Handicraft Traditions

I am thankful for my family for many reasons, but one of them includes the tradition of engaging in the habit of handicrafts. Many of my very earliest memories are centered around watching my parents or grandparents engage in various handicrafts.  I have been the happy observer or recepient of a multitude of handicrafts including furniture building, furniture restoration, gardening, wood carving, chair caning, boat-building, knitting, crocheting, quilting, doll-making, dress-making, sewing, preserving foods, and tatting.  Handicrafts are a part of me.  My parents and grandparents encouraged my pursuits of various handicrafts including crocheting, knitting, hand quilting and sewing, and wood carving. Though not many of those projects from my youth turned out so well, planted inside me was the idea that there is value in the developing of a skill to make beautiful, useful, homemade products for personal enjoyment or as gifts to others.  They have set an example of producing handicrafts that bring beauty to the home, agility to the mind, dexterity of the fingers, and creativity expression of the soul.

As an adult, I have attempt to follow in their tradition by keeping up with various handicrafts both new to me and long beloved. When I learned that handicrafts were a part of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education I was overjoyed to have “permission” to require the development of handicrafts in my children.

In 1899, Miss R. A. Pennethorn wrote the following regarding “manual training”:

“The child is only truly educated who can use his hands as truly as his head, for to neglect one part of our being injures the whole, and the learned book-worm who is ignorant of the uses of a screwdriver, also lacks that readiness and resourcefulness, mental neatness and capability, and reverence for labour and its results, which a knowledge of practical matter gives. …

Any work which employs the creative instinct to good purpose and produces a reputable and artistic result (not mere exercises which waste the children’s time and material for nothing) finds favour with us.

Basket work, wood carving, etc., all so adapted to the children’s age and capabilities that they may be able to attain a habit of perfect execution, and that sense of the mastery of our spirits over matter which is surely part of our divine heritage.”

Our holiday break provided the perfect opportunity to provide additional instruction to my children in their new handicrafts for the coming term.  Each day, while my parents were here visiting, we set about an hour or more aside to all sit together and work on our various handicrafts.  It was a time of peaceful instruction and time spent together.

My 10 year old son worked at soap carving, but has since switched to needle felting.

My 8 year old daughter started embroidery for the first time.

My 6 year old son work on plastic canvas sewing, my father was working on wood carving, my mother was knitting a baby sweater, and I was attempting to spin wool with a drop spindle.

The three year old even got into the action with his first attempts at working a lucet and then sewing some lacing cards.  What was so enjoyable about the time was that everyone was eager to participate.  It felt natural to take a break from the rest of life and “work” in this way for a little bit.  We did this each afternoon my parents visited.  When they left, the children asked if we could continue the practice.

Each day since then, my children have eagerly picked up their handicrafts with focus and determination to learn something new and to produce quality work,.  I couldn’t be more overjoyed.

 As an aside, here’s a sampling of my grandfather’s work:  http://www.handwork.coop/bob-nagel.  He also recently gifted me a relief carving of a watercolor greeting card I recently gifted him with.  I am honored to have served as inspiration for his own beautiful work.


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