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?