Wednesday, 29 April 2009

No jam for the Taliban

The first post we made on this blog featured Fraser Doherty alias Jam Boy, the young man who learned jam-making skills from his granny and went on to drop out of university to set up a business, SuperJam.

Today's post is about another jam maker, but it's a very different story. I read about this brave woman in a piece in the Sunday Times Magazine by Christina Lamb (link below).

Mariam Jami is a jam maker in Afghanistan. She risks her life every day to make jam. She started on her own then grew the business until she had 20 women working for her. She entered the Afghan version of Dragon's Den, wearing the hijab and dark glasses to protect her identity. Coming second, she won $14,000, a huge sum in Afghanistan. On returning home to her village, she found men, under orders from an ex government minister now allied to the Taliban, had beaten up her husband and brother. They threatened her and demanded a share of the winnings. Mrs Jami had to flee to the city, where she continues to make her jam but is unable to return to her home village.

Mrs Jami is one of many women facing terrible consequences in pursuing activities we take for granted, like reading, studying, or running a business. Read the piece by Christina Lamb to find out how bad things have got for women, where marital rape is now legal and gang rapes go unpunished.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

How to make your own natural dishwasher detergent

Thanks to Planet Gift Baskets for this top tip for making your own phosphate-free dishwasher detergent.

The recipe is very simple. Just mix a tablespoon of borax with 3 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 drops of lemon oil.

For more ideas for making your own natural cleaning products see our website. You can also buy all the essential ingredients fo these from our Amazon shop

What do you think? Are natural home made products as effective as mass produced consumer brands? Do you have any favourite recipes you waould like to share?

Friday, 24 April 2009

What's happened to making do, Kirstie?

Did anyone catch Kirstie Allsop's offering on Channel 4 last night? It's good to see a mainstream TV programme adopting some make it and mend it principles, but it really did feel like the poor little rich girl plays house.

Kirstie is decorating a dolls house that is bigger than most people dream of.....and last night paid £100 a roll for hand made wall paper....perrrrllleaase.....£50 for a door handle...I ask you! As one of our MIAMI contributors said "
the empress is naked while wielding the wallpaper glue brush!"
Don't get me wrong. I like Kirstie as a presenter, but she is completely out of touch with reality. It's all well and good to use expensive items as inspiration, but the point should be 'how can I do this within my budget?'. Everything she did focussed on buying something, not making do with what you have and spending the minumum. It should be "Yes this £100 a roll of paper is fab, but how can I adapt it?" You could paint the wall a plain colour and then block print a design onto that (a bit like potato printing). Much cheaper, and just as dramatic.

Or "This door handle is great, but I can't afford it so what else can I do? If I can't change the handle how can I direct attention away from it?" As my mother used to say 'if they are noticing your shoes, there's something wrong with your conversation!'

The week before, Kirstie did some skip-diving to find a mirror and bought some cheap chairs and did them up. This is much more like it - although having seen her get an interior designer to make her cushions while she sewed a couple of buttons on them, I think she needs to get those sleeves rolled up and get doing it herself.

Anyway Kirstie, all is not lost we are going to do some pieces regularly on the website on taking high end design ideas and doing them the MIAMI way. Watch this space!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Seeing beauty in industrial waste

There's no denying that man has a negative impact on much of the natural world. Industry has wrought many terrible destructive effects on the landscape.

A Canadian photographer, Edward Burtynsky, dedicates his work to photographing the places where there is a very evident negative impact from man on the physical environment.

The photographer travels all over the world to photograph nature transformed through industry, visiting mines, quarries, breakers' yards: those places where man’s negative impact on earth is undeniable.

In his words: "These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear. We are drawn by desire - a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times."
Despite the ugly nature of much of the subject matter, many of the images have a strange beauty. Judge for yourself

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

10 Reasons to be cheerful when you're broke

A friend told me the other day that whilst he hadn't been so broke since he was a student, he'd not been this happy in years. I think the two things are connected. I used to spend a lot of time spending a lot of money. I just don’t do that any more. Do I miss shopping? Do I hell! So it made me think, living on a tight budget isn’t so bad. Think of all the time you’ll save from no longer traipsing round the shops flashing that credit card - you can use it for doing much more interesting or rewarding things. Here are my ten reasons to be cheerful when you're broke. What are yours?

