagram. To get the size, measure the head with a tape measure. Use this measure on line A of the diagram, and cut a strip of paper, shaping it as shown in the diagram. Join the ends of the band and place it over a piece of paper as you can outline on that paper the circle formed by the band. This circle is the top of the crown. When you have fitted the paper band to the head in the effect you like, cut a band and a circle from the buckram with these patterns. Cover them with fabric and join the two pieces with small stitches which do not show. Line the hat with pieces cut by the same patterns and seamed together.

  • Hats Aka ‘Make Do & Mend’ Hats (1942) British Pathé. Some Utility fashion ideas from Anne Edwards, fashion editor of Woman magazine. Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.14.

The term ‘Mend and Make Do’ – a familiar phrase – sums up all possibilities for helping a worn garment to last just a little longer. This chapter, devoted to all aspects of garment renovation, shows how imagination and the application of small fashion touches can make the repaired garment still a pleasurable one to wear.

(Extract from The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946)

The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time

Replacing Frayed Collars (The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948))

Collars can be turned by ripping the seam which holds the collar in place. Reserve the collar, turn it over, and replace it. Baste it before sewing and try it on to see that the collar fits properly round the neck. Or a new collar of contrasting material or fur can be sewn on top of the old one, and in that case the trimming can be extended down the front edge of the coat.

Imperial War Museum London – ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style’ Exhibition

 A new exhibition, ‘Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style’, opens at the Imperial War Museum, London on Thursday 5th March, 2015 and continues until Monday 31st August, 2015. Artefacts (300 of them) include accessories, photographs, film, artworks, interviews and clothing. On display will be key pieces of uniform from the men’s and women’s services as well as more unusual items such as gas mask handbags, blackout buttons, a bridesmaid’s dress made from parachute silk and an underwear set made from RAF silk maps for Countess Mountbatten. Click here.

  • April 1944. (Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images)

    ©Come Step Back in Time
    The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time
The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time
The Pictorial Guide to Modern Home Needlecraft (1946) ©Come Step Back in Time

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  • Lady Reading using a sewing machine at the Women’s Voluntary Services headquarters during World War Two.
My grandmother's 1948 Singer sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
My grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine (Serial No. EE617052). My grandmother ordered this machine as soon as World War Two ended in 1945. Due to the shortage of materials following the war, she had to wait three years before taking delivery of her beloved sewing machine. This machine was my grandmother’s pride and joy which resulted in many, many years of home dressmaking. Home dressmaking in our family is a tradition that has been passed down from my mother to me. ©Come Step Back in Time
Detail of my grandmother's 1948 sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
Detail of my grandmother’s 1948 sewing machine. ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
The Complete Book of Sewing by Constance Talbot (1948). ©Come Step Back in Time
Posted in Activity, Fashion History, History, Mrs Beeton, Museum, Vintage, World War One, World War Two

Vintage Pinboard – Make & Bake – Be Inspired In 2013

Vintage Cooking 2Happy New Year to you all, I hope that 2013 brings you good health and happiness in equal measure.

I say a fond farewell to 2012 –  what an incredible year it was. During the past twelve months I have experienced the usual highs and lows of everyday life as well as a number of unexpected media opportunities which may not have come my way had I not written this blog.

I am hoping that 2013 will be full of adventure and new experiences. I cannot wait to share my news with you about one of these exciting media opportunities, a primetime television series that I have recently been involved in. However, I have to keep my ‘secret squirrel’ promise for a little while longer before all can be revealed and the series finally airs on British television.

The start of a new year is, for many, a time of new beginnings, setting resolutions and making plans for the future. This year, one of my creative aims is to improve my knitting and crocheting skills which at present can best be described as of a basic level. I began my first knitting project in December, a plain scarf for my parents’ dog. A hit I think, but not quite as much as the packet of tasty treats and squeaky ball which were also in the dog’s Christmas stocking!

Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!
Margie models her Christmas scarf. I think she was pleased with it!

Last year, I purchased a selection of vintage knitting patterns from the 1940s, 50s and 60s. The pattern books contain many inspiring projects. Although, fifty or so years ago most knitters were pretty accomplished at their craft and some of the patterns do look fiendishly difficult but I like to have something to work towards.

