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Homemaking Skills & Arts - A Beginner's Guide

Updated on October 25, 2015
MBurgess profile image

Preparedness has been a passion of mine since I endured Hurricane Andrew in Florida. It is my second favorite topic to write about.

Quilting | Source

The Old Fashioned Homemaking Skills

In the days before modern convenience and mass production, old fashioned homemaking skills and arts were the only way we could have clothing, warm quilts, and other necessities for a comfortable home.

They were mandatory for a family's survival.

These skills were a necessary part of life.

Old fashioned homemaking skills of yesteryear are quickly disappearing. There are few people who still practice or remember these old fashioned skills, but they are few and far between today. This is a beginner's guide to these time honored homemaking arts. Explained as clearly as I can, it is my attempt to help preserve these skills for generations to come. I am hoping someday that my daughters and grand-daughters will be able to find this guide useful.

What are the old fashioned homemaking skills and arts?

Most of them involved fabrics and yarn or thread.

They are:

  • Sewing
  • Embroidery
  • Quilting
  • Crocheting
  • Knitting
  • Tatting

  • Spinning

There is a lot of territory covered in just these topics. Homemaking arts and skills cover weaving, dyeing, cooking, preserving, and cooking, but I will stick to the ones listed for the purpose of this lens.

Image: Amazon's Cassatt Mother Sewing Poster

Old Fashioned Homemaking Skills - Crafting with Fabrics and Thread

Quilting Art Poster Print by Carolyn Watson, 11x9 - Amazon
Quilting Art Poster Print by Carolyn Watson, 11x9 - Amazon

Old fashioned homemaking skills centered around making things with fabrics and thread. Fabrics stitched together made clothing, quilts, or other useful household items. They were decorated with beautiful designs made from stitched threads in embroidery or needlepoint. Wonderful lace and frilly decorations were added to clothing from lace handmade by using crocheting or tatting methods. Sweaters and socks were knitted from wool or cotton threads.

Do you still practice old fashioned homemaking skills?

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Art Poster, Mother fixes gown with Needle And Thread - 20x30 by ClassicPix - Amazon
Art Poster, Mother fixes gown with Needle And Thread - 20x30 by ClassicPix - Amazon

My Sewing Beginnings

Mom Is A Tailor

My mother is a tailor. Her job now is to dress people for stage shows in Las Vegas. In her craft she has been able to meet many of the top names in entertainment as well as sewing things like magician's jackets, Elvis costumes, and wedding dresses. Through this crafty woman I had the privilege of hands on training in most of the homemaking skills related to fabric and thread. We were sewing doll clothes very young. She taught us how to use a sewing machine when I was 8 and my sister was 6. We were smart little girls so she didn't have trouble trusting us with the sewing machine. I understand a lot of people are not raised with someone around to show them the basics so I have tried to outline them here as simply as possible with related videos and tips.

Amazon Art Poster - Mother Fixes Gown With Needle & Thread

Sewing By Hand

Needle and Thread - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon
Needle and Thread - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon

How To Sew By Hand

Hand Stitching First

How to sew by hand is a basic homemaking skill. You can do hand stitching first and use this skill to create many different fabric projects. It is also useful when doing hems on pants or taking in a seam that has split. It all starts with a simple stitch.

Begin with a length of sewing thread about 14" long. When sewing by hand you want to make a knot in the end of your thread after you have threaded it through the eye of a needle. Take the end of the thread and loop it twice around itself and draw it tight. The knot should be large enough to stay put and not be drawn through the fabric you will be sewing your stitches in.

Always thread the needle from the end pulled from the spool of thread. It makes a difference in your stitching. This direction will not separate thread fibers and cause snarls in your stitching.

To make a stitch, take the point of the needle and stick it through the fabric. Draw the needle through the fabric and gently pull it through until the knot is flush with the back of the fabric. Bring the sewing needle back down through the fabric about a 1/4" from where you poked the needle through the fabric the first time.

Experiment with this until you are more comfortable with your stitching.

When you get to the end of your stitching thread you will want to tie a knot before the thread gets too short. I recommend doing this when the thread is about 4" between your needle and fabric. Loop the thread through the last stitch you made then loop it again through the loop you have just made. Cinch it down snug to the fabric and start with a new length of thread.

This is a good way to learn how to sew by hand. These sewing stitches we call toe catchers in quilting, but you may call them your beginning sewing stitches. In time as the stitching gets easier you will want to try to make at least 4 to 6 stitches per inch of fabric.

Practice sewing by hand by making stitches in scrap fabrics or paper towels until you get the hang of straight lines.

You will need to know how to do this if you want to move onto making clothing from patterns, mending, or crafting like quilting.

Wallmonkey's Decal Needle & Thread

Sewing By Machine

Sewing-machine - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon
Sewing-machine - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon

Using A Sewing Machine

Simple Sewing Stitches

When Mom showed us how to use a sewing machine one of the first things she showed us was how to thread it.