1. You can rediscover the joys of cooking – making real food is much cheaper and tastes loads better than ready-meals or most restaurant fare and takeaways.

2. You can discover the joys of gardening. There is nothing more exciting than seeing things growing where there was nothing before. Seeds cost next to nothing and are little miracles.

3. You can watch the birds – hours of entertainment and all absolutely free

4. You can set up a book club or join an existing one. If you join a library the books are free. Otherwise there are loads of great charity bookshops or you can pick second hand books up for pennies online.

5. Instead of eating in a restaurant, you can take turns to host home dinners with a group of friends. Rather than the usual type of dinner party, set a per head cost limit and pick a theme e.g. a country, a particular chef, an era e.g. the 70s.

6. You can learn a new skill. Set up a skill-sharing club with friends, join an evening class (you have to pay but they are very good value), learn online or get a book out of the library and teach yourself. As well as being a low cost way to pass the time, you can save money by making things for yourself, and if you get really good at it, you can sell stuff online.

7. You can help others. A sure fire way to feel more cheerful about your own lot is to help someone who is worse off than you. There are loads of organizations crying out for volunteers.

8. Do some exercise (without paying for an expensive gym). Get out and walk, bike or jog. Go dancing. Go to the local pool. Hunt round the charity shops for some fitness DVDs and do it at home. Exercise releases endorphins and makes you feel great.

9.Take up singing! You can do it in the car or the bath if you’re shy. Or if you want to meet more people, join a choir. It’s free, and like exercise, it releases those feel-good endorphins.

10. Try your hand at something creative. I had more fun in an afternoon this week watching my little nephews make plasticene models which I photographed and made into animations set to music. Pleasure and pride enormous. Cost nothing!

Monday, 20 April 2009

Third world wisdom gives us a second chance

Fundi is a South African word meaning expert or guru but its meaning goes far deeper than that. It denotes wisdom and ‘doing the right thing’, something that we all strive to do but don’t always succeed at.

Recycling and reusing things that might otherwise be thrown away is also about doing the right thing and it’s a philosophy that is gaining real momentum these days.

The current economic climate seems to have added practical purpose to what was often previously seen as a theoretical option: ‘I’d like to fix this if only I had the time but instead I’ll just have to buy a new one.’ Today it’s more likely to be: ‘I can’t afford to throw this away.’

The Make it and Mend it website is also about developing and venerating the skills that allow us to breath new life into old and broken things and relearn the skills that would be been second nature to our grandparents. All of which brings me back to Fundi.

While the West may have forgotten how to make and mend, countries in Africa and Asia have elevated it to an art form. While we’ve banged on about third world debt and, let’s face it, felt mighty smug about our ability to lend money to countries less well off than ourselves, people in these countries have developed skills that we now need - desperately.

Not only do they mend broken things with incredible ingenuity but they upcycle our growing mountain of disposable objects, giving them new purpose.

Their upcycling is driven by practical purpose. While it’s nice to make sculpture out of recycled egg boxes it doesn’t really make us any wiser environmentally. But use Styrofoam egg boxes to insulate your attic and you’ve taken you first tiny step to being a Fundi. (Attach the paper egg boxes to walls to create great sound insulation – useful if you have a teenage son with an electric guitar.)

That’s not to say you can have fun recycling and upcycling but don’t stop at fun. It’s time we all got serious and became a society that keeps rather than throws away. The so-called ‘third word’ is the place to learn.

Which is why, from today, Make it and Mend it will be looking further than our grannies for our inspiration. >>See what we’ve found out so far...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Dinner parties for less than £20

Why do we get so stressed by doing dinner for friends? The main point of a dinner party is to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

No amount of money thrown at food (or decoration) is going to impress your guests more than an easy evening full of stimulating conversation, eating good food accompanied by lashings of the latest offers from your local wine shop or supermarket.

Most people’s stress stems from aching their brains to come up with a menu that mixes courses well, is easy to prepare and leaves the cook plenty of time to spend with the guests rather than slaving away in splendid isolation over the cooker. Things you can prepare in advance or things that you can cook in an instant in front of everyone are the best bet.

Make it and Mend it's Clare O’Brien has done the hard work for you by developing some great menu suggestions: her 10 good menu ideas for giving your mates a great meal for under £20 (to feed four) are on the MIAMI website.

Here's a couple of examples:
Roast chicken, roast potatoes & green salad. Chocolate crunchies & fresh fruit
This is a classic, low cost, wow them with flavour dinner. One chicken will do for four people. Try and use duck or goose fat for the potatoes: they'll taste so much better. Just add a simple vinaigrette dressing on the leaves. The chocolate crunchies are a Nigel Slater grown up twist on a childhood favourite. Ho yum!

Chilli con carne, rice & salsa. Tiramasu.
Two classics. Try for a change Delia Smith’s great recipe for Chilli from her Winter Cookbook (she uses black beans not kidney beans). Round it off with everyone’s favourite dessert (and again, Delia does Tiramasu so well). So nostalgic, you’ll want to light the room with candles stuck in chianti bottles!

For more menu ideas

Friday, 17 April 2009

Oiling the wheels of London Transport

Even the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson is embracing the MIAMI ethos and has invited tenders to the London Waste and Recycling Board for funds for recycling schemes.

One scheme being considered is ways of reusing waste cooking oil to keep London moving. Among the ideas are designing new Routemaster buses to run on waste oil, a car hire scheme with vehicles that use recycled fat, and "cooking oil stations" to refuel vehicles.

Recycling oil for fuel by filtering and treating it with chemicals to make biodiesel, usable in most diesel vehicles, is not a new idea. All catering oil from City Hall is recycled into biodiesel - about 1,000 litres a year. The Met converts 20,000 litres and Transport for London more than 2,000.

This latest project would extend recycling to oil that could be collected from restaurants and canteens.

Supporters of biodiesel say it improves air quality, cuts use of fossil fuels and stop drains getting blocked by old refuse.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Can we pester you for your pesto ideas?

Don't you love pesto? It's so easy to make when the basil is in season, but the jars are also fantastic stock cupboard stalwarts. You can use pesto for lots more than making pasta al pesto.

The team at Make it and Mend it decided to celebrate the versatility of pesto by asking everyone to send in their favourite idea for using pesto. We've contacted the people at Sacla' and they've very kindly given us some nice pesto recipe cards and some recipe/ shopping list notebook and pen sets to give away to the first people to respond (UK addresses only I'm afraid) - all the details are on our website.

We plan to publish the recipes on the site when we have them all.

Meanwhile to get the ball rolling here are a couple of recipes sent to us from Lina, one of our readers in Milan Italy.

Pasta double sauce:
Prepare a simple tomato sauce with olive oil, an onion and fresh tomatoes (pomodorini) or peeled tomatoes, plus salt &pepper. Heat on the hob for about 20 minutes. When the pasta is cooked al dente add the tomato sauce and 2 small spoons of pesto

Lasagne with pesto (for 2 people)
Ingredients: 8 lasagne sheets (to make 3 layers), pesto (fresh basil leaves, garlic, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, pinenuts, salt, extra-virgin olive oil), besciamella sauce (white sauce: 25 g butter, 25 g flour, 250 ml milk, nutmeg), extra-virgin olive oil, salt. (If you like, you can add some ricotta cheese too)
  1. Prepare besciamella with butter, flour and milk. Add a pinch of nutmeg powder at the end and stir well.
  2. Prepare a good pesto (or get your jar ready).
  3. Cook each lasagna sheet for 4-5 minutes .
  4. Take a small oven tray, put some extra-virgin olive oil on the bottom and cover the surface with 2 lasagne sheets.
  5. Put some pesto on it and then some besciamella sauce and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano.
  6. Put other 2 lasagne sheets and pesto, besciamella and Parmigiano. Continue like this until you finish all the ingredients.
  7. Put into oven and cook at 180 C for 20 minutes.
This feature has now closed - but we will be shortly publishing the recipes you sent on our website.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Bags from old tyres and suits from plastic bottles

We've been on the lookout for recycled fashion items this week and have come up with a couple of interesting ones.

