An interview with Jen Gale of My Make Do and Mend Year!

Jen Gale spent a whole year of making do and mending and wrote about it all on her blog My Make Do and Mend Year.  I am a big fan of Jen’s blog and am so pleased she agreed to answer some interview questions for me, which are as follows:

Sustainable gift wrap course

1. What inspired you to start a whole year of making do and mending?
I was concerned at how aware of ‘stuff’ our then 3 year old seemed to be, and it got me thinking about all the stuff we already had, and how we really didn’t need any more. At about the same time, I read an article about a lady called Suzy Prince who had embarked upon a Secondhand Safari, and I thought it sounded like a brilliant challenge!

2. What was your favourite make?

Hmmm, tough one. Probably our egg box Christmas tree

3. What was your favourite mend?

I learned quite quickly to very inexpertly patch numerous pairs of jeans, but I think my favourite mend is this fish salt pig that fell on the floor (it *may* have been helped on it’s way by a Small person…). Hubby put it in the bin, and I made him dig it out and glue it back together, and we then put some coloured Sugru (if you haven’t heard of Sugru, check it out-it will change your life!) on the top of the cracks to make for a very ‘visible mend’

4. Was there anything that you found particularly hard not to buy new? Did you cheat at all?

We bought things like new tyres for the car, as we decided that buying pre-worn ones was a false economy, and we obviously wanted to be safe. We also bought solar panels for the house! I did ask if there was such a thing as secondhand panels but the man just looked at me like I was slightly mad. 
In general, it was far easier than I thought it would be to find everything we needed. It becomes difficult, when instead of general ‘clothes’, you need something very specific, like swimming shorts for a 4 year old, or some 11 wellies. But E-bay is very good for looking for specifics, as are sites like

5. What were the best moments of your year of making do and mending?

I find it really hard to pick out specific moments. Christmas was exhausting at the time, but when I look back I am really proud of us for doing it, and making 95% of the presents we gave, as well as most of the decorations and all the food from scratch! Being asked to do a TED talk was a huge honour, and I’m really not used to public speaking, so it was massively nerve-wracking, but such a brilliant experience. And being featured in The Sun was another highlight! It was brilliant to get the opportunity to get the word out there about Making Do and Mending.

6. How if at all has your year changed you?

It has totally transformed the way we shop, and to a certain extent how we live. I became so much more aware of of what we are buying, and also what we are throwing away. I had never made the link before, between what you buy, and what you throw away, but ultimately, it all ends up being thrown away, and there is actually no ‘away’, so it really makes you think. 
I don’t think I will ever buy clothes from the High St again. I learned about the ‘ethics’ or otherwise of the fashion industry, and now don’t think I would feel comfortable buying something that I know someone has quite literally slaved over. Anyway, I have bought far more clothes since the start of My Make Do and Mend Year, than I ever would have done, and all from charity shops! 
In general, I really try to stop and think now before I buy something, and try to find a secondhand source.

7. Do you think making do and mending is something which is accessible to all, or do you need specialist skills/ lots of time?

I think it is totally accessible. Buying Nothing New is something that everyone can do. You don’t need to be a repair whiz or be able to make things-you can find pretty much anything you need secondhand-whether it be at a charity shop, car boot, flea market, vintage fair or online.

8. What 5 tips would you give to someone who wants to get started with making do and mending?

  • Look at what you already have and first off, see if you can ‘make do’. Most of the time, we don’t really NEED new stuff, we just WANT it! I often found that by the time I had found what it was I thought I wanted, I no longer really did!
  • Try and look at things in a different light. For example, an old duvet cover makes an excellent source of very cheap fabric, as do old jeans. Old jumpers can be made into ‘new’ hats and mittens, and even the things from your recycling box can be put to good use.
  • The web is an excellent source of inspiration and instruction. I spend far too much time on Pinterest, and sites like Instructables ( are great too.
  • Visible mending is all the rage at the moment, so don’t fret if your repair is there for all to see-embrace it and be proud!
  • Don’t be afraid to have a go. What’s the worst that can happen? Something that is already broken or damaged becomes more broken or damaged! And you are bound to learn along the way.

9. In an ideal world with access to unlimited time, resources and money, what would you do next?

What a brilliant question!
I have 2 dreams:
The first is to have a building that can be a community hub-a place where Makers and Menders can get together for workshops and tea and cake. There would be workshops in all kinds of creative things, from upholstery to crochet, to bike repair and woodworking. Anything that shows people how to re-use and re-love something. There would be an Upcycle Exchange-a retail area where people can donate any unwanted crafting supplies and they are then sold on, on a Pay as You Wish basis. Maybe even a paint recycling scheme, and workshops on furniture painting. There would be regular Repair Cafes and Swishes, and charity sewing days. And all powered sustainably and furnished with upcycled and pre-loved bits 🙂
The second one is a similar thing, but on a smallholding, with all kinds of self-sufficiency and cooking workshops and lectures thrown into the mix!
How awesome would that be?!
Thanks so much to Jen for answering my questions.  Jen is still making do, mending and blogging and I highly recommend having a look at her great blog My Make Do and Mend Year.
I am currently undertaking a Year of Eco Challenges . If you have a moment I would really appreciate it if you would consider sponsoring me with an action on my DoNation page. Also if you liked this post please click like on Facebook and follow on Twitter – thanks so much!