Most machines are similar in threading. There are top threads from a spool and and bottom threads from a tiny metal or plastic spool that is called a bobbin. They must be aligned correctly. The tension on them cannot be too tight or loose or you will be either wadding up thread or breaking needles. Refer to the owners manual for your sewing machine for the correct threading directions and tension settings.

Thread the sewing machine needle and pull both top and bottom threads under and away from you and the presser foot.

Lift the presser foot lever and slide a piece of material under it. Do NOT place your fingers under the needle! After the fabric is placed, return the presser foot lever to the down position. The fabric should be about 1/2" to the right side of the presser foot for you to start stitching. This gives you enough room to guide your fabric through the machine.

I would recommend using a scrap of material about the size of a dinner napkin or a paper towel for learning your basic stitching. You will need to get used to using the foot pedal that powers the sewing machine motor. It is similar to the gas pedal on a car. Press too hard and you are flying!

Slowly press the pedal down so it operates the needle in a slow steady motion. NEVER pull the fabric through as this will break the sewing machine needle. It will feed through gently on it's own while you guide it.

Make a row of stitches along the fabric until you reach the end. Turn the fabric around and place it back under the presser foot, again, lining up the stitches you just made on the side of the presser foot. Keeping parallel to that line, make another row of stitches.Just do straight rows of stitches until you get used to the sewing machine. Work on getting the pedal and needle rhythm even.

When you have the basic straight stitching down, you can experiment with the other stitches such as a zig zag stitch.

Wallmonkeys Sewing Machine Decal


Needle Point & Cross Stitch

Embroidery - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon
Embroidery - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys - Amazon

Embroidery Stitching

Cross Stitch & Needlepoint

Embroidery stitching and needle point are the next stage with sewing projects. In embroidery colored threads and elegant stitches are used to create images or to define details on clothing, fabric, or in tapestries. Needlepoint projects can be simple like cross stitching or very complex, detailed artwork using fine stitching of images and decoration.

Where embroidery involves knots, staggered and looped stitching, cross stitch requires a simple 2 stitch texture with threads. Patterns that are pre-printed have the colors for the design marked on a map of the project. Follow the design map for the project to complete the pattern.

A hoop is used to secure fabric and keep it taut so the stitching may be fluid and snug throughout the project design.

Wallmonkeys Decal Embroidery

Simple Embroidery Stitches - On YouTube

Simple embroidery stitches can be beautiful touches on fabric projects. You can use them in a light scattered pattern on edges of necklines or things like pillow cases or use them in a full designed needle point project that is a solid image when completed. Learn the basic stitches in these videos.

The basic embroidery stitches are: french knots, chain stitch, lazy daisy stitch, feather stitch, and the satin stitch.


Judith Baker Montano's Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Guide - Advanced Vol. 2 for Amazon Android - Amazon
Judith Baker Montano's Embroidery & Crazy Quilt Stitch Guide - Advanced Vol. 2 for Amazon Android - Amazon

Quilting Stitches

And Quilt Tying

In our family a quilt generally took it's place in the living room of my grandmother or mother's home. There were quilts made of fine cotton materials either in a patchwork design or a solid stitched top.The patchwork quilts were simple to complete AFTER all the quilt squares were sewn together. We used yarn to tie knots in the corners of the quilt top. The solid fabric top quilts were a little more time consuming but they were so beautiful. There were designs drawn on the fabric for the quilt top and we used tiny quilt stitches to stitch top and bottom together following the design.

Quilts are essentially 2 pieces of fabric with an interior layer of fluffy material. Quilt batting is the interior layer and these days is made of Polyester Dacron. In days before polyester, cotton or wool was the common filler material.

You can use 2 bed sheets as the top and bottom fabrics for a quilt to make sizing a quilt easier!

For a simple tied quilt, we used a piece of cardboard cut into a square the size needed. If we wanted 4" between each tie, we made the square that size. Each corner was ties with a length of yarn or thread stitch through the quilt. Cut the tie at about 3" to 4" or long enough to secure as knots or bows. Embroidery stitches may also be used to secure a quilt top to the base fabric.

For decorating a quilt top with stitching stitches were used in the design. A set of 6 to 8 stitches are used per 1" of fabric quilted by hand.

This can be tedious but it is a wonderful project!

Judith Baker Montanos - Embroidery Stitch Downloadable eBook

Easy Quilting Blocks and Squares - How To Videos

Quilt Patterns - Buy On eBay

Quilt patterns can range from simple squares of fabric pieced together to complex designs stitched onto the top of the quilt.



Simple Projects

Crocheting uses a hooked needle to connect yarn, thread, or fabric scraps with loops. Edging a quilt or clothing with crochet is a nice touch. I have used crocheting for Christmas ornaments like snowflakes and angels. I crocheted a bonnet and booties for my last baby.

