Fun days out · Upcycling

Make Do and Mend Workshop

Hello and thanks so much for stopping by!

I hope you’ve had a lovely Sunday. Laura, one of my best friends, came to stay this weekend and we have enjoyed two fantastic days together. Today was especially fun as we took a trip to Barnard Castle for a Make Do and Mend workshop.

For those who don’t know Barnard Castle, it is a market town in County Durham. As well as the ruins of the castle itself, it’s home to The Bowes Museum, which hosted the amazing YSL exhibition a few years ago, and lots of lovely shops and cafes. There are also many special events throughout the year, including a 1940s weekend next month.

IMG_0288As a lover of vintage fashion this is right up my street. My mum and I had a wonderful time last year. You  can read my report on last year’s festivities for The Northern Echo here.

To help people look the part this time, Barnard Castle Town Council teamed up with costume maker and sewing expert Ann Gill to stage a Make Do and Mend workshop. Local charity shops brought over an array of clothing and hats for people to customise to create their very own 1940s style outfit on a shoestring. Laura and I both love sewing and crafts so it seemed the perfect way to round off our weekend of fun.

We received a warm welcome from Ann and the town mayor, Cllr Sandra Moorhouse, who was helping to run the workshop. As well as bringing along sewing machines, ribbons, trims and tools, Ann had set up a display of her own 1940s style creations. There was also a selection of costume books and vintage patterns to inspire us.




I must admit I usually prefer the fashions of the 1950s and 1960s to the 1940s as I am not keen on the structured military style jackets with big shoulders. However, I really like tea dresses and the fabulous hats women wore back then. As you can see in the photographs below, this look is softer although it still features those structured shoulders.

I was lucky enough to find the perfect dress on the Oxfam rail, priced at just £4.99. The dress is a navy blue wrap dress with a small floral polka dot print. I think it’s a cotton but it’s got a little bit of stretch to it.  A blue woollen beret would complete the look but first I  needed to make a few tweaks to get a better fit. This photo was taken just after Ann had pinned me in ready for the alterations.


Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs of the process but I will try to describe what we did. The dress had already been altered slightly by its previous owner and I undid a lot of these changes as we have different fitting issues. Shoulder pads had been added, which I kept, although I repositioned them. The dress originally featured ties at the back to accentuate the waist. I removed these and replaced them with back darts. This maintained the shape but will allow me to accessorise the dress with a belt.

Other alterations included moving one of the front buttons and adding a new buttonhole to further accentuate the waist, and sewing a little pleat on each sleeve to create a neater less floaty look. I also plan to add a pretty pink button on top of each fold as an extra detail. And that’s all there was to it. All I need now is some red lipstick and victory rolls and I’ll be ready to go.

But now for the exciting part…

While I was altering my dress, Laura was trying her hand at millinery with tremendous results. She started with the navy blue hat below, priced at £2.99 from Oxfam. She then turned it inside out and decorated it with green cord and roses made from ribbons and the offcuts of a tartan skirt she had shortened to complete her 1940s look. I think you will agree that Laura is an extremely talented and creative person #proudfriend 🙂




Here we are with Ann wearing our finished outfits. It was a great day and we can’t wait for the 1940s weekend.  Back in the forties rationing meant women had to refashion their clothing and be inventive with their choice of fabric and materials. In an age of fast fashion and cheap clothes many of us no longer need to do this but why not give it a try? It’s a creative, affordable  and sustainable approach to fashion and you will be rewarded with something unique.

Thank you Ann for all of your help and Sandra for the delicious scones and cups of tea.


You can find out more about Barnard Castle 1940s Weekend here.

To find out more about Ann Gill, click here.

2 thoughts on “Make Do and Mend Workshop

  1. Lovely account of your day Lizzie! We did have a fun time and I was really impressed by you and Laura’s adaptations! Thank you for your kind comments and hope to meet you again soon x

    Liked by 1 person

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