Learning by Hand

Learning by Hand is a monthly handicrafts link-up hosted by Amy at Crossing the Brandywine blog. 
I think the title of this link-up is a very appropriate one in the context of handicrafts in a Charlotte Mason education. Learning by hand extends beyond the more modern notion of crafts and broadens  the traditional concept we tend to think of when we hear the word handicrafts.

I think of manual arts – woodworking, metal working, iron work, tin work, carving, picture framing. Domestic skills such as cooking, making meals from scratch, managing a home, creative budgeting and thrifty techniques.
Interior decorating, home renovation, minor repairs and home handyman skills. It encompasses traditional skills such as knitting and sewing; weaving, spinning, crocheting and darning.
Scrapbooking, embroidery, cross-stitch.

In past generations rag rugs and patchwork quilts were made from old clothes and rags. One of my sons once asked me why I buy material, cut it up and then sew it together again. My Great Grandmother would have wondered the same thing. That would have been unthinkable in her day.
I may not have to resort to using old clothes to make a quilt and it may be cheaper to buy the article ready-made but for me there are other reasons why I would make a quilts.
…a Christian, above all people, should live artistically, aesthetically, and creatively.
Edith Schaeffer: The Hidden Art of Homemaking

I enjoy creating useful and beautiful things. I love handmade presents from friends who appreciate doing the same themselves.

I make meals every day and they get eaten. I clean the house and have to clean it again. I do the washing and ironing and a couple of days later it\’s all back in the washing machine again. I don\’t see much evidence of the vast majority of my daily endeavours and that\’s one of the reasons I love handiwork. Even though much of the creative output of my hands gets consumed, a permanent visual reminder, such as a framed cross stitch on the wall or a quilt on a bed, demonstrates an underlying continuity that is part of who I am.
Many of the handiwork skills I have were learnt as an adult but I am so grateful for those skills I did learn at home when I was a child. It\’s amazing how much can be built upon even a very basic foundation learnt in childhood. These skills of the hands are so important but they have been overlooked and dwarfed by the push to have knowledge.
Annie Kate posted some thoughts on skills as opposed to knowledge (in a different context) recently.

One day, one of the boys told me what a great week he\’d had and then started to tell me some of the things he\’d learned during that time. My husband had given him some jobs to do and he\’d been shown how to use some different tools. It had given him great satisfaction.

Another day, I was out with the youngest two and two of the older boys were jack-hammering the tiles off the wall in the toilet. I got home a few hours later and saw a workman\’s ute, plus my husband\’s car next to the house and then I noticed a trail of water down our long driveway. One of the boys, who is always very gung-ho about everything, had accidently jack-hammered through a pipe in the toilet resulting in water gushing out everywhere – onto our newly laid wooden floor…down the driveway. His older brother acted quickly and turned off the water at the mains & they called Dad and he called the plumber, who had a good laugh when he heard the cause of the burst pipe.

All that to say that it will cost you something to teach your children skills. Hopefully you won\’t have a plumbing bill to pay, but there will be a cost in time, patience and discipline.
Sometimes I\’d cringe when my children asked me to teach them something. I\’d think, \”mess\” or \”I just want to have some time to read my book\” and not have the inevitable interruptions that go along with learning these skills but I don\’t regret spending the time I did on teaching skills.
I think it is important that our children see us learning by hand. I know that my children\’s interest in learning a skill has often been sparked because they\’ve seen me pursuing my interests or helped their Dad fix something.

It’s many years since someone has taught me a skill—which is completely different from being taught knowledge—and I had forgotten what it is like to be at the receiving end of such teaching. – See more at: http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/2015/03/six-lessons-about-teaching/#sthash.PjQjpN6O.dpuf
It’s many years since someone has taught me a skill—which is completely different from being taught knowledge—and I had forgotten what it is like to be at the receiving end of such teaching. – See more at: http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/2015/03/six-lessons-about-teaching/#sthash.PjQjpN6O.dpuf
 …for the Christian who us consciously in communication with the Creator, surely his home should reflect something if the artistry, the beauty and order of the One whom he is representing, and in whose image he has been made.
 Edith Schaeffer

Cross stitch, spinning and weaving; crochet, patchwork and quilting have been a way to express myself and show evidence of creativity in my life.

Relationship, reading, poetry and nature help fill my soul and always have, but a creative outlet where I use my hands to express myself completes the filling. I need this outlet just as much as I need the others and I try to always have something satisfying I can put my hands to.

Some things that I\’ve done in the past have been too difficult for me to do with a large family or when there were lots of littles around.
I haven\’t used my table loom for years and this scarf was my last project:

I\’d always wanted to try patchwork and quilting and this was my first actual quilt. I signed up for a block a month over twelve months. Each month the materials would arrive but I\’d still be working on the first block. I just did it when I could and spread it out over a longer period of time.
A friend signed up at the same time and she was just as slow as me but we helped spur each other on. The good thing about this was that we were sent fabric we probably wouldn\’t have chosen ourselves and it helped us to think about different combinations of colour, especially when our two quilts turned out so differently. This was pretty basic and the instructions were for beginners like us:

Once I\’d done this one I felt more confident to try other patterns:

JJ and Zana, my two eldest girls, learnt quickly and went beyond my ability. Their Aunty Deb was a great help and took them to classes in beading and scrapbooking, things that I didn\’t have the time or energy for. These were some projects they did between the ages of 12 and 16 years, following patterns either bought or from a craft magazine:


A little sewing bag Zana made for Mother\’s Day one year:

And this is my ongoing project. It\’s Zana\’s 21st birthday present but she\’s just turned 22. But I am making progress…
I\’m linking this up at Work in Progress at Freshly Pieced. I hope to get the sashing between the blocks done in the next week – I\’ll be using the dark blue material.

Amy asked in this month\’s link up about how we organise our supplies etc.
I have to admit that I \’m not very organised in this department but the key for me in getting time to do something like patchwork (I do it mostly by hand) is to have pieces cut out as you can see above and ready to sew. I can take this anywhere and it\’s surprising how much I can get done in even 10 or 15 minutes. I do the fiddly measuring and cutting on a weekend afternoon when I\’m likely to have less interruptions.

7 thoughts on “Learning by Hand

  1. Great post Carol. It is amazing what you learn as a child, and I would even extend that to what I learnt just from watching my Mum. I have learnt so much more as an adult too though. Handicrafts are lessons for life.


  2. I love Edith's book, The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Your quilts are lovely. I especially like the first one and the tote bag. I have not done much with quilting – I am not too precise in my sewing, so I think I might get frustrated at the exactness needed for piecing. Things getting ever harder to see would probably compound the problem. But I love to look at the. I do like to do cross stitch (though I need both reading glasses and a magnifying glass to do it) and make cards – I need to get to some scrapbooking.


  3. You'd probably find English paper piecing easy to do. I like this method because it helps with the precision side of things. I'm a bit hopeless on a machine when it comes to patchwork.


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