Happy Second Birthday to our Repair Cafe!


Corsham Repair Cafe 19 Sept 2015This Saturday marks the second birthday of our Repair Cafe! I am so excited and proud! Over the past two years and 11 cafes we have made nearly 150 repairs which means toasters, chairs, lamps, clothing, computers and bikes that haven’t gone to landfill.

We will be marking the occasion with cake, cups of tea, more repairs and I am going to attempt to tweet live from the event (yikes!) 2-4pm on Sat 19 Sept   #Corsham #RepairCafe

Repair Cafe birthday cake

For more info on Repair Cafes and other mending events near you this month there is the fabulous Festival of Repair run by The Rubbish Diet and the Make Do and Mend-able Directory of all things repair related in the UK.  Jen from the above directory and the inspiration behind my setting up our Repair Cafe will also be operating a#makedoandmendyear tweetchat on the 24th of September which will be about Repair Cafes and Restart Parties.







Ten Repair Cafes and still going strong…

Phwew! Last weekend was very busy as I worked non stop at the festival organised by the Arts Centre where I work. We did manage to squeeze in a Repair Cafe, though, and our volunteer experts were able to fix thirteen items including a power saw, rug and back massager! Corsham’s next Repair Cafe will be on Saturday 19 September, 2-4pm when we’ll be celebrating our second birthday!

Corsham Repair Cafe September 19th 2015

Something Old, Something New, Something mended…

If you have dipped in and out of this blog over the past couple of years you will no doubt have come across my (endless) posts on broken appliances (!). So far we have:

– had a broken cooker which was mended here

– a tatty sofa which I had rather badly mended here

– hoovers which had been repaired, replaced with second-hand, then finally bought new last Christmas

and not forgetting the second-hand breadmakers (two) and my post about Living with Broken Appliances

We were fortunate enough to receive some money the other month and, at the same time, three of our appliances died on us:

The Cooker

After fifteen years of service and a professional repair two years ago the cooker finally gave up the ghost two weeks ago. By the time of its demise both ovens had stopped working effectively, the gas ignition had died long ago and only two gas hobs actually worked! So we decided the time had come to buy a brand new one.



The Washing Machine

The washing machine has been with us for about ten years and with three children it has had its fair share of use (especially when the girls were in cloth nappies). I have a fantastic contact in Bath who has come out on many an occasion to fix it when it stops working. Two years ago he replaced the brushes and said he thought the time would soon come to replace the machine. However it has carried on working (despite getting ever louder and starting to move about in its old age). Last week, after our big camping trip, it stopped draining but my handy washing machine man came and replaced the pump…and it’s working again….!

something old, something new, something mended..

The Hoover

What a saga! We have mended two hoovers, lived with a rubbish (cheap) one and, last month our new hoover broke  and needed a new belt and brush. I’m sure we are cursed by vacuum cleaners (or maybe we live in a dirty house that tests the endurance of even the most powerful machine!). Anyway a call to the manufacturer has resulted in a new supplies of belts (we had to pay) and a free brush. So, fingers crossed, a quick mend will result in it working again.

something old, something new

Running a regular Repair Cafe at my work I see the amount of (electrical) appliances that come in that are so easily fixed. Vacuum cleaners are definitely one of the most popular ones.  WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) undertook a study of one thousands consumers in England and Wales in 2012/13 to assess what people understood about the lifespan of electrical appliances, and if this was important to them. From the study it showed that consumers expected:

-vacuum cleaners to last five years

– washing machines to last six years

– fridges to last eight years

There’s also an interesting BBC article here about the decline in the lifespan of white goods in the UK. Apparently washing machines used to last for ten years and now, on average, they last for seven.

So how are your household appliances doing?

Two years ago today…


NOTE: this was supposed to be posted on Saturday but it didn’t quite happen!

Two years ago today I started my blog with this first post welcoming any possible readers out there who may be interested in sharing my love of the second hand.

Since then I have carried on with my love of scouring charity shops and sourcing as many things second-hand as possible. I’ve bought breadmakers, books and beads – as well as many items of clothing. I’ve also learnt more about the sustainability issues around  purchasing things, be it fast fashion bought from chain stores or plastic wrapped food.

I’ve attempted to reduce my wardrobe (through Project 333 and Eco Thrifty’s Slow Fashion Challenge) and to cut out plastic here and supermarkets here. These ventures have challenged me: I have often ‘fallen off the wagon’ but I have learnt many news things, from the plastic that is contained in teabags to where donated clothing actually goes to. I’ve also developed nothing but admiration for those bloggers who have committed to a life that is truly handmade, zero waste or plastic or supermarket free. I’ve also become a more conscious shopper and steered my path down a more minimalist route.

