A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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No. 35 - 3rd December, 1942


At the request of Campaigns Division Intelligence Officers were recently asked to report any criticisms or suggestions made by the public in connection with the “Mend and Make Do” campaign. Sponsored by the M.O.I. on behalf of the Board of Trade, this campaign has been running since mid-August in the Sunday press and some of the national weeklies, and in certain women's weekly and monthly magazines.

Reports on the public's comments were received from twelve Regions, Northern Ireland being excluded from the campaign. In seven Regions the campaign appears to have “passed unnoticed by a very large number of people”. The minority who have been aware of it are said to appreciate the advertisements and “to look forward to all the hints they can get”.

Three main reasons are suggested for the campaign's apparent failure to attract more attention:-

  1. “Most women have little time nowadays for elaborate mending and making do” (six Regions).

  2. To the majority of working-class housewives, “mending and making do is nothing new”; while among the poorest families, the quality of clothes bought, which are mostly secondhand, does not “warrant the time spent on elaborate mending” (four Regions).

  3. “Women's papers are hard to come by now for the casual purchaser who has not got a standing order”, and are therefore not read by a great number of people (two Regions).

The advertisements : The following ideas have been put forward for improving the advertisements and ensuring that they reach a wider public:

In four reports it is suggested that they should be placed “in the local paper, which is the family journal, and read more thoroughly by members of most households.” It is also suggested that the advertisements should be placed in the daily as well as the Sunday newspapers (six Regions).

The advertisements should be “more startling and conspicuous - one should be able to see them without looking for them.” It is suggested that they should be either “written up in the body of the magazine, like the usual beauty page”, with coloured plates; or they should be simpler and more striking, “with slogans in bold type (four Regions).

Classes in renovating : Courses of practical instruction are said to have been very successful in London, Wiltshire, and parts of Wales, and it is suggested that classes run by the Women's Institutes or other women's organisations, should “be inaugurated throughout the country.” “Expert advice” should be available at these classes, which, besides the renovation of clothes, should include instruction on the repair of household utensils. It is also suggested that “regular handwork classes” in schools and elsewhere should pay more attention to “mending and making do”, and that short courses of instructions should be available to teachers.

Exhibitions and demonstrations : These are said to be very popular, and it is suggested that they should be organised by Women's Institutes, Co-operative Guilds, and Mothers' Unions, in conjunction with the classes already referred to.

Among other suggestions are these:

  1. The recent exhibition at the Northumberland Rooms in London should tour the provinces.

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    There should be shop window displays of re-made articles.

  3. Demonstrations of ideas for mending and making do should be given in factory canteens.

  4. A house-to-house handbills campaign, organised by the W.V.S.

  5. “Mend and Make Do” depots, where “repairs and alterations could be undertaken” for busy housewives; or District Centres, where the “less experienced could get help.”

  6. “Five minutes broadcasts, on the lines of the Kitchen Front.”

  7. The cinema. In Sheffield a film “shown about three months ago, and which gave directions and illustrations”, is said to have “aroused interest.”

  8. It is thought that the campaign might well be directed to the “well-to-do, who have been in the habit of discarding clothes before they are worn out”, and it is suggested that the advertisements should be placed in such papers as Vogue or Country Life.

  9. The following articles should either be taken off the clothes ration, or the price of them reduced and the supply increased: patching material, buttons, needles, clips, wool, decorating materials such as Walpamur

  10. An improvement in the quality of stockings and knitting wool would encourage people to make more repairs and renovations.

The “hints” in the advertisements : Some of the “hints” are criticised for not “being detailed enough, particularly in regard to cutting out”, and it is suggested “that rough patterns should be given.” Some are thought to be “unpractical because they need a lot of time spent on them, which most people are unable to spare nowadays”; others are thought to be too well-known and “already used by hundreds of women.”

The following “hints” are specially criticised:-

  1. “The renovation of silk stockings - both unpractical and uncomfortable”.

  2. Socks cannot be made from pullover sleeves because the elbows, especially of boys' pullovers, wear out first.

  3. The difficulties of getting cement for mending household utensils, and lasts for shoe repairs, make such “hints” unpractical.

Questions to be solved : Instructions or solutions are asked for in connection with the following problems:

  1. “More instructions on the mending and repairing of household gadgets” (four Regions).

  2. How to prolong the life of household linen, towels and dish cloths, etc. (two Regions).

  3. How to wash woollens (two Regions).

  4. How to mend, dye or adjust household curtains (one Region).

  5. How to clothe growing children who are “neither of boys nor men's size” (one Region).

  6. A substitute for Wellingtons now (one Region).

  7. Ideas for making cheap toys (one Region).

  8. How to remove or reduce shine from blue serge (one Region).

Suggestions for Mending and Making do : The following suggestions are made:-

  1. Remaking small garments from those worn-out or of a larger size; i.e. two vests from one large one: a girl's frock from a man's trousers: gloves from cardigan sleeves, etc.

  2. Re-footing knitted socks or stockings with different coloured wool: strengthening the toe or heel with chamois leather: knitting heel-less socks in a spiral pattern, so that the heel can be turned round.

  3. Patching and re-footing machine-made stockings thus: (i) Knit new heels or toes by cutting away the worn portion and blanket stitch the edge; then pick up the blanket stitch on knitting needles and knit in the portion cut away. (ii) Graft bits of old stockings on to new ones which have holes or ladders.

  4. Mending garments with their own belts: in the case of men's shirts, use either the yoke lining or long sleeves.

  5. The following objects can be made from worn-out garments (i) curtains (dyed) from old sheets (ii) slippers from old carpets (iii) aprons and pinafores from coat linings or old shirts.

  6. Make old saucepans into steamers by boring holes in the bottoms.

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