Make Do And Mend

Sherborne Museum

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Clothing
Food and Cooking
In The Home
South East
1939 - 1945

"I remember the shortages. I didn't take sugar fortunately so I didn't miss it! All the fats were rationed and soap. It was lovely to get a tablet of soap. You couldn't get washing powder for love nor money - and oh we were so pleased if we could get some Lux! [ soft soap flakes]. If you did you shared it. You didn't keep it to yourself. There were no dog biscuits or cat food either. You used to queue at the fishmongers to get bits to feed the cats on. I had two cats. Clothes - well it was Make do and Mend. Fortunately we were all handy and made our own clothes. Mother was a seamstress so we always had a good wardrobe. She was always in demand. Stockings - well if we heard someone had some we used to queue for ages to get just one pair. At Soho there were lots of stalls. If a whisper went round that stockings might be coming in we would start to queue and would get one pair if we were lucky. They were lyle or fine cotton. Silk stockings were like gold dust. If anyone came from America with silk stockings they were plagued! The RAF smuggled them in sometimes for us. We unpicked knitted jumpers and pullovers, washed the wool to get the crinkles out and then re-knitted it into something else. Shoes were very hard to get hold of. I don't remember getting a new pair. People used to go round second hand stalls to get footwear. Wellingtons were the most important thing in our wardrobe ! Father was a good gardener. We grew beans, peas and potatoes. We tried everything to supplement our diet. The number of bananas I managed to get during the war you could count on one hand. We grew soft fruit too and we had two plum trees and an apple tree. Most of us shared everything -there were just one or two who didn't. We saved our sugar to make jam but there was never enough but it didn't matter because it never stayed on the shelf too long! I remember the first time we used pectin to make it set better. When the war ended there were lots of celebrations. I remember lots of street parties - we tried to make the most of everything. It wasn't the end of rationing though. It went on for another four years. It actually got worse after the war - not better. Everything was in short supply."
London

Joy Sinnott

In The Home
South East
1939 - 1945

"My father had been in Germany for seven years before the war so he was used to working in difficult conditions but he was home before war broke out. Then he worked for the NAFFI, a reserved occupation so he wasn't called up although he was of serving age. He was head of a department at Kennington Naffi HQ. Mother was at home. My brother was serving with the Royal Engineers in India. I don't remember my older sister very well because she died when she was 16 of TB and I was only about 5. Mother had been apprenticed to a tailoress at the age of 14 1/2 and she served a five year apprenticeship. She made all of our clothes. I can't remember ever buying anything in our family. Her mother was the same. Grandmother had had 13 children but only six lived beyond childhood. Grandmother was a very interesting lady. She lived in Battersea at No 43 Kersley Street opposite St Stephens Church. It was only a two minute walk to Battersea Park and I remember she always had a dog and the dogs she had were always called Jimmy.
At home when the siren went when the planes came over we went to the shelters in Wandsworth Common or Clapham Common. We stayed underground all night. I remember dodging the searchlights. Sometimes I would pop home and make a hot drink.
It was a very interesting time! I wouldn't say I would want to go through it again but it was an interesting experience!"
London

Joy Sinnott

Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"Remembered getting leather patches to sew on to elbows of jackets when they were threadbare to make them last longer. Some village WIs made these and sold them during the war."
South West

Freda King

Clothing
Food and Cooking
Everyday Life
South West
1939 - 1945

"I was born 11th November 1928, Remembrance Day, so I was called Poppy.
I remember queuing for bananas and oranges. We used to turn worn out sheets sides to the middle to give them a new lease of life. Wedding dresses were made from parachute silk if you were lucky enough to get some.
Lots of rabbit meat was eaten and rabbits were bred especially for this purpose. Butter was rationed so we used to put jam on first and butter on top to make it go further. Rosehips were gathered for vitamin C. We got extra rations of preserving sugar to make jam. Children were allowed orange juice and cod liver oil. There was quite a good exchange system working - the Black Market!
We ate all of the pig - there were bath chaps, brawn, brain, tripe and chitterlings!
I remember dried egg, dried milk and mock cream. There was chicory and dandelion coffee. There was a shortage of kilner jars - we used candle wax to seal the jars. Candles were sold by the pound weight.
I remember red petrol and cars being stopped to check what was in the tank. Slits were fitted to the headlights to restrict the amount of light showing and of course everyone had blackout curtains.
A lot of flax was grown for soldiers uniforms.
Newspapers were rationed to half of their usual size to save paper.
I remember saving 18 coupons for a coat, 12 for a dress, 2 for stockings and 7 for shoes."
Weymouth, Dorset

