Friday, 27 February 2009

Uruwaza - make it and mend it Japanese style

If you want to know how to improve your karaoke singing, how to pick up broken glass safely or how to fix your mobile phone when you drop it down the toilet, then you need Uruwaza, the Japanese art of finding unusual solutions to everyday problems.

This has become quite a craze in Japan, with a popular TV show dedicated to challenging contestants to come up with ever more unusual and interesting tricks and this has spawned an industry of books and tip guides. The craze is now starting to take off in the USA as a result of YouTube.

In the spirit of Uruwaza we'd love to hear of any of your own uruwaza type solutions. We'll put the best of them on our website. Just add a comment below or on our facebook page. (and you can buy the book on our website)

Boost your life the Uruwaza Way
Low Tech Solutions for High Tech Problems

Monday, 23 February 2009

Make it and mend it at the Oscars

We are deighted to see that BBC Breakfast has joined the Make it and Mend it revolution.

Presenter Susannah Reid hit the red carpet at the Oscars, wearing a designer dress by Christopher Kane, which cost £50 from Oxfam. The dress was restyled with some rhinestones by the designer himself and accessorised with a pair of £9 earrings also from Oxfam.

So get out on the high street and start rummaging: there are some vintage gems out there and with some restyling and customisation you can make them even better.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Knit your own brain

Ever had one of those days when your thinking is fuzzy and you feel like your head is full of cotton wool. Well if Karen Norberg has her way, it might possibly be true. Norberg, from the National Bureau of Economic Research in Massachusetts, has knitted an anatomically correct model of the brain. She started this project when she was training to be a child psychiatrist.

The ‘brain’ took a year to knit and Norberg found that once she started, she couldn't stop. The knitting migrated from a late-night time-killer to an after-work obsession. "I would rush home from work and say, 'Oh, I think I'll work on the corpus callosum tonight.” It is incredibly detailed and the cortex of Norberg's larger-than-life brain has realistic folds, while the internal structure is correct down to the nearest stitch. All the parts are properly connected, as can be revealed by undoing a well-concealed zip that connects the two hemispheres. She maintains that "Building a brain with yarn and knitting needles turns out to follow many of the same pathways as actual brain development."
Like all the best art, the brain is a one-off. "This is one of a kind," says Norberg. "It's a labour of love."
The original woollen brain is now housed at the Museum of Science in Boston, but this amazing piece of work can be seen at the online Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art (, curated by neuro-economist Bill Harbaugh of the University of Oregon.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

How Meryl knits her way into the zone

On BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Meryl Streep recently talked about getting prepared for inhabiting the characters she portrays in her films, and likened some of her scenes in her latest film, Doubt, as being akin to "gladiatorial combat".

When asked if she prepared, as the film's director has claimed, by "getting in the zone" like an athelete, Meryl replied almost indignantly that she looked at it as "so not sport" and declared that she spent all her time on set knitting. In fact she claimed to have taught her co-star Amy Adams, to knit and even knitted the shawl she wears in the film.

The knitting helped Meryl get into the role she was playing: "For me it was a place to gather my thoughts and understand the contemplative (life)". She went on to say "It's a sort of clearing out place".

Meryl Streep is not alone in seeing knitting as a road to contemplation and a way of keeping calm and grounded. It is not just a way to get into a role , but has other great beneficial effects - read our resident psychologist, Hilary Bruffel's piece on our Make it and Mend it website on how knitting can help cure depression.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Bug-powered light-fitting

Here's a weird green invention that could be a God-send to anyone both plagued with flies and anxious to cut their electricity bills. It's a lamp with a shade full of holes. The insects are attracted to the light and fly through the holes but can't get out again. They then have a wild insect rave party till they die and their bodies fall through to a microbial fuel cell at the bottom of the lamp. They then perform a very noble and useful service by powering the lamp to attract more doomed flies to their sacrificial fate in endless environmentally friendly dance of death. Love it!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Inspiration from Buddhist monks

We just heard about this wonderful example of recycling: using Heineken beer bottles. Apparently about 50 years ago the Heineken Company said they were going to reshape their beer bottles to make them usable as building blocks. Unfortunately it never happened.

