Nostalgic Home

A Vintage View of Homekeeping

Mend and Make Do January 29, 2009

Filed under: Crafting,Hard Time Helpings — LotusMama @ 9:39 am
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This may sound like a continuation of the last post but it is a bit different. I enjoy browsing eBay now and then for old patterns or something that catches my eye. While browsing the other day, I found an old pattern book from 1943 called “Crochet your Victory Barnyard”.

Sure, it has seen better days and wasn’t in “mint” condition but I liked the illustrations inside. Each pattern has a little portrait, reminiscent of a child’s picture book, with a poem about that particular animal’s usefulness in relation to the WWII effort. Here is one for the black sheep:

The poem, if you can’t read it in the photo is this:

The black lamb on this farm is proud

And holds his head above the crowd

He has a right to be elated

For let it here and now be stated

The clothes for all our battling forces

Are made from wool which he endorses

Cute, huh? Long time readers already know I have a soft spot in my head for the homefront war effort of “Knit Your Bit”, but this little booklet got me thinking. What other V for Victory type of projects were afoot during WWII? The Victory Garden idea is well known; growing produce in front yards, vacant lots, even plots in Hyde Park so that the commercial produce could go to the troops. There are plenty of references around for the gardens, as well as scrap metal drives and collecting pennies. But the idea that there were crafting projects aimed at bolstering morale and the Victory effort caught my eye.

I started looking around for more of these types of crafts and so far I haven’t found that many. I did find a cute embroidery series of “Victory Cats” that has a different cat and a different reminder for each day of the week. “Be suspicious”, “Ride a Bike”, “Keep ’em flying”, etc. I found a “Victory Sweater” in the Victoria and Albert Museum archives that is essentially just a red/white/blue concoction but that isn’t exactly the same thing. Fostering patriotism is certainly common in crafting – today there are tons of Old Glory patterns in every craft – but the homefront war effort was unique, with rationing and price ceilings.

Ok, so what does any of this have to do with now? Well, while searching I found another booklet called “Make Do and Mend for Victory”. This booklet’s job was to teach would-be seamstresses how to take their old clothes, and the clothes of their husbands off fighting, and turn them into newer looking items. There are instructions for converting men’s shirts into girls’ dresses, revamping older dresses by changing the collar or the hem, etc.

What’s interesting about this is that I recently purchased a new book called “Complete Embellishing: Techniques and Projects” by Kayte Terry. Ms. Terry’s book has tons of ways to refab an old boring item into something you really like. Adding interest to a neckline, changing the hemline of a skirt (sound familiar?) and reusing materials.

The idea behind making do with what you have and mending it (or revamping it) is certainly relevant today. Sure, we aren’t sending our nation’s wool into the construction of military uniforms anymore, but hard times for many people are here and learning to make lemonade out of a wallet full of lemons is no bad thing.

For those of you who sew (or make other crafts) you probably have done this before to some degree. But for those of us new to the sewing game, this might be a challenge and one worth taking on. I’m not suggesting making dresses out of flour sacks, like something out of the Grapes of Wrath (though little girl dresses out of pillowcases can be really really cute) but maybe not being so quick to donateĀ  clothes that have seen better days. Maybe those shirts, those jeans can get a new lease on life as something else. Call it what you want – Making Do, Upcycling – but I call it smart.


The Pantry Challenge January 27, 2009

Filed under: Cooking,Resolutions,Righteous Fury — LotusMama @ 10:31 am
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Food prices are insane. No matter what you buy, the price of it has gone up – sometimes by quite a bit. People have been complaining loudly about gas prices, especially when it was over three bucks a gallon, but hardly a peep was mentioned about the rising cost of butter or milk or kumquats (love the word, hate the fruit). Not nearly enough attention is focused on this issue. Everybody has to eat and everybody should be able to eat good food but with prices as they are that isn’t always possible. Life, liberty and the pursuit of produce, I say. Time for a uproar on the status of our vegetables, a State of the Pantry address to let us know just what is being done about the inflation of pork bellies and orange juice. Maybe I can email Keith Olbermann somehow and get him to do a Special Comment. “You, Sir Loin, should be ashamed of yourself and your constant grabbing for more money…”

Anystew, after a trip to the store for a bit of this and a bit of that which prompted much agitation at the cost of said this and said that, I decided to challenge myself to clean out my pantry and use up what I have. I’m going to stretch my dollar by digging out those cans of beans, those half-empty boxes of rice or pasta, the lone jar of spaghetti sauce or tomato paste or chicken broth.

The trick to this particular challenge is that I didn’t know I would be doing this so I didn’t stock up on essentials – onions, beef broth, crushed tomatoes. What I have in the pantry is what I have to work with – all week. No beef broth? Ok, I have bouillon cubes. No tomato sauce? Ok, I have tomato paste. Sure, you can’t swap out everything for something else – nothing will substitute for onion, even onion powder – but I’ll have to get creative with what I have.

For example, tonight’s dinner is going to involve ham because that’s what I happen to have. I have half a bag of Great Northern Beans, carrots (but no onions). I think I’ll be making a batch of Navy Bean soup. I have some biscuit dough in the fridge, so that will probably go with it. The leftover soup will by Hubby’s lunch tomorrow and the frozen hamburger is thawing right now for some kind of meatloaf tomorrow. No ready-made bread crumbs in the pantry so I’ll be making those from scratch – which is better anyway.

Things might get dicey as I only have 11 eggs in my fridge right now. Those eggs are going to have to last all week and if I bake bread or make cookies or do anything that takes more than 1 or 2 eggs, I’m going to be in hard shape. Can’t really substitute an egg. Even milk I could get around – frighteningly, I happen to have some powdered milk in the cupboard for some recipe that needed it – but eggs are pretty tough to fake. So I’ll be checking my plans carefully and making sure that my eggs last me until the end of the week.

What’s the point of all this? Well, first and foremost it is a chance to see what I can do with what I have. I’m one of those bad planners that tends to go to the store several times a week for different ingredients because I’m coming up with dinner plans only a day or so in advance – I know, it’s a bad habit. Remember, magpie.

Secondly, it’s my own little protest against the price of food right now. A sit-in, at the kitchen table. And finally, it is a chance to really go through my cupboards and use up what is languishing in there. My pantry is tall and deep so things get pushed to the back and they stay there, mainly because I can’t see them. Eventually, we’re going to revamp the pantry so I can pull out the shelves, but for now it is what it is.

So wish me luck on my little challenge. I’ll report my progress and perhaps photograph my soon-to-be empty pantry as evidence. I wonder if the new administration will have a Food Prices Czar appointment soon. I have a feeling that we could use one.