My grandmother's 1948 Singer sewing machine.
My grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine.

Whilst home for the holidays, I took the opportunity to have a rummage in my parents’ attic and was not disappointed by my search. Amongst the assortment of heirlooms and vintage treasures, I found a real gem – my late grandmother’s 1948 Singer sewing machine (Serial No. EE617052).  Mum told me that grandmother had ordered the machine in 1945 and due to the shortage of materials following World War Two, waited three years before taking delivery of it. Mum said that it was grandmother’s pride and joy.

Detail of my grandmother's 1948 sewing machine.
Detail of my grandmother’s 1948 sewing machine.

In 2013, I would like to bring the Singer back to life, perhaps using it to make a vintage outfit. I thought I might use it to make a copy of Christian Dior’s, 1948, New Look – similar to the outfit I wore to the first Goodwood Revival meeting in 1998. (Featured in 1950’s Britain – Part Three)  However, it will have to wait for a short bit as I am currently making a 1950s evening gown for one of my ongoing media projects and anyway, I will need to get the Singer properly serviced first.

I wanted to find-out more about Singer sewing machines. During the course of my research I found a really interesting website, Love to Know Antiques: Advice Women Can Trust  CLICK HERE. The article on Singer machines was very helpful, particularly when it came to identifying the exact production date of grandmother’s machine.

There are now a growing number of collectors and vintage enthusiasts who are using antique sewing machines for their crafting and dressmaking. Artist Sarah Harper, owner of Rowan Tree Studios, collects and uses them for teaching sewing courses at her workshop in Clovelly, Devon. CLICK HERE. The February issue of Homes & Antiques magazine (on sale in the UK, 3rd January) also includes an article on ‘Vintage Sewing Machines’, exploring why they are becoming increasingly popular and desirable to collect. CLICK HERE. So what are you waiting for, treat yourself to a secondhand sewing machine, you will be so glad you did. Many of the models can be brought for less than £100. Sarah Harper also sells and reconditions old machines so do check-out her website before you begin your search. CLICK HERE.

I discovered there is a Museum dedicated to sewing machines.  The London Sewing Machine Museum can be found on the first floor of Wimbledon Sewing Machine Company’s premises (292-312 Balham High Road, London, SW17 7AA – Tooting Bec tube stop using the London Underground) which is owned by Ray Rushton.  The Museum has over seven hundred industrial and domestic machines, many of which are incredibly rare, including one owned by Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, HRH Princess Frederick of Prussia (1840-1901).  The machine was made in 1865 by a German company to a Wheeler & Wilson pattern, it had been given as a wedding present to the Princess. (Homes & Antiques, February, 2013, Sorrell, K., p.62).

The Museum is open on the first Saturday of every month, between 2pm and 5pm. The next two openings will be on Saturday 2nd February and Saturday 2nd March.  Admission to the Museum is free but donations, upon entry, towards The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Leukaemia Research, would be much appreciated. One point I must alert you to, is that due to the fact the Museum is located on the first floor of a building, access is via approximately forty steps. Unfortunately, they do not have a lift, so access for the disabled and those with limited physical ability, is restricted.  For views of the Museum’s interior, CLICK HERE.

Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: 'Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were close based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond's patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin's only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Judkin sewing machine. The display label reads: ‘Charles Tiot Judkins was the only British exhibitor of a sewing machine in the 1851 exhibition. His machines, made in Manchester, were closely based on American prototypes. This particular type of single thread chainstitch machine was presented in Ameria in 1859 by Charles Raymond. Judkins registered Raymond’s patent in England in 1865 (No. 144) and this little machine is Judkin’s only essay into small domestic machines and few have survived, his other wares relate to industry. Weir and several others cloned or imported Raymond machines.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
Vintage sewing machine for a child. Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke  has a wonderful collection of domestic bygones to help inspire you. This museum is the perfect day-out for social historians and vintage enthusiasts. In my opinion, Milestones has the best collection of vintage kitchenalia on display of any museum outside London. They also have a nice selection of vintage sewing machines, including models produced for children. For more information on the museum, please see my previous article, CLICK HERE.

