Name: Jen Gale
Company Name: Make Do and Mend-able
Make Do and Mend-able is an online resource to promote Making Do and Mending as an alternative to buying new, and to facilitate the learning of new skills. On the site you will find tutorials, and inspiration for all things Make Do and Mend, as well as a nationwide Directory of classes, workshops, repair and re-use events, and pre-loved and ethical craft supplies.
I live in Wiltshire, but the site is nationwide!
FB: Make Do and Mend-able
How did you get started in this line of work?
My family and I spent a year Buying Nothing New in 2012/13, and I started a blog, My Make Do and Mend Year, to document the journey. It was a brilliant experience, and one I would totally recommend anyone to try. As well as learning loads of new skills, it highlighted to me all kinds of issues around consumption and resource depletion, and made me aware that I need to take responsibility for the choices I make everyday. It empowered me to make more sustainable choices, and to encourage other people to think about their choices through blogging about what we were doing.
How did you become more established?
I spent a year blogging every day and built up a pretty good following both on the blog, and on social media. I was asked to guest post on other blogs, and for some bigger organisations like Start UK, The Eden Project’s Big Lunch, and Keep Britain Tidy’s Waste Less, Live More campaign. And as I became more ‘noticeable’ I was also asked to write some articles for the Guardian’s How to Mend series as well.
During the year I dived headfirst into public speaking with my first every attempt, at a TEDx event in Bedford entitled Everyday Radicals, and have since spoken at the Bristol Festival of Nature, as well as to local WIs.
By the end of the year, it really felt like I had found my passion, my ‘thing’, and I wanted to find a way I could start to generate an income from all the time I was putting into blogging and writing and speaking. I quickly realized however, that I needed to somehow do this without selling, and advertising ‘stuff’ as this would be completely contrary to the message I am trying to get out there.
And so the idea for the Directory was born. I love learning new skills, and I think that the old fashioned Make Do and Mend mentality of our grandparents is something that we are going to have to embrace as we move forwards into a very uncertain future, and resources continue to decrease. We will all need to re -learn those skills, and so having a place where people can come to find out what workshops and classes are available near to them made perfect sense. I also wanted to be able to promote projects like Repair Cafes, and Skill Swaps, and enable people to find out about all the fabulous re-use initiatives going on around the country.
What is the best part of your job?
I totally love finding out about all the fabulous repair and re-use initiatives that are going on around the country. People who have seen a problem, and have gone out into their communities with what are often brilliantly simple solutions. It is so inspiring to hear about and to meet (virtually!) so many amazing people, who are doing brilliant things in their towns and villages, that are not only helping individuals to learn new skills, but are having a positive impact on their community too.
Where do you find inspiration? Do you keep notebooks, scrap books, pinterest boards etc.?
I spend a LOT of time on social media, and pick up inspiration from things I see on Facebook and Twitter, and love to share them to spread the inspiration around! I am a big fan of Pinterest, and daren’t even start to think about how many things I’ve pinned!
Offline, I always have a notebook on the go, and several seemingly never-ending lists…
Have you come across any stumbling blocks or limitations within your work?
Sometimes I struggle with overwhelm, both in terms of the enormity of trying to do anything, no matter how small, to tackle huge issues like climate change, and resource depletion, and also in terms of me personally trying to do everything on my own. I have two small boys, and in the early days of My Make Do and Mend Year, our youngest wasn’t even at pre-school and was home with me 24/7. Evenings were pretty busy..!
And I’m really bad at looking at what other people are doing and comparing myself unfavourably.
What do you do to try and overcome these?
In terms of the overwhelm I sometimes feels about the big issues, I remind myself that although I am just one person, my actions do have an impact. They might only be a drop in a vast ocean when viewed individually, but they do make a difference, and I do have to do them. And if we all did them, all those teeny tiny differences start to add up, and that is when we start to see real change.
For my own personal overwhelm and trying to do too much, I am a big fan of lists. I have to write everything down, and then stop procrastinating and just start working my way through the list!
And for the comparison thing, my husband is very good at reminding me ‘not to compare my insides with other people’s outsides’ and that what we allow people to see on social media, can be very different from the reality.
Where would you like to see your work heading? Have you got any new directions coming up?
I would love the Directory to take off, and be a brilliant resource for people wanting to know where they can learn to knit, or to find their nearest Repair Café.
I’d also really like to do more writing, both for magazines and newspapers, and writing books about all things Make Do and Mend.
I want to make Making Do and Mending mainstream, and ‘normal’ and really get people thinking about the impact of the things they buy.
What hobbies do you have? Do you ever find that they feed into or influence your work?
I learned to sew when our eldest was only a few months old, and I’ve set myself a challenge this year to make an item of clothing a month, to push myself to learn new sewing skills, and develop a more handmade wardrobe.
And I love to crochet, some would say I’m addicted…!
They definitely influence my work, and as I endeavor to ‘make’ without buying anything new, it can often spark blog posts about where to find secondhand fabric or yarn etc.
Away from Making Do and Mending, I run. It really helps me mentally, that space and freedom, even it’s only 20 minutes!
Do you have three main pieces of advice that you would want to give someone who my wish to follow in your footsteps?
Make a start.
And then just keep doing one more thing.
Making a choice, and taking responsibility for it is addictively empowering! Stop procrastinating, take a deep breath, and just do it-whether it’s the recycling, or starting a blog, or booking sewing lessons. You will feel so much better!
As I said at the beginning, I would totally recommend anyone to have a go Buying Nothing New. Even a week or a month, is enough to make you stop and think about what you are buying, and why, and where it has come from, and what will happen to it once you’ve finished with it.
This year is the centenary of the formation of the WI; they are celebrating inspiring women. Who are the women who have inspired you over the course of your life?
My nana, but I only came to appreciate all that she did after she died. She made all her families clothes, including shirts and coats. All on her home sewing machine, which I now have!
My mum had an amazing work ethic, and would never say no. She was quietly principled and fiercely loyal.
My mind always goes frustratingly blank when asked this kind of question. I am inspired everyday by these quotes-all from inspiring women:
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that every has”
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
For more information about The Women’s Institute and find a group local to you, why not take a look at their website: