IN the Second World War, sewing and mending was a way of life borne out of economic harship. Now, as the cost-of-living hits home, they are once again increasing practices.

What’s happening?

John Lewis has revealed its haberdashery sales have soared, with the rise put down to shoppers looking to save money by “making-do and mending” amid the cost-of-living crisis.

What’s selling?

The department store retailer reported sales of craft and repair products – including patches and repair tape – have surged 61 per cent on last year, with repair kits and dressmaking accessories – such as dressmakers’ chalk and thimbles - among its best sellers.

Anything else?

Clothing colour dye sales jumped 24% notably due to rising demand for black and navy dye, which experts put down to the “refresh effect”, proving shoppers are looking to give a new lease-of-life to fading jeans and other beloved garments.

Sewing is on the rise?

John Lewis said customers were updating their sewing kits, with safety pin sales up 21% and tape measures up 14%.

What about knitting?

Sales of knitting needles were up 6%, with the store pointing to the “Tom Daley effect”, with the British Olympic gold diving medallist's in-store and online knitting kits ranging in price from a winter warmer hat kit at £35 to a £220 blanket kit.

A stitch in time…?

As the old proverb – first recorded in the 18th century – goes, if you tackle a small problem with a little work and effort now, you prevent it from becoming a big problem and this seems to be behind the rising interest, as householders face rocketing energy and fuel bills, as well as eye-watering rises in prices for food and household goods, opting to mend now rather than spend and regret.

It harks back to a wartime mindset?

Dressmaking and mending were of course particularly popular in the 1940s, when the “make do and mend” approach was a necessary way-of-life as clothes rationing began on June 1 1941, continuing until March 1949. In 1942, clothing austerity measures were even introduced to limit the number of buttons and decorations on clothes.

People were encouraged to sew?

A “Make Do and Mend” scheme was given official support by the Board of Trade in autumn 1942, urging people to repair, reuse and reimagine their existing clothes during the Second World War. Publicity materials were produced which included promotional posters, booklets, and a series of instructional leaflets featuring the character 'Mrs Sew and Sew' explaining sewing tips.


It is a trend that is back and expected to continue. John Lewis Haberdashery Lead Susan Kennedy said: “We’re certainly becoming a nation of craft lovers. Whether they’re looking to rejuvenate their clothes or have been inspired by the likes of Tom Daley’s knitting efforts last year, we’re seeing more and more customers turn to sewing, stitching, and knitting. It’s a trend set to continue, and we’ve recently launched some fantastic kits for new starters – from embroidery and stitching to crochet and knitting.”