Make and mend your own household linens

29 October 2013
According to this article, handmade crafts are making a big comeback in America, with $29 billion reportedly spent on craft materials in 2011. There are many reasons for the popularity of crafts again; some are working towards self-reliance, some want to learn traditional skills, some want non-commercial and unique items, some want the beauty of something hand made, others just love working with their hands. Whatever the reason, I think the trend towards homemade is just as strong in Australia and from what I can see, in the UK and many European countries as well.

One of the things I'm working on at the moment is replacing some of my household linens. In the past I used to buy tea towels, tablecloths, dishcloths, aprons, curtains, food covers and the other bits and pieces we use here, but now I make all of it. I find when I make it myself, I get exactly what I want and the quality is superior to what I can buy ready-made. And let's face it, it's difficult finding a lot of these unusual linens we use in a simple home. How many times have you seen food covers on the weekly specials table? If we need cloths to drain yoghurt and cheese, a new rag bag, padded coat hangers or a linen apron that is longer than the average apron, those things we have to make ourselves.

A milk jug cover doubling as a cover for our sprouter. This is simply a circle of netting that has been edged with crochet and beads.

Years ago when I started reading blogs, I noticed that many women used their spare hours for sewing, mending and knitting. Some ladies said they felt guilty doing craft work because they enjoyed it. The implication being that they were doing this work for their own pleasure. I don't look at it that way. I see all sorts of craftwork and traditional work as part of my housework. Looking after household linens is part of what I do. I am responsible for having what we need in our home and for keeping all of it in good order. I want to live in a comfortable home and sometimes, to supply that comfort, I need to make new items or repair the old. Sewing, mending and knitting is part of my housework; I see it as one of the duties of the homemaker, male and female.

Our new set of table napkins.
I  use this food cover a lot, especially during the warmer months, to keep flies off the table. Someone gave me this cover, I wish I could remember who, but it is handmade of soft tulle and edged in a fruit patterned cotton.

Some of the work I've done in the past week is to replace old napkins that have outlived their lives and will now serve us from the rag bag. I have replaced a lot of the "disposable" products, such as the paper napkins and dish cloths, with homemade items. I make them here, choosing natural yarns and fabrics and wash and reuse them over and over again. It's a simple thing but it saves money and it makes you think about all the waste generated by purchasing what is supposed to be disposable.

One of Jamie's toy bags. He uses these bags to store toys he wants to take home and bring back again.

If you've never done anything like this before, I encourage you to make a couple of things, even if you're not a great sewer. Most of it is straight lines and simple sewing. You will get a lot of support and encouragement if you go to the forum and tell the ladies what you're doing, or if you need help. This is the link to our handmade forum that I recommend to both women and men who want to learn how to make and mend. No one will laugh or tease you, it will be praise and support all the way.

You can try tote bags for shopping, fabric bags for kids toys and books, a linen bag in which to store your bread, food covers, dish cloths, napkins, tablecloths, jug covers, covers for your ferments while they sit on the kitchen bench, tea cosies, pot holders, curtains, cushion covers, a rag bag, a carry-all for your knitting or crochet, table runners, place mats or aprons. If you have a stockpile of fabric you have the ideal starting point for many of these useful linens. Some of them would make wonderful Christmas gifts too. Imagine giving your neighbour a loaf of your homemade bread in a linen bag that he could store it in. That would make a good teacher's gift as well. What about three organic cotton face cloths with some of your homemade soap. Beautiful!

If you're hoping to improve your sewing, knitting or crochet skills, start by making one of these small projects. Remember, there is no such thing as perfect, so embrace the results of your beginner skills, if that is what they are, and know that the more you do of this type of activity, the better you get at it. What are you making for your home?