Make Do and Mend: ‘Getting Ready For Baby’


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.

Zoe Edwards   —  

Comments 12


I am new to the blog. And I love this post! I love vintage sewing books. (I posted about one a while back.) I also love Spain–awesome that you are living there. I was in Madrid and Sevilla, never made it up to Barcelona–not yet, anyway!


Thanks for posting! I really enjoyed reading the leaflet!


Thank you for sharing this story – I love the naked comment!! I have met many a wise witful button lady so it seems to go with the territory. I always remember one with real fondness when I go through my button collection.




HA! That line about the babies coming out naked cracked me up.

I love the section where it says only to buy your fair share of napkins. I would think more is better in that department. Can you really have too many diapers?!?! I can only imagine how hard it must be to have a baby during rationing. Thanks for the glimpse!


I followed the link here from the Oliver + S blog, loved your blog post and then scrolled further to find the photo of the skirt I made! What a treat. Thanks for including it, and the nice compliments.

My blog wasn’t linked from the original Oliver + S post, but please feel free to stop by my blog at for more sewing enjoyment some time! Your blog is going right into my Google Reader.


i hem and tuck (or make too large and roll up) my kid’s handmades! when you put the love and time in these days, you also want it to go that extra mile! love this post. what a wise lady!


Not to mention boiling water on your stove to wash your cloth diapers, or if you were a “modern” woman who bottlefed, boiling all those too. And people had bigger families back then. Incredible.


I have a magazine of the history of quilts and what women used to use to make them, during peace times and in war. THey would use paper as the batting. that’s why they can be so heavy! I also have a pamplet on how to “remake” existing clothes into newer, more updated versions during WII. THe patterns companies also would make patterns on making new garnments out of old ones. thanks for sharing this with us!


Hi, Im new to your blog, love your patterns, love your posts! Looking forward to reading it all!

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