First up is a handbag made from old car tyres. This can be bought online for just £24.99 from The Green Trading Company (link below). The bag is hardwearing and practical, yet still manages to look stylish. We think this is a great solution for someone wanting a tough and capacious bag for everyday use, with impeccable green credentials.

Debenham's, the UK department store has just launched a women's suit made from recycled plastic bottles.

Each suit, which retails at £55, is made from 50 bottles, which would otherwise have been destined for landfill. The bottles are cleaned and melted down in Taiwan and woven in to a soft, but hard-wearing, material similar to polyester, said the retailer. It took around a year to develop the suit.

The store is confident the suit will sell well, combining fashion with green credentials and a relatively low retail price. If it does prove popular the company may extend the recycled range to include menswear.

The Green Trading Company

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

10 things that make you feel fab and don’t break the bank

We all sometimes need to unwind or give ourselves a real treat - but it doesn't have to be expensive.

Make it and Mend it's Anne Caborn gives her 10 tips for felling fabulous frugally

Check it out here on the Make it and Mend it website

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Mend at Proteus Gowanus in Brooklyn

Proteus Gowanus is a gallery and reading room, housed in an old box factory in Brooklyn. They are currently showing an exhibition that's right up our street, as it's on the theme of "MEND".

In the words of the gallery "From mending a piece of fabric to solving global problems, we will explore the theme from a multiplicity of perspectives and disciplines at a time when “fixing things,” from the mundane to the profound, seems increasingly out of our reach. In a culture that increasingly resorts to throwing things away when they break, we will begin by exploring the disappearing skills and tools of repair, from darning socks and repairing shoes, to fixing watches and mending clothing, including stitching, spinning, and knitting."

As well as the current exhibition, the space also hosts a weekly meeting of the Fixers' Collective, a group dedicated to a social experiment in improvisational fixing and mending. People are invited to bring along their broken objects, which are placed on a large table for a communal inspection and the exchange of ideas and techniques to fix them. Anyone can come along, as long as they are willing to have a go, and there are "Master Fixers" there to lend support, guidance and courage.

We think the Fixers' Collective is a brilliant idea - and one that we at Make it and Mend it are planning to steal joyfully ourselves. More news on this soon.

Proteus Gowanus

Monday, 6 April 2009

Vintage clothes, buttons, magazines and royalty

Saturday saw us off to the Affordable Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green, where there was lots of inspiration for us make and menders. We bought some fabulous old buttons that will be perfect for perking up a shirt or trimming a cushion. Wait and see!

We also picked up a copy of My Home magazine (incorporating Wife and Home) from March 1960. What struck us at once was how in those days you could evidently make a decent living as a graphic artist. There was a wealth of illustrations across both the editorial and particularly the ads. What a shame it's so rare to see illustration these days, especially in advertising. But times have changed: although with the global economic collapse the headline "£4315 for you at age 55" does not seem quite the laughable pension offer it would have done a couple of years ago.

I'll upload some visuals onto the Make it and Mend it website: but somehow I don't think we'll be getting too many offers for the knitting pattern for the bright yellow 'His and Hers' polo neck sweaters!

We also met Lena and Tara from Queens of Vintage. They were doing a roaring trade in free vintage style hair and makeup sessions. Check out their website - there's some great inspiration for vintage fashion lovers.

Friday, 3 April 2009

10 Top Tips to make Spring Cleaning a breeze

We are coming to the end of National Spring Cleaning Week, so if you haven't done any yet, now is a good time to get started. Here are our top tips for making spring cleaning easy and rewarding:
  1. Make your own cleaning materials. It's easy. It's natural. It's cheap. It's kinder to the environment. What else do you want?
  2. Pick a day when the sun's shining. It makes cleaning windows easier. It lifts your spirits and gives you more energy.
  3. Before you clean, clear the clutter - it will create space in your life as well as your home.
  4. Don't see Spring cleaning as a task or a chore. See it as a chance to brighten your home and reclaim your space.
  5. Do it to music. It lifts the spirits and makes you clean more energetically. Pick upbeat, lively songs.
  6. Make a list of tasks and tick them off as you do them. You'll get a sense of momentum and accomplishment.
  7. Prepare your tool kit and materials in advance and put them in a box or basket so you can carry them around easily.
  8. Don't just clean - freshen too. Shake some baking soda on the carpets and leave overnight - then vacuum afterwards for fresh smelling carpets.
  9. Don't forget to clean your house plants too - dusty leaves look very sad and give the impression that your home is not cared for.
  10. Plan to reward yourself afterwards with a big fat glass of wine, a bar of chocolate or whatever is your preferred treat.
For loads of advice about spring cleaning, making your own natural cleaning material and clearing clutter, check out our website

