Jayne Dawson: Believe it or not, homemade was once a very dirty word

Making it yourself is trendy now - but it wasn't always so.
Making it yourself is trendy now - but it wasn't always so.
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Remember when “homemade” was a dirty word? Bad luck then, you must be nearly as old as me. It was though.

As the original Seventies Girl I can tell you that to describe anything as homemade in that decade was not to imbue it with extra desirability and all-round allure. It was an insult. You may as well have just spat on it.

We wanted slick, smooth and mass-produced, from our cakes to our cars, our sweets to our sofas.

Let me give you an example: there was a time in my teenage years when my mother was one of the stay at home kind. It didn’t last long and I was relieved when it ended, because I was used to having the place to myself.

But during this period there would sometimes be cake for tea. Cake that I would approach suspiciously. “Is it shop bought?” I would say, and my teenage heart would sink if the answer that came back was: “No, I made it.”

Not more preservative- free Victoria sponge or bitty seed cake! Who wanted texture when they could have paste-like smoothness? My disappointment would practically choke me.

And, dear God, horror of horrors, sometimes she would attempt to knit. Fortunately, most of what she created ended up being worn by my father on the building site. Even he protested the day he attempted to roll up his sleeve - and kept on rolling. Eventually he had a tight ring of wool around his elbow and no sleeve attached to his shoulder anymore. That’s what homemade did - it embarrassed you. At school, the cool kids were always encased in the finest machine knits C&A could provide.

But that’s how it was back then for, without really knowing it, we were still in post-war rebellion mode. We wanted stuff that looked and tasted like it came out of a factory, not a kitchen.

We wanted slick, smooth and mass-produced. We wanted stuff that matched, stuff that looked new and shiny, from our cakes to our cars, our sweets to our sofas.

Give us a choice between Angel Delight and a nice homemade apple pie for Saturday tea, and we would always go for the Angel Delight. It was delightfully synthetic..

Of course there was a lot of make do and mend still going on. A lot of work with a needle and thread - but we would have died of shame if anyone had realised.

So I sometimes have trouble getting my head round how different it all is now. It struck me, as I searched for an invisible mender on the internet - I know, rarer than hen’s teeth! - that this skill is not only old fashioned but almost an outdated concept.

In my search, I came across someone who disapproved of invisible mending on principle. Your patches, your darning, your weaving together of torn threads should be done obviously, she said, so as to tell the history of a garment that had lived long and usefully.

I mentioned it to my daughter, just to watch her eyes glaze over. She is of the Primark generation, the ones who only understand disposable fashion and will throw a garment away rather than sew on a button, because - let’s be honest - they don’t really know how to sew on a button.

But that generation is now becoming obsolete itself. The ones who come after, I think they will be all about recycling, about making it last, about making it yourself.

I mean, I can’t remember the last time I read a piece about furniture that featured something from a high store. Nope, it’s either recycled, upcycled, or an exclusive piece made slowly, expensively and with much love from materials sourced within feet of the maker’s front door.

In clothes it’s the same. This season it’s all about denim. Again. When isn’t it all about denim?

But this time, don’t even think about buying your denim already distressed or customised - for the decent person will be doing this bit themselves.

It’s a good thing, of course it is. But somewhere in my Seventies soul I can’t help but long for the shiny, the synthetic and the uniformly manufactured.

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