Heirloom Crafts

As anyone who knows me can attest, I love old-fashioned things – from old houses, to antique furniture and old books. I’ve always enjoyed visiting “living history” museums, with costumed interpreters going about a typical day from the past. I’ll never forget a family trip to Old World Wisconsin (note: Go if you can! It’s amazing!), and watching soap making, blacksmithing, and butter making for the first time. I wish I knew how to do neat stuff like that, was my eight-year-old thought. Little did I know that in just a few years, my family would move to a farm in Wisconsin (“Our Homestead Story”)  and I would have the opportunity to learn how to do a lot of “neat stuff.”

So why the passionate interest in these mostly-forgotten skills and crafts? For me, I think it has a lot to do with having multiple outlets for my creativity.  I can’t paint or draw, I can’t act, I’m a mediocre musician. But my hands can weave baskets, spin wool, knit a sweater, and make soap. I like having a project I can really concentrate on, focusing my mind and hands on creating something beautiful, useful, and lasting.

Of course, being the romantic that I am, I also love the link to the past it provides. When I make a quilt, I’m doing something thousands of pioneer women did. I’m creating something warm and beautiful out of mere pieces of fabric, just the way my great-grandmother did (the quilts she made are some of my most treasured possessions).  When I make a jacket for my unborn child, I think not only of the little one who will wear it, but also of “Grandma Bev” who taught me to knit. Soap making reminds me of learning with my mom the mysteries of combining tallow and lye, and the colossal failures we had at first… but it also makes me think of the legendary origins of soap in ancient Rome.

Sometimes it’s not easy to see how a particular passion can be used for God’s glory. How can I glorify the Creator of the universe by making a basket? I think the key word in that question is “Creator.” As Edith Schaeffer has written, we create because we are made in the image of the Creator. Simply using our God-given gift to create is a means of glorifying Him. I think there is more to it than that, however, or every “creation” of man would glorify God (of course, some creations are inherently displeasing to Him). While pursuing my passion for heirloom crafts, I need to keep several things in mind:

  1. Any passion or interest I have must be subject to the Holy Spirit. It is not honoring to God if I spend time pursuing my interests selfishly, neglecting the responsibilities He has given me. Nor will it please Him if I have a bad attitude toward the interruptions He allows, like the needs of family members!
  2. I should have a servant’s heart. While there is nothing wrong with beautifying my own life and space with the skills He has allowed me to learn, there is a much bigger picture of which I can be a part. God didn’t create the beauty in the world for His pleasure alone, but “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17), and I can model His graciousness by sharing my skills with others.
  3. Do it well! God wasn’t sloppy in His creation, and we shouldn’t  be, either.  Doing a halfway job does not show honor for the gifts He has given me. Solomon said, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
  4. There is no place for pride in my “accomplishments” — the ability to create anything is a gift from God. I need to be sure that I deflect any praise to Him. I’m only an imitator, after all.

I wish I could share pictures of some of the crafts I’ve enjoyed over the years, but we just moved to a new house and I have no idea where they are at the moment! However, I’ll leave you with a few books I’ve enjoyed.

Back to Basics – This book, while not in-depth on any subject, certainly sparked my initial interest in many heirloom crafts I still enjoy. It’s a great overview type book, with lists for further reading on each subject.

Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts – Please, if you are at all interested in heirloom crafts, look at this book for inspiration to actually get started! The most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. (Besides, Tasha was an amazing woman, and I love reading anything about her and her beautiful house and gardens.) At least check it out from the library.

Knitting Without TearsTHE BEST knitting book I’ve ever seen. It does assume you know the rudiments of knitting, but those are easy enough to learn from any knitting book (or a grandma or neighbor). This is just plain fun to read, too.

Rib BasketsI have not personally read this book, but this is my favorite style of basket to make.

The Art of SoapmakingBest book on the subject I’ve read. Very much a how-to book, but also has lots of fascinating historical information.

Woodstove Cookery – If you are interested in cooking on a woodstove, this is the only book you’ll need. Outstanding.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek into my passion! If you share it, leave a comment, won’t you? I’d love to hear from you.


  1. Evan Pederson says:

    I know Jeannie, and I can attest to the truth of this post. =D

  2. Samantha R says:

    I share some of those same passions and I think it’s wonderful that you are carrying on those traditions and passions! Keep it up, Jeannie!

  3. I love creating my own clothes – especially sewing my own skirts and knitting my own sweaters. Knitting and crocheting are wonderfully tactile and “real”. I enjoy them, especially, on a winter evening by the fire after a day of working at the computer. How satisfying … in a creative, productiv way.

    Thank you for sharing!

  4. Old World Wisconsin! <3 I visited there with a horticulture convention and had a wonderful time exploring the different homesteads!

    Thank you for the resources! Many of the things you mention I would love to learn (or improve). Thank you for sharing.

  5. I really would like to learn how to cook on a woodstove – too bad we don’t have one :/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *