Yesterday I went to a massive flea market here in Barcelona called Encants (where I previously picked up the amazing vintage hand-painted buttons), with a sewing friend of mine who was on a mission to score some supplies from the haberdashery stalls. I was only going to keep her company but ended up getting in a frenzy at one stall that specialised underwear elastic, lace and buttons. The stall was lorded over by an incredibly ancient lady who was in possession of a wonderfully crumpled face and sharp wit. After my initial button-induced buzz subsided I noticed that the lady was chatting to a heavily pregnant woman who was browsing. The old lady asked the pregnant woman when she was due, to which the woman replied ‘Tuesday’ (well, ‘Martes’ actually, but you get the idea). The old lady then proceeded to raise the question of whether the woman had been sewing babies’ clothes in preparation, and the woman replied that no, she hadn’t had the time. The old lady then exclaimed ‘You do know they come out naked, don’t you?!’. Fantastic! I laughed for about ten minutes.
Later on back at my flat, after retelling the exchange to my boyfriend, I was reminded of the section in my Make Do and Mend book about preparing for a new baby. I’m not speaking from personal experience, but the arrival of a new baby seems overwhelming enough, without the added difficulties that living within a time of rationing would throw your way in the UK during the Second World War. I imagine a lot of community spirited ‘chipping in’ went on to help provide the necessities for a new baby. However, if a growing family still found itself unprepared, the Government had some advice regarding what could apparently be omitted from traditional preparations and the most efficient methods to produce what couldn’t.
The advice includes simultaneously making babies’ clothes from ‘as little material as possible’ as well as in styles that are able to be worn for ‘longer than he would have worn his first clothes in peace-time’. Such extra considerations would certainly force an expectant mother to be more thoughtful and creative than most seamstresses would need to be today. The Government leaflet offers suggestions for styles which could have an extended lifespan, for example by adding deep hems and tucks that could be unpicked and the garment let out as the baby got bigger. What these leaflets show me, more than anything, is how the rationing and restrictions forced the effected populations to experience privations in almost every single aspect of day to day life, in ways that today we would difficultly to perceive. Life was undeniably tough, and it is humbling to realise how good we have it these days.
Speaking of these days, making clothing and toys for babies and children is of course another great way to use up some of the smaller pieces of fabric in your stash. This super cute skirt (image found here) is a great combination of a little fabric and a healthy dose of imagination.