The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG - SH.1986.122). The display label reads: 'The first 'toy' machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.' Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.
The Comet toy sewing machine (EMG – SH.1986.122). The display label reads: ‘The first ‘toy’ machines were small machines pour fillette made in France in the 1860s. Late in the nineteenth century the German tinplate toy industry began to produce large numbers of pressed steel cheap toys. After 1945, production of these simple pressed steel toys was restarted and gradually many of the steel parts were replaced by plastic. The Comet is a British toy of the 1950s with its pressed steel mechanism clothed in a plastic body.’ Milestones Living History Museum, Basingstoke.

Further Reading

To help inspire your inner ‘creative god(dess)’ I have compiled a selection of craft projects for you to have a go at. All chosen from my own collection of vintage magazines and books. Some vintage patterns and sewing instructions tend to be quite tricky, presuming prior ability and knowledge of the craft in question. However, I have selected ones that are fairly straightforward to follow. If crafting isn’t your thing, then why not have a go at one of the vintage recipes instead.Vintage  cooking


If you do make/bake any of the items featured below I would love to see the end result, so too will other readers of Come Step Back in Time.  Please e-mail me a photograph (JPEG format), your name and a short paragraph about your experiences making/baking it – which may be good, bad or humourous. I will select the best examples to showcase in an article, here on Come Step Back in Time, in Spring 2013.  My e-mail address can be found on the ‘About Me and Media Contact’ page.  Deadline for receipt of e-mail and image, is midnight (GMT) on Friday 1st March 2013 – so you do have plenty of time to complete your chosen project. I cannot wait to see how you all get on.

From the examples showcased in the article I will select one winner to be the ‘best in show’.  The ‘best in show’ winner will receive one of my vintage, secondhand books.  I will send it to you wherever you are in the world – postage paid by myself! I have a large collection of incredible books so it will be something special, I promise. So, what are you waiting for, get creative…….

Peg-top kite diagram.
Peg-top kite diagram.

The Peg-top Kite

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.700-701)

The best-known simple kite is the peg-top pattern.  It is of fairly small size and covered with tissue paper gummed to the frame; such a kite, a foot long, can be flown on stout thread as a line.  The frame consists of a relatively stiff wooden backbone, and a thin, flexible piece of split cane bent to a semicircle by a string arranged like a bowstring.  The centre of the bow is lashed to the top of the backbone, and strings are run from the horns of the bow to the bottom of the back-bone; these strings, however, are not too tight, as the strain is to be taken on the bowstring.

After the frame is covered, a piece of string double the length of the kite has its two ends tied to the backbone, one near each end.  This is the bridle, and the kite line is tied to it so that the upper arm of the bridle is shorter than the lower.  The rig of the kite is completed by a tail, to which convention consigns the form of a string two or three times the length of the kite, tied to the bottom of the backbone and having screws of paper tied to it at intervals; a strip of fabric, however, answers the purpose equally well, being more durable and less trouble to fix.

Home-made peg-top kites sometimes have a rigid wooden member instead of the bowstring.  This is a mistake, as it tends to prevent the horns of the bow from bending backwards under the air pressure, as they must do to give the dihedral angle effect needful for stability.

The adjustments that have to be made consist in varying the amount of tail to be carried and the point of the bridle at which the line is tied on; the kite will not fly unless these adjustments are made suitable to the speed at which the wind is travelling.

The peg-top pattern is inconvenient in large sizes, as it cannot well be taken to pieces for travelling.  A modified form of it is therefore used in which the bowstring is replaced by a straight and particularly flexible stick and the bow omitted, the frame thus consisting of two wooden members arranged in the form of a cross, with a surrounding edge of string tied in succession to the four ends of the sticks.  If this frame is covered with a light cotton fabric it can easily be arranged so that the sticks may be removed and the whole rolled up for transport.  The same adjustments as in the case of the peg-top kit are needed in order to secure for it a satisfactory stability.Finished toy rabbit.

Rabbit Soft Toy

(The Motherhood Book, c.1932, Amalgamated Press, pp.670-671)

The main part of the body and the head are cut in one, but the under part and the ears are added separately.  A quarter of a yard of cloth, 48 inches wide, is needed, together with a little pink silk material for lining the ears.

Pattern for toy rabbit.
Pattern for toy rabbit.

When cutting out, use the cloth folded with the selvedges together, and arrange the pattern, cut to the shape shown, in the positions seen.

It is necessary first to join the long straight seam of the base or under part; then take it, still folded, so that the seam runs along the top, but with the wrong side inside, and slip it between the two layers of the main body.  The latter should be so put together that the right sides face.

Stitch the edges of each layer of the base to the edges of each layer of the main part, matching edges neatly, and also drawing the curved back part of the base down to the lower edge of the main part.  Next stitch the two main parts of the body together above the inserted base portions, commencing at the front just below the head, and working around this along the top of the body to the back of the inserted base.Rabbit toy diagram

Leave a small opening in the part of this seam, however, so that the stuffing may be put in.  Turn the shape inside out, stuff it tightly with kapok;  and sew up opening.  Line each ear with silk; then make a pleat in the straight edge and sew it to the head.  Insert two eyes. [Plastic animal eyes are easily brought from a craft shop or on-line store. These modern eyes will need to be inserted before you commence stuffing the toy. If you intend making the toy to give to a child/baby then not all man-made or natural stuffing is safe. I found an interesting article on the website ‘FunkyFriendsFactory‘, about toy-making which you may find helpful when choosing materials for your rabbit. CLICK HERE.].

Knitted Bed Socks

(Woman’s Weekly, November 4th, 1911, p. 4)

Cast on eighty stitches for lady’s and ninety for gentleman’s socks.  Knit four plain rows, increasing one at each end of the rows.  Then knit ten or twelve rows (knit two, purl two) to form the width of the foot.  Begin the intakes by knitting two together twice in the centre of every row.  Do this for about eighteen or twenty rows, afterwards knit without decreasing, ten more rows, cast off, and sew up.Finished knitted bath mat

Knitted Bath Mat

(Stitchcraft, September 1947, p.9)

The original mat measures 20 by 26 inches.  It is knitted from end to end in an easy loop stitch, and can be made very quickly by even the most amateur worker.

12 ozs of thick knitting cotton are used here, but you may find the quantity you use may be slightly different, as these knitting cottons vary very much.  So we give you here the stitch you use first of all; just try a bit to make sure. Tighten loops as you knit.

Cast on 8 stitches on the largest needles you have, about size 5 will do; use the yarn double.  1st row: Work loops thus: – k. 2 border sts., * put needle into next st. without knitting it, put forefinger of left hand under point of right needle and wrap yarn over right needle point and round finger in opposite way to knitting, then round needle again, draw through stitch on left needle, put these on left needle, then knit all sts. again as 1 st.; repeat from * to last 2 sts., k. 2.

2nd row: k. 2, purl to last 2 sts., k. 2. These two rows form the pattern. Repeat them in a few times to make a piece about 2 inches.

Now measure the tension of your work over the back, and work out how many sts. you will need to cast on to get a width of 20 inches.  For example, if you have 3 sts. to an inch you will need 60 sts.  The mat you see here had just under 2 sts. to an inch, so 45 sts. were cast on.

When you have done 9 inches in pattern, work 5 sts. in centre of the work in plain stocking-stitch, keeping remainder in pattern as before, for 8 inches, then finish off with another 9 inches of pattern. Cast off.

With a length of contrasting wool, embroider ‘bath’ across the plain centre piece, then work all round the edge in buttonhole-stitch.His and Her's Scarves

Knitted Scarves

(What’s New in Knitting by Patons & Baldwins Ltd, 1958, p.24)

Tubular knitting on only 2 needles. The secret is how you can knit on one pair of needles a double fabric often used for scarves which has the appearance of a tube of stocking stitch seamed together at both ends. This fabric is easy to knit, and simply consists of one row.

Cast on double the number of stitches required for the finished width, e.g. if you are working at a tension of 8 sts. to the inch in stocking stitch (3-ply on a size 11 needle), you would need 80 sts. for a 10-inch width in ordinary stocking stitch, therefore would cast on 160 sts. for tubular knitting.

Cast on an even number of sts.

1st and every row – * K. 1, bring wool to front, slip 1 purlwise, take wool to back; repeat from * all across row.

Suggestions for scarves:

For a light-weight scarf in 2-ply, use No. 9 needles. Cast on 160 sts.

Work in tubular knitting for 46 inches. Cast off, knitting, 2 together, all across row. Fringe ends.

The ideal needle for 3-play is a size 8; 4-play a size 7, and double knitting a size 5.Make Do and Mend Coat

Make Do And Mend – Two Old Dresses into a Coat-Frock

(Make Do and Mend by The Board of Trade by The Ministry of Information, 1943, p. 25)

Here is an idea for a dark woollen dress that is worn in front and is too tight for you.  Open it from neck to hem and finish the edges neatly, turning hem in and rounding them up to the neck, unless you like to turn down the points at the neck as revers.  Then use the best part of the silk from an old printed dress or any other material you may have in a contrasting colour, and gather it in a panel down the front, fastening it under the edges of the dark material to give the effect of a Redingote worn over a dress.  This is very suitable for maternity wear.

You could use the bodice of the figured silk frock to make a blouse.  It will probably be worn under the arms, or you wouldn’t be cutting it up, but there should be ample material left over in the skirt after making the panel for the coat-frock to put in new short sleeves and a yoke to the blouse.

Edwardian home sweetmaking.
Edwardian home sweetmaking.


Tipped to be THE sweet of 2013, be on trend!

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, p. 77)

Ingredients: 10 ozs granulated sugar; 1/4 pint water; 3/4 oz powdered gelatine; 1 dessertspoonful glucose and 1/4 pint water and orange flower water mixed (4 dessertspoonfuls orange flower water is sufficient).

Method: Put the gelatine in the water and orange flower water, then dissolve it in a fairly large pan over gentle heat, and set it aside.  In another pan put the sugar, water, and glucose, dissolve in usual way, and boil to 260 degrees.  Rewarm the pan containing gelatine and pour the boiled sugar into it, beating briskly with an egg whisk; after a minute or two add the stiffly beaten white of an egg, then whip the batch till it gets white and stiff (takes about 15 minutes), leave it in pan for half an hour, then run a thin knife round the sides of pan, and turn it out on to dry sifted icing sugar.  Leave it for an hour or  for some hours, then rub it over with icing sugar, then with large scissors cut it into squares, and rub each square with icing sugar.  Leave these exposed to the air in a warm room for two or three days, then keep in a tin lined with kitchen paper.  Any kind of nuts, if ground, can be added to the batch while beating it.  Various flavours can be used, such as vanilla, rose, chocolate, strawberry, or coffee.

To Mould Chocolate Eggs

Get ready for Easter, which this year is on Sunday 31st March, 2013

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 55-6)

Have [melted chocolate] covering at same temperature as for dipping.  Pour some into the mould, and run it all round the mould to line it well, then empty out the surplus chocolate.  When almost setting, with a knife push some of the chocolate up round the edge – to form a wider rim. Then when the chocolate is quite firm and set take a very sharp knife and pare the edge of the mould quite clear, then give lightly a little jerk or squeeze to the mould each way, then turn it upside down and tap the edge on the marble, and the chocolate egg will drop out.  Fill inside of egg with toy, sweets, motto, etc. Damp round edges of shell with warm chocolate, insert a loop of ribbon or cord to hang egg by, and press the moulds together and let set.

Rich Cream Chocolates

(Highclass Sweetmaking: Chocolates, Candies and Dessert Bonbons by May Whyte, 1909, pp. 64-5)

Ingredients: 1 dessertspoonful of glucose; 1 and 1/4lb granulated sugar; 1/2 oz fresh butter; Saffron [yellow] colouring; 1/2 pint good cream; small 1/2 pint cold water; vanilla flavour.

Method: Dissolve the sugar in the water in usual way, add the glucose and butter, and the cream poured in slowly, and carefully stirred all the time, until the thermometer registers 236 degrees.  Pour into a basin which has been rinsed out with cold water, and when half cold, add colour and flavour and stir with a wooden spoon until it creams.  Cover it with wax paper and a towel and leave for twenty minutes, then work it soft and mellow, and make into centres, and when these are cold and firm cover them either with chocolate, or make them into suffed fondants.