That's the bad news. The good news is that a bunch of monks from Thailand's Sisaket province took matters into their own hands and collected a million bottles to build the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple. The results are absolustely amazing and should act as an inspiration to us all.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Making a journal quilt

We came upon a delightful photo blog by a woman from the USA, who decided to create a quilt to celebrate her sixtieth year. The idea is to do a square of the quilt during each of the 52 weeks, to record something particlar to each week.

As a result it is an amazing collection of memorabilia: marking family gatherings, holidays, her quilting experiments, retirement lunches,the passing seasons, anniversaries, birth of grandchildren and many other incidentals of this lady's life.

The results, an incredibly varied and fascinating commemoration of a landmark year, were revealed on her 60th birthdays. Check it out at Quiltingmom
We'd love to hear about other examples like this.

Hairy legwarmers made from a jacket

These colourful legs belong to Anne's Swedish yoga teacher Jeanette. She is the most amazing person. She has an allotment, makes delicious soup with vegetables she has grown herself and snaps up some great charity shop bargains.

Jeanette has a creative talent for recycling and restyling clothes. What she's wearing in this photo as leggings used to be the the arms of an old jacket. They're warm and look great tucked into boots. We'd love to see some other interesting examples of recycled and restyled clothes.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Get a Granny knitting your socks

We love this idea. Check out this website - it is a Swiss venture where about a dozen grannies offer their services as sock knitters. You can choose your Granny from the photos on the site and then it takes them a couple of weeks to knit the socks up.

This is great way for these women to capitalise on their skills to supplement their pensions and keep busy, while enabling even those who aren't lucky enough to have their own knitting granny to get a lovely pair of hand knit socks. My own Granny was an Olympic standard knitter and her piece de resistance was tea cosies. She would have loved this.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Still sewing strong at 90

Our Make it and Mend it Heroine of the Day today is an old lady, Ida Mulert, from Iowa in the USA. At 90 she is still sewing and mending, a hobby she has enjoyed for the past 80 years.

Ida made clothing for her ten children as they grew up and now she continues to make for grandchildren and friends - every new grandchild receives a homemade quilt. Ida still does the mending for her family and helps out with mending and sewing as a volunteer in a residential home.

We'd love to hear about other old people who are still "making it and mending it". Post us your stories and pictures - below or to

Friday, 6 February 2009

Make it and Mend it - a call to revolution!

For too long we have been accustomed to buying stuff and then when it breaks or gets a bit worn, chucking it away and getting something new.

This isn't just wasteful, it is also expensive and these days as we are tightening our belts, it makes sense to start making do and mending.

This blog and our growing website will chronicle the movement to make do and mend: helping you remodel that garment, shift that stain, or mend that light fitting. We will highlight inspirational examples, share tips and ideas and pass on useful information for living more creatively and sustainably.

Please check out and send us your own tips and suggestions too.

The blog will focus on news and stories and examples of people who are living Make it and Mend it (we call it MIAMI). It is meant to be a source of inspiration on how to recycle, reuse, adapt, repair, make and refashion.

We heard an inspiring story this week, which shows it's not just women that are making and mending. This young man has shown that what Granny knows can turn into a lucrative business and set you on the road to becoming an entrepreneur.

Fraser Doherty, 19, dropped out of university to devote more time to his fledgling jam-making business. This started out as a kitchen table enterprise and grew from the passion Fraser developed for jam-making after being taught at age 14 by his grandmother. He got up to 1000 jars a week in his parents' kitchen before moving the business into a factory. He is now selling half a million jars a year, under the brand name Superjam and the business is growing fast.

Recognising what he owes to his grandmother, Fraser has launched a charity, "Superjam Tea Parties" to get old people socialising over tea (and jam!) at community centres across the country.

We really like this idea of acknowledging the contribution older people have made to society and can still make. One of our missions at Make it and Mend it is to tap into the vast knowledge and skill base of older people and find ways to bring this experience to the forefront. As part of this Jam Boy (as he is known) has supported the elderly folks in a nationwide Knitathon to knit squares to amke blankets for for Indian orphans. To find out more about Fraser and his Super Jam parties have a look at his SuperJam Blog.

Do you know of any inspirational role models? Do you have ideas on how to share the knowledge and skills of older people? Are you in touch with a local community group that is doing this?
Contact us below or on
See also our website post on Knitting a square to help a child
Meet the MIAMI team