Poppy and friends raising money during the war. Poppy Butcher

Poppy sharing her wartime collection at a Make do and Mend event.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember my first black suit. During the war to buy a suit would take most of one's coupons. I wanted a black suit before I went off as a V.A.D. If one had a decent tailor it turned out to be feasible to convert a man's dinner jacket and trousers into a coat and skirt. My father happened to have replaced his old one just before the war, and out of the very nice barathea cloth mother's tailor made a jacket, with a well made skirt, but it had to be slightly gored in four pieces. Also I remember remnants of cloth were not rationed so sometimes leading to sofa-cover material being turned into summer frocks! "


Sheila Rideout
RECALLS EVACUATION - and the great change from the city facilities she had been used to.
Clothing
South West
1939 - 1945

"I remember Blanket Coats. It saved on your coupons and soon they became the latest fashion. At first we had army blankets and could make them into coats. Then it became all the rage to get airforce coloured blankets and they were considered to be superior!"
Bristol

Alice Smith

Everyday Life
South East
1939 - 1945

"I lived in Outer London, at Thornton Heath, when war broke out. We had had the phoney war and then war broke out on 3rd September. My mother had had another baby in the Spring and on the 4th we were evacuated to Brighton. I always thought it was a strange place to be evacuated to - looking over the English Channel when planes were coming over. We had a lovely Victorian villa type house and shared it with another evacuated family - a mum and baby. I loved it there. We spent most of the war there - 3 1/2 years. At first it didn't seem necessary but eventually we heard that our house in London had been badly damaged in a bombing raid so we had to stay until it was repaired.
I remember seeing tiny boats out to sea and we climbed to Devil's Dyke and saw the small boats coming back from the evacuation of Dunkirk. I shall always remember it.
I went to school locally. I used to have 6d a week pocket money and used to go into the antique shops and buy little bits of china. Father was away - he was sent to Portsmouth on war work.
When our house was repaired we returned to London - just in time for the doodle bugs and the V2 rockets! They were really frightening. I remember the ack-ack guns too.
I don't ever remember being hungry or being short of anything. I think our parents hid those things from us and deprived themselves of their rations to give us the things we needed. I never wanted to live in London again and have always lived in the country."
Thornton Heath, London

Wendy Bray

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"I don't remember being very short of much during the war except my sweet ration used to disappear very quickly. Mum used to send me to the shop for a halfpenny's worth of sweets. She used to send me with a penny and always asked for the change. Our little shopkeeper was an old lady and she used to make her own sweets. I'm not sure how she got the sugar! She used to make sticky toffee drops and some others. I do remember things getting worse after the war. During the war our local baker still made his lovely bread. You used to be able to smell it baking from our house and Mum used to send me round to get our loaf that wasn't rationed. After the war for a while bread was rationed. The Utility Loaf was horrible after our lovely bread. They used to say 70% less wheat in it. I'm not sure what was in it. It was a grey colour and tasted awful. Mum managed to get some flour and made us soda bread at home."
Street, Somerset

Muriel Smith

Food and Cooking
South West
1939 - 1945

"Uncle George used to work in the Horlicks Factory in Crewkerne. During the war they used to be given big jars of Horlicks every few weeks and we used to give some to our cousins near Sherborne to save their ration coupons. We didn't use that much Horlicks at home so we used to trade our spare with neighbours for other things we needed. The big jars were very useful afterwards for storage jars."
Dowlish Wake, Somerset

Jess Fowler

Food and Cooking
Wales
1939 - 1945

"There were six of us and four loved sugar and sweets. Mum used to get really fed up with the arguments over rations so she set us up a jar each and put our names on it - she used the edging bits off of the postage stamps with sticky backs to save paper. She used to put our weekly ration in our jar and when it was gone that was it! I remember our gas masks. They used to hang on a hook behind the door. We were supposed to practice putting them on but we didn't like them. We didn't like the rubbery smell either. I can't remember finding them useful except when Mum asked me to peel the onions. I was the oldest and they stopped my eyes running!"
Hengoed, South Wales

Mary Smith

Do you remember having to make do and mend? Please submit your experiences.