Old skills, new skills, lost skills…

This year I’ve been dwelling on skills that I would like to have that I don’t. Now that encompasses a very wide array- from metal working to speaking another language- there’s loads of things I would like to be able to do. My problem is always just picking one thing. When I get in the mood to learn something new then I start trying to do it all! As you can imagine this very quickly descends into me learning nothing.

I’m also fairly terrible at teaching myself anything. I’m not one of these glorious people who can turn their hand to anything. In fact I’ve yet to find a single thing in my life that I have been able to quickly pick up. Anything I learn is hard won and normally encompasses endless hours of extra practice compared to anyone else and a book or five on the subject to understand the theory of what I’m doing. This means that when I’m trying to pick up something I have to try and find a teacher. For me a YouTube tutorial just won’t cut it, I need someone there to hold my hand.

Now that’s not to say that I’m stupid or that I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be doing. However in reality I like to be able to ask many many incessant questions and write notes (on paper as well, I don’t do well with typed notes) on the steps I should be taking. As well as being able to watch them do the thing first and then copy it.

This is in complete contrast to the wonderful husband. I have never met someone more hands on and practically minded than he is. Also he is one of these blessedly annoying people who picks everything up quickly and makes it look damn easy doing it! In fact this idea of him is so ingrained in me that I now find it difficult to believe if I ask him to do something practical and he tells me he can’t. (On occasion I do think this is just because he doesn’t want to do what I’m asking…). This is a man who taught himself to wire our house, plumb in our bathroom and heating system, has built garages and kit cars and many other jobs mainly by watching a couple of videos on it and then getting started. It’s a skill I envy and admire and one that I definitely do not have!

I’ve also found that the older I get the more I feel I should have a certain skill level. I can do the basics of life: cook, clean, washing etc but I want to be able to do more.

Based on all that, I wanted to pick a skill for this year to get to grips with. To me, out of my long list, the most useful skill I could acquire was how to use a sewing machine. This is a totally foreign area to me. I was ill for most of my childhood so I didn’t do home economics classes and have never been near a sewing machine in my house either. I do however love the idea of being able to make and alter things. The opportunity to take it up seemed like a good choice when I saw a Singer machine on offer in the local supermarket. So I bought it and went from there.

Now for the teaching part. As I said I can’t teach myself so I needed to rope someone in to teach me the basics. That’s where my mother in law comes in. I’m extremely lucky and I get along really well with my MIL. I’m also lucky that she has all the skills of a perfect 1950’s housewife and is willing to pass them onto me! So we’ve currently started lessons- just basic using my machine, threading it, different stitches, adjusting tension etc. I was duped by her into making a cushion cover as well. (This was stressful as it’s to go in her room, I thought I was working on a practice one with spare material, it turned out that it was the good one- not impressed!). It’s now time for me to try and make an actual legitimate item from start to end though…

Yesterday was a day of shopping. For the first time I bought a pattern and fabric- yay. This was a myriad of complications though that I didn’t know about. For a start I didn’t realise that you look through a pattern book and then take a number up to the counter to actually get the pattern. I had assumed that you would just have all the patterns hanging on a wall and pick from there. That’s not the case I see! Then there’s all the numbers on the pattern- I still don’t know what they mean. Due to my MIL knowledge we seem to have come away with the right pattern but who knows?! I also got far too overexcited in the fabric shop. I’m just making a basic pair of jogging bottoms but that involves boring coloured, plain jersey fabric. Whereas what I actually want to make clothes out off is all the material with tiny pirates, fabric that is super soft and looks like dragon scales or is off a completely lurid pattern involving giant flowers or little stars…  I got dark grey jersey material though as is appropriate for the moment! So now I just have to get on and make it. I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going once I get started.

When I was looking at skills though it did make me think a lot about the potential for skills to be lost. I don’t know many people my age who can use a sewing machine, knit, make jam, make home remedies, grow their own food or re-purpose and re-use what they own. It could be that I just don’t know the right subset of people for this but I do have a broad range of friends. To them I am viewed as a practical person and someone who can do a lot and has a lot of ‘old’ housewife-esque skills. This is blatantly untrue but it’s because they buy everything and would never consider making their own. It makes me even more determined to master what skills I start, I want to help carry these on for new generations. Hopefully that’ll give me enough incentive to learn new things each year.

Are there any skills that are in danger of dying that you know? I’d love to hear about them.

Kimmy x

Sewing Machine


Published by


A married couple from Scotland. Debt free wannabees, future homesteaders and grow your own enthusiasts.

6 thoughts on “Old skills, new skills, lost skills…”

  1. How wonderful for you! Maria and I believe in reviving old skills too. Maria started a few years ago and she is amazing at it. Its also the reason I started blacksmithing. Those hands on skills seem to be the ones at greatest risk of being lost. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. It can be hard to find people who don’t want to live in excess and want to be more hands-on. I have been, for the most part, having to teach myself these skills, unless they are ones (like sewing) that I’ve done for years and years. I do a lot of internet research and reading books (with pictures!) to help me out and then it’s all about trial and error and the learning curve, doing it over and over. Brewing has been a big learning thing for us. We don’t do alcohol but have been making real sodas, root beer, and mostly ginger ale. Most batches have been great and few….not so much. But it’s fun to teach ourselves new “old” things. I love reading your journey. Very cool.


      1. Our ginger ale is better than the “fake” stuff we can generally buy in a store. It’s brewed and aged like other beer or sodas. You brew (or boil) the correct herbs and a little organic sugar or honey or molasses then bottle it adding a little brewers yeast then let it sit and ferment. Then we bottle into individual bottles and let it ferment a little longer before drinking. So far, they’ve mostly been good except when experimenting with flavor a little too much or when fermenting has gone wrong (too long). Our friends seem to enjoy them too! I will be doing a blog post with lots of pictures and a recipe next time we brew again. I will try to remember to comment back here when I do with a link, if you’d like. I haven’t made an cordials, but we might try them as well. Definitely write about it, if you make it this summer, I’d love to see that.


  3. Good for you for trying new things 🙂 I’ve been sewing since I was really little, but I know how rare that is these days…not a simple task to be sure. I took to it pretty easily, but my older sister struggled, and still does to this day, whereas I was a seamstress for a living for about 4 years. It definitely takes time, patience, and the ambition to learn! Starting with an easy project helps, so does having a mentor, but it’s probably best you didn’t love the fabric for the pants…that way if it doesn’t turn out like you envisioned, you won’t be too disappointed.
    I too, am interested in your ginger ale process! We are quitting all sugars with the exception of naturally occurring sugar (i.e. fruit), honey, and maple syrup, but we want to be able to make our own soda for special occasions.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s