I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are examples of some of my blancmanges.
I was recently asked to create a blancmange banquet. Here are some of the results.

Orange Blancmange 

Another hot trend for 2013 – Jelly has had its revival, now it is all about blancmange.

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.406 – original recipe was for lemon blancmange.)

Ingredients: 1 pint milk; zest of two oranges; pinch of salt; 1  oz sugar;  1  oz cornflour;  1/2  oz custard powder.

Method: Pour about three-quarters of the milk into a saucepan, add the orange zest, salt and sugar and bring to the boil slowly.  Mix the cornflour and custard powder to a smooth paste with the remaining cold milk. Pour the boiling milk on to the mixed cornflour, stirring well.  Return to the saucepan over a low flame, and boil, stirring continuously for a few minutes – until it thickens.  Pour into a lightly oiled mould.  When set, turn out on to a table dish and serve when ready.

My version of a strawberry blancmange.
My strawberry blancmange with a vintage twist.
Another version of my crème de menthe blancmange.
My crème de menthe blancmange.

Orange Sauce for Blancmange

(Brown and Polson’s Recipe Book, c.1920, p.12)

Ingredients: 1/4 oz cornflour; 1 orange – juiced and zested; 2 ozs loaf sugar; juice of half a lemon; 1/2 pint water.

Method: Rub the sugar on the orange to absorb the zest.  Put sugar and zest into a saucepan with the water. Bring to the boil slowly and boil for three minutes. Strain through muslin, return to the saucepan, and add the lemon and orange juice. Blend the cornflour with a little cold water, and add it to the liquid when boiling.  Boil for three minutes. When cold, pour round the blancmange.

My crème de menthe blancmange with antique gold (edible) cake decoration on top.
My crème de menthe blancmange gilded with antique gold (edible) cake decoration.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.
How to turn-out a blancmange from its mould.

Marrow Chutney

(Practical Cookery for All  by Anding B. et al, c.1950, p.480)

Ingredients: 3lb Marrow; salt; 12 peppercorns; 1/4 oz bruised ginger; cinnamon and allspice; 1/2 lb shallots; 1/2 lb green apples; 1/2 lb sultanas; 1 1/2 pints vinegar; 8 0zs sugar.

Method: Cut up the marrow and put it into a basin.  Sprinkle two teaspoonfuls of salt over it and leave for twelve hours.  Drain well and rinse. Tie the peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon and allspice in a muslin bag. Peel the shallots and apples and chop them finely.  Place all the ingredients except sugar in a saucepan and bring them slowly to the boil.  Allow to simmer gently until almost cooked, add the sugar and boil until a syrupy consistency. Remove the bag of spices. Pour the mixture into a [sterilised] jar and cover.

Redcurrant and Cherry Jam

(French Country Cooking by Elizabeth David, 1963 [1951], p. 189)

Put 4lb of redcurrants into a pan without any water and stir them over a gentle flame until the juice comes out.  Strain through a muslin without pressing the fruit so that the juice is clear.  There should be about 2lb of juice.  For this amount stone 4lb of cherries, and make a syrup with 6 lb of sugar and 3 glasses of water; put the cherries into the syrup and let it boil gently until the syrup sets, when put on to a cold plate.  Now add the redcurrant juice, let the whole mixture boil again, and the jam is ready to put into [sterilised] pots. These jams made of mixed fruits are very much liked in France, and are often served, with fresh cream, as a dessert.

Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.
Mary Berry preparing her pineapple ice-cream in 1972.

Pineapple Ice Cream – 1970s style

(Popular Freezer Cookery by Mary Berry, 1972, p. 94)

Ingredients: 1 medium-size fresh pineapple; juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons; 1/4 pint water; 6 0zs castor sugar; 1/2 pint double cream, lightly whipped.

