Crafts

Darning eggs, balls, & mushrooms

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A hundred years ago could anyone imagine that darning tools would now be unrecognisable except to antiques or crafts enthusiasts? There always used to be a steady supply of darning in the family mending bag. A woman sitting darning was a common sight, and so was a darning egg. Inside a stocking or sock with […]

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Butter tubs can be beautiful

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Wooden tubs with fine carving inside the lid were traditional containers for a few pounds of butter in parts of Norway and other Scandinavian countries. Some were beautifully finished on the outside too, and could be used to take butter to festive gatherings and serve it attractively. Because the interior carving gave the top of […]

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Rocking cradles – wood or wicker

wicker rocking cradle

Cradle designs have changed, but are parents’ concerns any different? 200 years ago people were writing about the well-known dilemma: how much can I let my baby sleep in the day without stopping it from sleeping well at night? It only remains…to say something of the cradle…I believe there is no doubt but the custom […]

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Antique work tables for sewing and crafts

Victorian needlework table

Before the 18th century ladies used to keep their needlework projects in a work-basket or bag. Then furniture designers started to create elegant little tables for the drawing room with a silk work-bag or box-holder hanging beneath. You have only to look at one to understand why Sheraton, the famous cabinet-maker, called his designs pouch […]

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Rag rugs – hand-made craft in an industrial age

rag rug

Rugs made from strips of cloth existed well before factories began producing cheap fabric, but not in anything like the same quantity. Even in quite poor households, rag bags of the 1800s were filling up with old clothes and scraps left over from dress-making. In the factories, there were clippings and oddments to be sold […]

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Sock stretchers, stocking airers, and sock blockers

sock blockers stretchers

In the late 1940s a Canadian housewife, Joan Colborne,† counted her sock stretchers before tackling a backlog of laundry. She “only” had four pairs and so could not wash more than eight woollen socks at a time. If socks were not stretched out while drying they might shrink. Stretchers like the ones in the photo […]

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Love tokens and betrothal gifts carved from wood

Lithuanian distaff

I keep coming across nicely carved antiques that were made to be useful, while the decoration shows they were designed as courtship, engagement or marriage gifts. The idea of handmade love tokens is still alive today: especially the tradition of carving love spoons. Craftspeople who make them often use longstanding folk art designs that evolved […]

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Medieval and Renaissance combs

17th century comb

The most beautiful combs owned by ladies in late medieval and Renaissance times were highly ornamented in between their two rows of teeth. They look special, and they are. Some of the best were given as love tokens, and the fine, lacy carving included mottos, hearts, dates or initials. Did the young ladies use their […]

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Basket making: ancient skills, traditional materials

willow basketwork

Do you have any hand-made basketry in your home? From wicker chairs to straw hats, basket-making is an ancient craft that shows no signs of dying out, even though there may be fewer skilled makers than there used to be. Basket-making stretches back for millennia:  a 7000-year-old basket is recorded here (pdf). There’s even evidence […]

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