Thursday, 2 April 2009

10 Ideas for Inspired Recycling in the Home

1. Make compost - it's really easy. It's a source of great (free!) nutrients for your garden and you may be able to get a free or subsidised cost composting bin from your local authority. For easy steps to make compost, how to make a bin, and a handy table to show what to use and how to blend ingredients see our step by step guide to composting

2. Use toilet roll tubes or rolled newspapers as pots to grow seeds. We have an easy guide to show you how

3. Make fused plastic out of old plastic shopping bags. Threadbanger has a brilliant video showing how to fuse plastic as well as video guides to making things from it such as laptop bags or shopping bags.

4. Use empty plastic soda or water bottles to protect plants from frost

5. Make yarn and knit a bag with old plastic shopping bags

6. Use old tin foil to clean your silver jewellery. This is not only a great way to recycle but it also saves you a fortune on expensive silver cleaners and gives you fabulous looking jewellery or sparkling cutlery. We show you how here.

7. Use old ties to make bags, chair seats, iPod covers, quilts. One of our readers wrote to tell us she had attacked her husband's huge (now unused) tie collection and found that ties contain a huge amount of (beautiful) silk fabric when you pick them apart. She made a collection of ipod and cellphone covers. Since then we have come across people who make handbags, cushions, skirts and shirts and even upholster chairs. Tell us if you have some interesting uses for unloved ties.

8. Wrap parcels and gifts in newspapers instead of brown paper or giftwrap. This can look really impactful and effective.

9. Use eggshells to feed plants and keep slugs and snails at bay

10. Hold a Swishing party to swap unwanted clothes with your friends. "Swishing" is a great way to combine kindness to the planet with thriftiness and have good time into the bargain. We have lots of tips to help you make your Swish a success.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Don't keep your feet off the seats!

Ignore all those signs on the Tube in London to keep your feet off the seats and instead stick your feet in the seats by wearing these trainers made from genuine London Underground seat fabric. (Illustrated is Central Line)

The collection, from Above+Below, exclusively incorporates rare, vintage and ultra rare iconic retro textiles from the 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's reclaimed from seats on London's Underground tube carriages and buses. Each fabric relates to a particular underground line

These fabrics are relics of London's unique design heritage and Central Saint Martin's college graduate Robert Taylor and music promoter/film maker Caroline Read collected and preserved them before they were lost to landfill or incineration forever.

The shoes use recycled tyre rubber in the soles, restored Tube and bus seat textiles in the uppers and re-used leather cheque book wallets in the trim.

As well as the shoes' excellent recycling credentials, Above+Below supports "Love London" and will donate a tree for each pair they sell, to be planted by Trees for Cities. The trainers can be bought on line - prices are shown in dollars (US and AUD) sterling and Euros and scarcity value of your chosen fabric.

Above+Below from Urban Remade

Charity fashion show of restyled clothes

At Make it and Mend it we are committed to reusing and refashioning our wardrobes and have already extolled the virtues of "Swishing" (holding parties to exchange clothes).

NOVO have come up with an innovative way of organizing a clothing drive for their community in Southern California. They have encouraged aspiring fashion designers to collaborate with the rest of the NOVO team in creating original clothing lines with donated clothes as an act of making the old, new. Their mission is to connect the Los Angeles community to a cause through clothing.

For the past 3 months, Jessica Chang and Ellen Chang have been collecting clothes from the community and on April 25th 2009 they have invited designers to come and create fashion lines from the donated clothes. These newly modelled clothes will be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds donated to organizations working to address local poverty. Any leftover clothes will be donated to local shelters and charitable organizations.

We love this idea and would like to hear of anyone sles doing something similar.

More about Novo
How to organise a Swishing party