Method: Cut the pineapple in half lengthways, and cut out the hard-core down the centre of each side.  Keep the pineapple shells. With a grapefruit knife or a sharply pointed spoon, scoop out all flesh and chop finely, saving the juice.  Mix the chopped pineapple, juice, and lemon juice together.  Dissolve the sugar with the water in a pan over low heat, then cool.  Add the sugar syrup to the pineapple and pour into a rigid container. To Freeze: cover and freeze until almost set then turn mixture into a bowl and whisk until broken up and light. Fold in the cream and return to container.  Cover, label and freeze until required. To Thaw: thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes. To Serve: scoop out ice-cream with a metal spoon that has been dipped in boiling water. Serve in pineapple shells. Note: a blender speeds up this recipe. Put the pineapple flesh, any juice and lemon juice in a blender, switch on for 2 minutes, then add cooled sugar syrup. (Serves 6).Lyle's Golden Syrup

Russian Gingerbread

(More Everyday Dishes by Elizabeth Craig (Ed.), for Tate & Lyle, c. 1935 p. 47)

Ingredients:  1/2 lb flour; 2 ozs castor sugar; 1 oz blanched almonds; 1 egg (well beaten); 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves; 3 ozs melted butter; 2 tablespoons golden syrup; 2 ozs crystallized ginger; pinch of salt; 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice; 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger; milk.

Method: Grease a shallow baking tin. Sift flour into a basin with spice, salt and soda.  Stir in other dry ingredients and ginger finely minced.  Add syrup, egg, butter and enough milk to make a running batter. Beat till smooth. Pour into tin, dredged with flour.  Decorate with split blanched almonds.  Bake in a slow oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

Raisinet – A Preserve For Winter

(A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes by Charles E. Francatelli, 1861, pp.54 – 55)

Ingredients: 12 lbs of fruit, consisting of peeled apples, pears, plums, and blackberries, in equal proportion; 6 lbs of raw sugar; one quart of water.

Method: Bake three hours in a slack or slow oven; First, prepare the fruit, and put it in mixed layers of plums, pears, berries, apples, alternating each other, in stone jars.  Next, put the 6 lbs of sugar in a clean saucepan, with the quart of water, and stir it with a spoon on the fire till it comes to a gentle boil; remove the dirty scum from the surface of the sugar; and, after allowing it to boil for ten minutes, pour it in equal proportions into the jar or jars containing the fruits, and place them in a moderate heat to bake slowly for three hours at least.  When boiling the sugar for this purpose, remember that it is most prudent to use a saucepan capable of containing double the quantity, as sugar is very liable to boil over and waste.  When the fruit is nearly dissolved, the raisinet will be done; it must then be removed to a cool place until it has become thoroughly cold and partially set firm; the jars should then be tied down with thick paper and kept in the cellar for winter use, either for making puddings or tarts, or for spreading on bread for the children.

Good Woman’s Soup

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.129)

Ingredients: 1 quart of white stock, 1 white-heart lettuce, 1 thick slice of cucumber (the length of which must equal the breadth, so that a square block may be cut), a little tarragon and chervil (these may be omitted when not procurable), 1 oz of butter or good dripping, the yolks of 2 eggs, 1/4 of a pint of cream or milk, salt and pepper.

Method: Wash and shred the lettuce finely, cut the block of cucumber lengthwise into thin slices, and the slices into match-like strips.  Melt the butter or dripping, and fry the vegetables for about 5 or 6 minutes, then add the stock, salt and pepper, and boil slowly until the lettuce is tender (10 to 15 minutes).  Beat the yolks of the eggs, add to them the cream or milk.  Let the soup cool slightly, then pour in the yolks and cream, and stir until the soup thickens, but it must not boil or the eggs will curdle. Take 40 minutes to prepare and is sufficient for 4 persons.

Simnel Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p.575)

Ingredients: 1/2 lb of castor sugar, 6 ozs of butter, 1/2 lb of eggs (weighed in the shells), 1/2 lb of flour, 6 ozs of currants (cleaned), 2 ozs of peel – shredded; for the almond paste: 6 ozs of castor sugar, 3 ozs of ground almonds, 1 egg.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar to a cream, add each egg separately, stir in as lightly as possible the candied peel, currants and flour.  Work the sugar, ground almonds, and egg to a stiff paste, and roll out to the size of the cake-tin.  Put half the cake mixture into a lined cake-tin, add the almond paste, and lastly a second layer of cake.  Bake in a moderate oven from 1 to 1  1/4 hours.  If preferred the cake mixture can be divided into three layers and the almond paste into two. Takes 2 hours to make and bake.

