Arts & Crafts of years ago
By Lily Kongslien.
Home arts and crafts have become an American byword today, but years ago, “crafting” was for survival and personal enjoyment.
As children we caught on to adult crafts quickly as we were exposed to them daily watching our parents who could produce great results by using nature’s products and common available materials. Winter was the time when most handiwork and crafts were done. My brother and I made many wooden cut-outs using a coping saw and veneer remnants cast off at the local veneer plant. Door-stops, pencil holders, and decorations were in the form of comic figures – Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Jiggs and Dick Tracy. We had a market for these during the summer months at the McNaughton Post Office & Store; tourists stopped there for their mail and groceries and could buy our crafts for a few pennies.
Some of the simpler crafts were my favorites—birch bark stationary, dried flowers and ground pine wreaths for the holidays.
My mother was a person of many talents; she could knit, crochet and tat. In the winter months she knitted mittens, caps, scarves, socks and sweaters. She crocheted tablecloths, bedspreads, doilies and also articles for a doll’s wardrobe to lease a little girl. She was adept at all kinds of embroidery. Her favorites were cross-stitch and feather stitch and she did a beautiful job on tatting doilies and luncheon cloths complete with napkins.
Mother braided many colorful rugs using woolen material from old skirts, shirts and dresses. She also wove rungs using a wooden frame that my dad made for her. She taught me how to make the famous Scandinavian “scallop” rug using cut-out woolen scallops finished around with the blanket stitch and then sewed onto the desired backing in the manner of fish scales, starting around the outside with a certain color and then progressing round and round to the center, the combination of colors would give the desired effect. I made a scallop rug for myself and my daughter using the instructions from my mother.
Mother loved pillows, all colors and shapes and prettily decorated. She made many pillows as gifts to friends and family and always had a vast array of pillows in her home and apartment in later years. Tassels usually adorned the corners of her favorite pillows and she could create many unusual types of tassels. Appliqué pillows and also bedspreads were made regularly for our own use and for gifts. Many quilts were made each fall, some of patchwork, some very intricate patterns and some “pocket” quilts made of post card size or square individual pockets stuffed with cut up nylons and then sewed together to create the needed size. They were very warm and a favorite since our bedrooms were not heated. We did not have a quilting frame but the large kitchen table served the purpose in the evening after supper was over. In her later years, until her early 90s, mother made many pocket quilts and gave them to grandchildren and relatives. They were much appreciated and many still have them as remembrances of her.
Handkerchiefs were embroidered with initials. Mother made special “hankies” for gifts. She would use a square piece of nice cloth, then pull out several rows of threads on all four sides and with colored embroidery floss inserted in the empty areas she created a colored border around it.
Out dad was very clever with a saw and hammers and made my doll furniture, and old fashioned jumping jack doll bed and a large wooden clown for bean bag toss. Necessary woodwork included replacing handles on knives, axes, shovels and hoes. We used homemade wooden rakes in the fields to gather hay to fill the hay loft. Dad whittled many figures, mostly animals, and continued in this hobby until he lost his eyesight in his last years.
Working on crafts was fun and still is for the many that fill their leisure hours creating with their hands and enjoying their creations and the money derived from their hobby. Years ago, “necessity was the mother of invention” and from early handicrafts come many ideas that are still evident today.