Homemaking: A Lost Art?

The other day, I was telling DH that I wish I had some of my mother’s skills when it came to sewing, baking, getting stains out, and the like. For example, it kind of pains me that we have to take our pants to be hemmed, when I’m sure that’s something I could easily do if I had a sewing machine and a quick lesson.

We talked about how our mothers would sew us clothes or Halloween costumes, or bake things for bake sales, or were able to get stains out of anything like magic (for what it’s worth, I will note here that both our mothers worked out of the home). Our grandmothers were even more skillful in these areas. For some reason, though, these skills did not seem to be passed down to the our generation.

I know many people do some of these things as hobbies these days (sewing, baking, knitting, cooking, etc.), but is true homemaking, where most women have this skill-set, a lost art? And if so, then why?

DH and I came to three conclusions: 1) money, 2) time, and 3) availability. Our generation is willing to pay more for something if it will save us time, and often it is cheaper to buy something pre-made than to make something yourself. These things are also more readily available than in the past.

As an example, on the weekend I paid $20 for a Halloween costume for Evan. That expense is much less than buying a sewing machine and fabric, plus the time it would take to learn how to sew. Even if I did know how to sew and owned a sewing machine, I doubt I would be able to make such an adorable costume for a similar cost.

There are other things I do though: I cook dinner pretty much every night (and good dinners too, if I do say so myself), I bake (but only every so often), and I knit (definitely as a hobby though – something I do when we’re watching TV or something).

What do you think? Are these kinds of skills getting lost? Why or why not? Which skills do you have already? Which do you which you had more of?

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Comments on: "Homemaking: A Lost Art?" (7)

  1. I think also it is the lack of home economics classes, which were mandatory for women at one point. I wanted to take sewing in high school but it conflicted with AP classes, the assumption clearly being that no one would be taking both. Now there is a whole big DIY movement. I made jam one year with my friend, but the expense of the equipment, fear that I will do it wrong have had me doing only freezer versions. My sister just learned to knit this year by taking a class. Check out way to go homesteader's blog (link on mine) for lots of other interesting DUY

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  2. Admittedly, I live in a low key East Coast place, but most of my friends (late twenty-somethings/early thirty somethings) know most of these skills. I learned from my mom and my mother-in-law. For me the driving factor is frugality, but for others I know it is concerted effort to keep the “homemaking skills” alive.

    I “put up food” when it's in season, I've made a few skirts/shirts/Halloween costumes with my sewing machine, I bake things on a regular basis (I made apple crisp from a neighbour's apples last night!). When we start a family I doubt I will have time to do this stuff anymore, but even now I'll “cheat” for convenience sake: I buy pre-made multigrain muffin mix from the bulk store, and just add in fresh grated zucchini, apples, or cranberries.

    Interestingly, the MEN also do this stuff: my husband made me a quilt for our very first Christmas together a decade ago, and this year a male friend helped make our pickles when he took a day off from making his own apple sauce!

    So I think it might just be part of our culture out here in “rural” Canada 🙂

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  3. There definitely is a DIY movement these days, but I think it's more of a hobby for most people than doing it so they don't have to buy it pre-made in a store…or maybe I'm wrong?

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  4. Natalie – I wouldn't be surprised if it's a regional thing as well. And you're right, it's interesting that men are gaining more of these skills!

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  5. I haven't noticed a change, though I'm not all *that* old, and am definitely of the tv dinner generation. I imagine the loss of these skills actually started in the 1950s.

    My mom did not sew clothes for us. My father taught me how to put on a button (because it was woman's work and my mother would never get around to it). I was taught mending when I was 7 and did the majority of it for the family.

    My DH also has the same skill-set I do, though I did have to teach him a few things after we got married. He's still better at making beds than I am though.

    I have noticed that 20-somethings don't seem to know basic survival skills (laundry, cooking, etc.) but I don't know that's changed over my lifetime. 20-somethings are just generally clueless. They learn.

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  6. nicoleandmaggie – I agree that the loss probably started with our parent's generation. Most likely because more and more women began working outside the home, which meant a) less time, and b) more money.

    And yes, 20-somethings are clueless (weren't we all?)…that will never change!

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  7. My dad grew up poor on a farm; he actually taught my mom (and all of us) to do most of that stuff. And now I'm a poor, unemployed housewife, so yes, I make jam and can it, and sew and mend and garden and do carpentry and minor plumbing repairs and fix bikes and make all our own bread and knit. I do actually sew garments, curtains, baby carriers, etc. for us.

    I know a moderately-large circle of people who have at least some of these skills, but yes, on average, I'd say not. I would also say it has to do with everyone working outside the home, and with convenience and Made-in-China; I didn't have time for most of these things when I was working. And even so, there are some made-in-China things (like jeans) that are so much trouble to make that I just buy them.

    I wish I were better with pointy, fast-moving power tools! Like saws. I'm afraid of saws. So the spouse does most of the big-carpentry stuff because I refuse to even use the miter saw. I need to get over my fear of cutting off all my fingers. (My professional-carpenter aunt did actually cut off parts of two fingers once.)

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