My first crocheting project was a spiral hair tie. Little girls LOVE these hair ties!

The 4th video tutorial below shows a similar image of the spiral. They are larger than the ones in the pattern below.

As you crochet these ribbons the ends will wind into a spiral. They are a lot of fun to make and you can use your favorite color to make them. This is a great way to practice crocheting and you aren't committed to something huge like an afghan.

Crochet Pattern For Spiral Hair Ties

With an F size crochet hook and standard yarn, chain stitch 180 stitches. Turn and do a treble crochet in each chain 3 times for the next 60 stitches. Single crochet in the next 60 stitches. Treble crochet 3 times in each chain stitch of the last 60 stitches and tie off yarn. Tie on pony tails using the middle as a bow and let the curls hang down.

Small crocheted items like granny squares can be used like quilt blocks to create larger works. Crocheted pieces make great accents on clothing or fabric projects. You can crochet jewelry as well.

In the instructional videos below are demonstrations of the basic crochet stitches.

(Crocheting) Lavoro Con Gli Uncinetti Wallmonkeys

How To Crochet Instructional Videos - On Youtube

The best way to learn how to crochet is to have someone show you how to do the chain stitches. Working the crochet hook and yarn in balance takes a bit of practice to make your chain stitches even and not have the yarn too loose in your project.

The videos below demonstrate how to do other simple crochet stitches for yarn projects like throws and afghans.


Easy Knitting Instructions - How To Knit Videos

Knitting. like crocheting is much easier to understand by seeing it then by trying to write the instructions for you. In the videos are some examples of knitting stitches and the basic workings of using knitting needles for yarn projects. Knitting commonly is used for socks, sweaters, and scarves, but there are hundreds of things you can make by knitting.


Tatting Lessons On Video - Tatting Lace

Tatting is a series of knots and loops that when combined produce beautiful, sturdy lace. It can be done with a long tatting needle or a tatting shuttle. Modern tatting shuttles have a crochet-like hook on one end of them. Make tiny daisies to intricate doilies with tatting threads.


Spinning Your Own Yarn - How To Spin Video

This video explains what you need to know about basic spinning wool or other fibers into yarn. Abby Franquemont in the video does a wonderful demonstration.

I have read about spinning in some of my favorite books. Seeing the process makes me grateful we do have production on yarn our day and age. Spinning enough yarn for a sweater would take weeks! Including this topic was necessary to show you how much easier it is today to do these projects because of manufactured materials. In the days before machines, this was how you made the threads to weave fabrics and how yarn was created. Thankfully, we have the modern conveniences to help us with that!

Spinning Book: Respect The Spindle - And Spinning Supplies

Comments - And Review

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    • profile image

      umer tanveer 

      3 years ago from okara

      thats wonderful.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      5 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @yayang0405 lm: Thank you! And... you are welcome! Thank you for visiting and taking time to comment... =)

    • yayang0405 lm profile image

      yayang0405 lm 

      5 years ago

      Nice lens. So much information. Thanks for sharing.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @maryseena: You are welcome! Thanks for the visit!

    • maryseena profile image


      6 years ago

      I love to do old world crafts like tatting and crochet. Your lens has so much to offer towards it. Thank you.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @mirrie: Thank you! Appreciate your comments!

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @anne mohanraj: Thanks for the comment and visit!

    • mirrie profile image


      6 years ago from France

      I love this lens - my grandmother used to teach me all this stuff and until I had kids and left work I didn't use it - now there is barely a day which goes by when I don't draw on at least one of them Great lens.

    • anne mohanraj profile image

      anne mohanraj 

      6 years ago

      Great lens! Very informative!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My mum use to love it so much back to 10 years ago.

    • writerkath profile image


      6 years ago

      @MBurgess: You are welcome! And... Congratulations on your Purple Star! Well deserved! :)

    • writerkath profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a great lens Ria! My hubby even sews - he worked up in the mountains as a caretaker for a mountain club cabin, and during his stint there he made himself heavy-duty wool pants out of old wool blankets. He had cut apart an old pair of pants and fashioned his "pattern" on the pieces of the old pants. He has also made himself a warm fleece shirt in the same way. These skills should definitely be taught to all kids - they might even enjoy it more than tv! :)

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @Linda Pogue: Thanks GrammaLinda! I still do a few of them - needlepoint and crochet sometimes sewing if I have to. My great-granny did the tatting in our family. Appreciate your comments ma'am! =)

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      6 years ago from Missouri

      I enjoyed reading your lens. Too many of these skills are being lost.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @lesliesinclair: Thanks for visiting! =)

    • lesliesinclair profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a wonderful basic reference for those great old skills.

    • MBurgess profile imageAUTHOR

      Maria Burgess 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      @poutine: Life was a bit simpler then! Thanks for the comment!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      In the older days, people were certainly self-sufficient.


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