The History of Crafting

Contributor post by Catherine from DesignsbyCnC

Crafting has always been a human activity.  We are driven to create for many different reasons sometimes by need, challenge, spiritual or the drive for artistic expression.

Early in the 19th century, decorative home crafts, as we recognize them today, came into being as a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution.  Craft ideas and instructions first appeared in women’s magazines during this time. Fabric crafts and needlework were principal, with home crafting being the main occupation of women.

By 1830, scrapbooking became a popular family pastime to record family histories.  Once photography became available in the last half of the century, its popularity reached new heights.

Thanks to an increased interest in natural materials and handcrafted quality, the arts and crafts movement experienced a 20th century revival.  Many craft guilds were reestablished, crafter organizations formed and craft industry associations  founded during the 1920’s – 50’s.  Today we live in a worldwide community of crafters and scrapbookers, aided in part by craft magazines and publications, instructional television programs and the internet.

According to the 1998 study by the Craft and Hobby Association:

  • More than 8 out of 10 American households have one family member engaged in crafting.
  • A staggering 97% of adult women (ages 55-64) surveyed had participated in a crafting activity in their lifetime.
  • The most popular crafts were cross-stitch/embroidery (45%), crocheting (29%), apparel/fashion sewing (26%), home decor painting/accessories (25%), craft sewing (24%), cake decorating/cake making (22%), needlepoint/plastic canvas (22%), art/drawing (21%), floral arranging (21%), home decor sewing (21%) and scrapbooking/memory crafts (20%).
  • The breakdown of how people used their craft projects was: gifts (71%), home decorating (69%), personal use (62%), holiday decorating (59%) and items to sell (16%).
  • The major sources from which craft/hobby participants get their ideas are magazines, books and catalogs. Family and friends are also an important source of ideas.

I have been an avid crafter all of my life.  The very first crafting technique that I learned was knitting. This skill was acquired participating in 4H.  I still have the first knitting projects that I created and the ribbons earned, lovingly packed away in my cedar chest.

I asked the members of the Christmas In July team the following questions:  What was the first craft technique that you ever learned? Do you still do this craft today and sell items made with this technique in your shop?


Alexandra Richards from EyeLoveKnots shared her story:

I can remember always being a crafty person – inspired by my mom and grandma – but the first craft I can remember wanting to pick up and learn was plastic canvas. My Aunt Arlys used to work plastic canvas projects all of the time, and I just had to work them too. She took me down to AC Moore and bought me some yarn, canvas and a book and gave me some pointers like carrying my yarn under stitches. That was almost 10 years ago – I have been hooked since, and have recently been inspired to think outside the box with it to work up quicker projects, and my own designs using the plastic canvas.

I wear my earrings all over the place, and get a lot of compliments on them. I have them listed in my shop, and have downloadable versions of my designs and tutorials available for purchase.

I have many favorite designs, but I suppose the one I love above all (for now) are my Two Tiny Hearts Dangle Earrings – inspired by Valentine’s Day. I love how lightweight they are, and that both hearts are visible when worn. I have created five pairs since working my first up – have to match each outfit I wear. Hehe.

I am really glad my aunt shared her passion with me, and that I can share it with others now.

Red dangle plastic canvas heart earrings


Dawn Whitehand from DeeDeeDeesigns had this to say:

The first craft I learned was embroidery from my grandmother. I don’t do much of that anymore, however I still have her old embroidery box and some old threads and buttons. I also have some old metal winders she used to organize her cottons.

These days I use embroidery cotton and blanket stitch to make the jewelry gift pouches which all of my jewelry comes packaged in… not exactly embroidery, but inspired by this early experience, as opposed to machine sewing the pouches, for example.


Upcycled Marble Choker


Jessica and Bryan King from FeathandKee replied:

So the earliest thing that I remember is my grandmother doing the hook and loop kits – I guess that is what they are called. She taught me how to do those. Very close to that time, my great-grandmother taught me how to sew by hand – vital skill! Yes, this is something that I am still doing.

Fluttery Black Flower Headband

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