Aunt Betsey’s Cake

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, p. 565)

Ingredients: 5 teacupfuls of flour, 2 teacupfuls of sugar, 1/2 a cup of butter, 1 cup of golden syrup, 1 cup of water, 2 eggs, 1/2 lb of chopped raisins, 1 teaspoonful (each) of bicarbonate of soda, cloves, cinnamon, and mace.

Method: Beat the butter and sugar together; add the eggs, dissolve the soda in the water, then add the golden syrup, flour, spices and fruit, and work the mixture in the bowl.  Turn it into a greased flat square tin baking-dish and bake in a moderate oven, or if preferred in small crinkled patty-pans. Takes 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours to make and bake.

Baroness Pudding

(Mrs Beeton’s Everyday Cookery, 1936, pp. 436-437)

Ingredients: 6 ozs of finely chopped suet, 6 ozs of flour, 6 ozs of raisins (stoned), 1/4 pint of milk, 1/2 saltspoonful of salt.

Method: Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the milk and stir well.  Put into a well-greased basin, and boil or steam for about 3 hours.  Serve with any suitable sweet sauce, or with a little sugar. Takes about 3 and 3/4 hours to make and is sufficient for 4 persons.Vintage Cooking 4

Posted in Activity, Fashion History, History, Vintage

Make Do and Mend – Recycling Fashion 1940s Style

My 2011 twist on the 1940s Make Do and Mend ethos. Take one length of 1940s dress fabric.
Add modern trimmings and buttons. Transform spare fabric into a matching purse.
Turn rest of spare fabric into a rose brooch with button detail.

Recently my friend and I found ourselves flicking through the rails in our favourite vintage clothing store, Foxtrot Vintage Shop in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  My friend found a lovely 1940s summer dress, with knitting motifs on the fabric and matching belt detail.   It fitted her perfectly, the only problem was that it was just too long.  Sensing my friend’s disappointed and possible decline to purchase, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration.   I could cut the excess fabric off of the bottom and turn it into a matching purse and rose brooch, the latter perfect for pinning on to a matching cardigan.  Both of us left the shop thrilled, my friend had purchased a charming dress that fitted her like a glove and I had a craft project on my hands. This got me thinking just how relevant the 1940s government campaign, Make Do and Mend, was to us today in these cash strapped times.  

What was the Make Do and Mend campaign?   By Spring 1941 the amount of clothing reaching Britain was in short supply.  On 1st June 1941 the UK Government introduced clothes rationing, allowing each person 66 clothing coupons per year.  In 1943 The Ministry of Information distributed the pamphlet ‘Make Do and Mend’, supported by advertisements in magazines and on newsreels.  DIY fashion was born.  One advertisement issued by the Board of Trade in 1942 declared:

‘If you care for clothes you naturally want to take care of your clothes.  This is a really important War job for every woman to take seriously today.    Fortunately, you are rewarded for the extra trouble, not only by feeling that you are helping to win the War, but also by looking your best all the time.  And you save money as well as coupons.’

Here are a few examples of 1940s Make Do and Mend advice:
  • Turn worn-out sheets into tea-towels or glass cloths;
  • Join a Make Do and Mend class;
  • Rayon – don’t soak, dip them.  Don’t boil them, use lukewarm water, don’t wring or twist them.  Hang evenly so they do not pull out of shape;
  • Always keep a needle and thread handy.  Deal with a ladder or tear straight-away;
  • Old bath towels can be turned into flannels and the more badly worn towels can be used for dusters or floor cloths.  A swimsuit can also be made out of bath towels;
  • Unpick dog biscuit or sugar bags and turn into tea towels;
  • Hat netting can be made into fish net stockings;
  • If your suspenders need renewing, knit 4 inch-wide bands and replace worn suspenders.  Re-attach old grips to knitted bands;
  • Sew loops on your towels and hang them up, they will last longer.

Clothing and shoe exchanges were also very popular.  These would have been run by local schools or women’s organisations such as the WVS/WRVS.   Clothing rationing ended on 15th March 1949.