RSS Feed

Tag Archives: make do and mend

Sewing Bees in Wartime

We hear a lot about ‘Make do and Mend’ during Wartime, especially when clothing rationing was in effect,  but maybe you haven’t heard about sewing bees. Quilting Bees were popular in America in the early 1800’s, as a way for women to meet others and tackle large quilts that would be cumbersome by themselves. They provided socialization, friendship, wisdom and sharing of supplies and tools,  and basically involved a group of women getting together and sewing.

The first mention I have found of a wartime Sewing Bee is in this article from December 1939 –


30 December 1939 Australian Woman’s Weekly

Red Cross Sewing Bees see to become popular in Australia.


27 April 1940  Australian Woman’s Weekly

Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) was probably the one who began to make Sewing Bees popular in England and Australia during the War, forming a Red Cross Sewing Bee for the women of the royal household at the palace each week from as early as November 1939.


15 June 1940 Australian Women’s Weekly

You can also watch a little video her Great Sewing Bee of 1939 here.

This article from the American Woman’s Weekly in March 1942 is a little different, as rationing is not really mentioned, and the ladies are sewing more for themselves than the troops, but it is interesting to ‘see’ these ladies in action at their sewing bee.




Sewing Bees are obviously meant to be a cooperative event. There is a recent British TV show called ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ which is a reality TV contest type show, which to me loses the point of sewing bees, but you can watch it here.

Have you joined a Sewing Bee or thought of doing so? Tips for joining an online sewing bee can be found here.


New Miracles with Old Clothes & Re-fashioning



Women during the 30s and 40s must have been wonderful sewers. Not only could they sew their own day dresses and evening wear, cut from metres of normal fabric, they were expected to be able to cut down existing items of clothing and turn them into something else.  And everyone did expect it.  This ad from November 1942 is by Kelloggs – yes the breakfast cereal company!



If you want to try some refashioning – something that is again becoming popular – you can find this little booklet (in downloadable PDF) on Etsy for about $4.


You may also like to have a look at these re-fashioning blogs – 

Refashion Co-op


Recycled Fashion

This blog is not for you

The Renegade Seamstress


Austerity, the Cheery Way, 1942

Take that old hat or dress and give it a new lease of life with a little ribbon or netting, or perhaps a new collar from that old organza blouse you just happen to have lying around……make do and mend goes wild!


Using odd bits and pieces for fashion, 1942

During the war fabric was rationed in Australia as well as in the war zone – it was needed ‘for our boys’ – silk for parachutes, drill for uniforms and wool for overcoats.  Women not only ‘made do and mended’, they became creative in using the bits and pieces of fabric they had to make new garments, with with patchwork, or in creations like these.


Australian Women’s Weekly, October 1942 



Head Turning Hats, 1942


Kitten Vintage

Handpainted and vintage furniture and accessories

Cheltenham Road

The adventures of a reluctant crafter

First Night Design

Art, Design, Theatre, Literature, History, Food, Laughter ...

1st Field Company Engineers - Australian Imperial Forces

The stories of the 229 "Originals" who Embarked on the A19"Afric", A6 "Clan McCorquodale", A35 "Berrima" 1914.

Inside the Fashion Doll Studio

Barbie for big girls.


Fine Miniature Couture for Dolls

Color by Klimbim

Gal Gumshoe with M. Ruth Myers

1940s, women, mysteries & more

Collecting cutlery

Interesting topics on cutlery for the collector

Woolies Buildings - Then and Now

What happened to your old Woolworths store?

Out Of My Mind Images

living life with a camera in one hand and a pencil in the other :)

Please Pass the Recipe

sharing recipes from one generation to the next




A great site