I have also met some lovely blogging people along the way (some even in real life!), set up a Repair Café, tried to carry out some Acts of Kindness, run a Clothes Swap and rekindled my love for second-hand vinyl.

My subscribers may not be in their thousands (or even hundreds!) and I’ve yet to get onto instagram or twitter but I’ve really enjoyed the time spent putting my ramblings, and photos, into posts and receiving comments.

My 100th post! What I’ve learnt about blogging

credit: katielips

credit: katielips

This is my 100th post! Having started this blog last Spring and – with some erratic scheduling of posts – I have reached the one hundred mark. It’s quite timely as we approach the end of the year and begin to look back at the past twelve months. I thought I would contemplate on my past 99 entries and what this blog has taught me…

This is my second – and perhaps more successful blog

I used to  write a family-centred blog for a few years. However as my children grew older I became more reluctant to include them in my blog entries. Yet I really enjoyed the writing and creating process of blogging and, coupled with my love of all things second-hand,  this blog was born.

I am an erratic blogger

I do try to discipline myself to write at least a couple of entries a week but sometimes life just gets in the way and there are too many other things to do. I also like to research then write my entries so I’m not very good at firing off quick posts. There are also times when I have nothing relevant to write about…

I have met some really interesting, creative and generous bloggers

I have actually met some real-life bloggers through this process. They have been inspirational, helpful and kind and some have become actual friends. I’m quite honest in admitting I have stolen a few ideas – such as Repair Cafes – from Jen at my make do and mend year blog. I’m also amazed when anyone comments on my blog that they have met me, but then again I’m amazed when people have actually my read my blog!

Repair Cafe

Repair Cafe


I have taken on new challenges

Through blogging – and following other blogs – I have come across new challenges which I have taken part in. From Plastic Free July to the Mins Game and Slow Fashion Challenge month I have learnt so much. Some projects I have enjoyed taking part in, some I have failed at and others I’m still not sure about (I plan to post a Project 333 review soon).

a (mostly) second-hand outfit which I wore for #Secondhand First challenge run by TRAID. Alas I never finished the week as I came down with a bad cold

a (mostly) second-hand outfit which I wore for #Secondhand First challenge run by TRAID.

Having learnt a few things I know there are other things I want to do better. So my New Year’s Resolutions for blogging (or what I plan to do for my next 100 posts) is:

Try to post more regularly

Carry on with the ‘Second-Hand shopping in…’ series

Maybe take some more pics of me wearing my second-hand clothes (although I’m rather camera shy)

Carry on enjoying my blogging, ‘meeting’ new, interesting and inspirational bloggers and blog readers, and not pressure myself to take on too many challenges.Diamond-2015-text-vector

Second-hand Christmas: Part One


sign bought from Oxfam shop last year

Of course there has to be Parts One and Two if I’m writing about Christmas in a second-hand style!

For this post I thought I would concentrate on the non-present side of Christmas, ie all the trimmings. My festive budget never seems to stretch to buying new baubles, tablecloths or Santa shaped plates. For the past few years we have been acquiring, and mending,  pre-loved decorations, wrapping and other accessories instead.


Our Christmas Tree was bought from a local second-hand market a couple of years ago. I’m not sure the previous owners even used it but it has been perfect for us and even has its own integral lights. I know there are lots of pros and cons about buying real trees as opposed to the resources used to create artificial ones. I like to think that buying a second-hand tree has a slightly smaller carbon footprint. Of course the best thing would be to re-use the same real tree every year, or even hire one.

Having run a Repair Cafe last December and highlighted the fact that 500 tonnes of Christmas lights are thrown away each year(!), I have tried really hard to mend ours. This is a job that is easier said than done as you have to find the right replacement bulbs and then work through all the colours to find the faulty one. I have had mixed results doing this.

Our other Christmas decorations tend to be ones made by the children, or ones that I have made myself such as this free printable poster (similar one can be found here). Every year I change the pictures in our photo frames and replace them with some festive themed images. It’s only a little thing (and we don’t have much space for big things) but it adds a nice festive touch.


Other festive touches include these rather cheesey second-hand mugs. I bought them last year when we had a Christmas party and I was serving soup. I didn’t want to use disposable mugs and these cups were bought very cheaply from charity shops:


We also have a lovely collection of second-hand Christmas/Winter books that I have bought for the girls in previous years. All are from charity shops and were in good enough condition to give as presents. We now store them away with the Christmas decorations and it’s nice to bring them out once a year to re-read:



When it comes to wrapping and labelling every year we re-use our old Christmas cards to make gift tags:


I have bought one roll of Christmas paper but, having ordered a few Amazon packages, I’ve been ironing and re-using the brown paper that comes with it. I plan to brighten up some of the girls’ presents with some free printable ‘stamps’ I found here.


