Where have all the basic skills gone? 122



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Having recently been making new curtains and other ‘homey’ things, I remember back to when my grandmother taught me to sew on her treadle sewing machine at the age of seven years and this got me to thinking: where have all the basic skills such as hand sewing, embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, darning, knitting and so on, gone? I know there are many of my generation (baby boomers) who still do these things, but what about this, and future generations.

I learned to sew by hand and embroider about the same time as I learned to use the sewing machine; I remember sitting with either my grandmother or my mum darning the holes in our socks; when I think about it, I learned all of those skills mentioned above by the time I was 9 years old. So, why haven’t we passed those skills onto our children? Because, frankly, our children are not interested; who wants to darn socks when you can buy them as cheap or as expensive as you want; who wants to patch the knees of ripped jeans etc when you can go and replace them for a couple of dollars, who wants to knit jumpers when you can buy one for the same cost as the wool; who wants to do any of these things?

We would never have contemplated throwing anything out unless it was totally unrepairable, and that wasn’t very often. My mum used to say “everyone looks at a hole (in your clothing), but no one looks at a patch”. Every kid at some time in their life wore something that their mum had patched, repaired, darned, let down, took up, or handed down from an older sibling; it was the way of life, and it didn’t do us any harm, we learned to appreciate what we had, and we also learned to look after our things, and repair them ourselves as we got older.

Admittedly, the cost of fabrics, cottons, wool, and patterns have skyrocketed over the years; unfortunately the days when it was far cheaper to make clothes for the family have long gone. But, there is another side to this too. What above the pride of achievement in making something for yourself or family, the wonderful feeling when someone asked you “I like that, where did you get it?” or “I love that, could you make me one?”

Everyone comments on how cheap food, fuel and everyday items were back then, but they forget that the wages were nowhere near what they are today. When my parents were first married, my father used to make about £12/6/- which was equivalent to approximately $25.20 per 45 hour week. Out of that they used to pay just over half in rent, buy food, pay bills, allow for bus fares for dad to get to and from work and clothe themselves. My mum was lucky in that she completed an apprenticeship, and was a qualified seamstress, so she put those skills to work all her married life.

I tried to pass on the skills I learned to my children, however only the eldest showed any real interest at the time. As the girls have matured, and now have families of their own, they are realising the benefits of these skills, and thankfully, now they can all do basic sewing to make simple items or take up curtains and so forth. I just hope they take the time to pass on their skills to their children.


Do you think basic skills have been lost? What can we do to regain them?

Annette Bergeron

Annette says that she always strives to do the best she can, and writing down her thoughts and ideas is no different. In the past she has found it difficult to express herself verbally, that’s where she puts pen to paper (so to speak) and just let her thoughts and feelings take over. We agree with Annette in that it gives the reader a greater insight as to how she feels, and the written word remains with you much longer than a spoken one.

  1. These basic creative skills are also so very beneficial in terms of reducing stress. A right brain activity that is so good for your well -being!

    2 REPLY
    • Haha I don’t know about the stress bit !! I’m just learning to embroider and going to make my first quilt this year !!! I love doing it But stressful for me sometimes ,, Fun oh I’m 63 .. Lol

  2. I have done craft, sewing, sketching etc all my life as far back as I can remember. I made a lot of my son’s clothing & knitted all my life as I like the jumpers with different detail than what you can buy. Also warmer as it is wool not polyester .

    It is a shame that you can buy most things so cheap from China (but I think if we saw the conditions they work under we would not buy their clothes and should boycott them), however way too many young people male & female have NO IDEA how to make things (anything) as they have their head in their Ipads.

    If I remember correctly my mother got me started then I just bought books so I could learn more. Loved ribbon embroidery & hand embroidery.

    I had a son & tried to show him craft but he was not interested as he loved computers and used to pull them apart so he understood them & has stayed in this path for work.

    I have had great satisfaction & pride in everything I have made even the ones that have not quite worked. I have still had a go. Hopefully as we get older our kids will have a go as it is not about how cheap you can buy something but to be creative & make a thing of beauty.

    1 REPLY
    • Oh also when I have been most stressed or depressed I sit & do some embroidery. In fact whenever I have been at my lowest I take up some craft as it reduces my stress and always makes me feel better

  3. I am the only one in my family who loves handcrafts. Basically, I taught myself to sew on an old treadle machine. I was shown how to knit by an old lady who was friends with my mother. At five years old, I learnt to knit with two sticks and some old twine. I taught myself to embroider and crochet. I made most of my boys’s shorts and some shirts and made my own clothes until recently. I never had a daughter to sew for. My DIL’s don’t appreciate the love put into handcrafts, so I only make things for myself these days.

  4. I love sewing and all hand crafts. Have the joy now of teaching three young granddaughter how to sew. Most of all how to think outside the box, when it comes to making things or adjusting/repairing things. Miss 16 year old even managed to make to own saddle covers.

  5. I’m surprised that nowadays very few people do any simple mending. I know some clothing can be replaced quite cheaply but I am concerned about the landfill. I’m sure I can’t be the only one who still mends socks and undies!

    3 REPLY
    • No you’re not Di – I still mend whatever is otherwise OK as this is how my mother taught me. And I have always done so as I think it is a waste to throw away something needing only a minor repair. I mend my husband’s socks and will even darn them if necessary. Mum was a seamstress but we had little money when I was growing up so had to make things last, and even reused many items! I am 60 now and don’t plan on doing anything differently. I have a sewing box permanently on the coffee table in front of the TV and do my mending there. Have a sewing room too and several machines! Denice Minehan.

  6. I made all my kids clothes and my maternity dresses on a brother just like this one, now it is cheaper to buy, plus I work full time.

  7. My daughter learned to knit and sew when quite small. On my mothers trips here from the UK, she would help and they loved to do things together. Now herself a mum she made a beautiful Christmas Stocking for both kids, a really lovely Advent Calender, can quilt, crochet and knit……but , I still notice her jeans turned up using sticky tape!!!!!

  8. Most arts, crafts, fixing and general doing takes some effort and thinking. It would seem that is more than the younger generations have been able or willing to try. Lol

    3 REPLY
    • What a peculiar generalised statement. Of course young people think, problem solve, etc. Many are far more Highly Educated, than our generation were, due to a different Social Enviroment..Just so sick of Old Farts whing “”In our day”” blah blah

    • The young people today still use those skills – just in different areas – often technology. How many of us would be capable – or interested – in learning a lot of their IT skills???? They travel a different path than we did, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong path.

    • The lol does give a clue and I do admit it was a rather lighthearted comment. It may be peculiar and no doubt it is a generalisation. I certainly did not survey a sample section of the population. I struggled to learn how to service and repair sewing machines in my senior years. I do not sew as such but I can test sew a machine to make sure it is working OK. Most of the people who I have come into contact with who own and use sewing machines are older women.

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