Friday, January 4, 2013

History of Craft Instruction at Home

History of Craft Instruction at Home

The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, January 3, 2013) featured an article in the Personal Journal column titled “Made By Hand, Learned Online” about online, interactive courses available on many subjects which can be studied at home.  Online learning has been available for some years, but in-home study has been around for more than a hundred years.

From the late 19thC. women’s magazines featured articles on homemade textiles, crochet, knitting and embroidery and lace work.  While this may have sparked interest in creative endeavors, there was virtually no instruction on technique, but rather a vague description(and illustration) of the finished product.

In the early 20thC entire needlework magazines were available by subscription.  The finished work was illustrated in more detail but the instructions were obviously not meant for the novice, no how-to but rather “1st row: 1 t in the 7th st from hook(ch 2, skip 2 sts, t in the next stitch) repeat”  See what I mean?

In the 1930’s RFD(Rural Free Delivery) brought mail-order catalogs offering iron-on transfers, pre-printed fabrics, and stencils.  Quilt kits and patterns were also available as well as pre-printed embroidery patterns with appropriate embroidery needles and threads included.

By the 1940’s instruction booklets featuring products of companies such as J&P Coats or Clark’s O.N.T. were available in stores on hundreds of needlework topics at a very reasonable price (some were 10 cents).  Still, while the finished product was, once again clearly illustrated, there was little of basic instruction.  Presumably, women were expected to have already mastered the technique.

By the late 1900’s sophisticated instructional books on all topics offered sections of basic technique, with many color illustrations.  The page-by page instructions were clear and easy to follow.  Also at this time many TV series were produced on everything from culinary arts, painting and scrapbooking.  Among the most popular were productions featuring quilting and embroidery.  Frequently these series also produced tapes of the programs for your VCR so that you could watch, rewind, try your own techniques as many times as necessary.  Then came CDs and DVDs  of instruction.

Now, of course computer technology and the internet have interactive instruction available on your computer, or other devices.  For some time universities have offered courses, language labs are improving your grammar and pronunciation of Spanish and 64 other languages.

But back to the WSJ article. Online companies are offering courses for crafts and fine arts instruction.  One such vendor offers courses composed of several lessons professionally filmed, with the capability of asking questions of the instructor.  Again these lessons can be replayed for further information. 

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is learning a new craft, language or raising the level of a hobby you now have no excuse.  It can be done right at your desk at home.  A Textile History course which includes fiber identification, ethnic textiles and museum collections would be of interest to me..Hmmm.  

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