What second-hand decorations and Christmas trimmings are you using this year?


A mending kind of day…..


Having been inspired by the Repair Cafe I ran yesterday at work I decided to tackle the rotary dryer in our garden. The wires are loose and when I folded it the other day everything became tangled up. So I very painstakingly unscrewed the arms and, rather like the reverse of doing a cat’s cradle, I untangled the wires. At one point I had considered getting rid of the thing, but once it was fixed I felt a great sense of satisfaction that I’d saved one more thing from landfill.

And my husband also mended the solar fairy lights which he had tripped over last weekend and broken!

Our Repair Cafe had a slightly smaller attendance yesterday (it clashed with the town’s Summer Fete) but the electrician and handyman were still busy with repairs made to -among other things – a paper shredder, hoover, air conditioning unit and a puppet!

Mending jeans

I blogged here about my recent visit to Primark to buy (very) cheap jeans for my girls. Since then I have been thinking about how I can avoid ‘fast fashion’, ie buying things that are quickly thrown away because of quality or trend. Okay, so the latter probably applies less to me at the age of 42 but I know there’s something I can do about not throwing things away because they are broken or torn. As you may know I help to run a bi-monthly Repair Cafe but I also have a sewing machine and access to the internet so I should learn to mend more myself.

The £5 jeans got me thinking that I could really learn to mend these myself. I originally bought the jeans for my 7 and 5 year olds because the older one was already wearing a second-hand pair that had gone in the knees, and the younger one had grown out of her M&S pair. Despite replacing them with inferior (and thinner) trousers from Primark I have kept onto the old jeans and plan to make shorts out of them for the summer. I have also used fabric from them to MEND my tattered jeans which have long needed either repairing or replacing.

After the obligatory search on pinterest I came across this really useful youtube tutorial from tlc inspirations:

I basically cut material from one of the girls’ pair of jeans and pinned it onto the inside out leg of one of my jeans. I then turned the trouser leg the right way and, with some effort, slid it onto my sewing machine. I then used a simple zigzag stich to secure the fabric in place and hey presto:


from this….



….to this

okay so it may not be the best fix but I did it and I can’t tell you how empowered I feel about it. I love these jeans and couldn’t bear the thought of parting from them, or having to scour the shops to find a new (or new to me) pair. I’m also now armed with the ‘skills’ to mend another pair, or repair the Primark jeans when they inevitably go, as well as some fun ideas to turn old pairs into fun shorts for the summer.

On the mend with the latest Repair Cafe

Having been inspired by the Repair Cafes that Jen from my make do and mend blog has been organising, we started running bi-monthly cafes at the Arts Centre where I work. The aim of a Repair Cafe is to encourage people to learn to fix broken items for free, rather than throwing them away. At a Repair Cafe they meet with local experts and work together to mend anything from a broken lamp to a busted zip or wonky bike. Not only do customers get to meet the experts in their area but they also learn to fix things for themselves. At our last cafe I brought along a broken radio. The electrician was able to test it and then advise what I needed to buy in order to repair it (turned out to be very cheap and easy and to think I was going to throw it away!). A friend brought along a toaster that hadn’t been working for ages.The electrician took it part and found the cause of the problem: a dead mouse!!!

This coming Saturday (25th) is our third Repair Cafe, held between 2 and 4pm and in conjunction with Corsham’s local green group, Transcoco. As well as an electrician, computer repair expert, seamstress, carpenter and upholsterer we will also have two jewellery repair experts and local chiropractors to help ‘mend your body’. This cafe has gone from strength to strength and I’m really excited that we have even more people than ever to help with repairs.

Zips mended and toasters fixed at our first Repair Cafe

We held our first Repair Cafe in Corsham yesterday at the Pound Arts Centre (where I work).  I had been working with Corsham’s enthusiastic green group (Transcoco) on this project for a couple of months, having been inspired by the Warminster Repair Cafe run by Jen from mymakedoandmendyear. Rather nervously, we set up the cafe yesterday afternoon and awaited our first customers.  In the end we had 20 customers and -with the help of experts and volunteers – managed to fix:

two toasters

one chair

one music stand

two bikes

zips on ricksack and sleeping bag

holes in trousers

one lamp

one radio

plus the DIY table was busy as people helped themselves to tools to fix things themselves.

Not everthying could be fixed but the feedback from all customers was really positive. We had lots of comments from people who were pleased their items were fixed and that they had learned to do something themselves. For all the volunteers it was great to be able to chat with people who had similar ideas about waste and repair. We were also lucky to be joined by a retired engineer who offered his services and set to work repairing straight away!

So we have decided to run our next Repair Cafe in two months’ time on Sat 23 November. Watch this space…..