Are Vintage Skills A Thing Of the Past?

Are Vintage Skills A Thing Of the Past?

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Vintage skills, are they a thing of the past? Have we lost some of the skills our ancestors learned? The definition of vintage from the dictionary says this and I quote from Merriam-Webster: “of old, recognized, and enduring interest, importance or quality. Classic, of the best and most characteristic.” My friend, Tiffany wrote a great post about vintage skills and it made me think of the things my mother taught me. My mother taught me to sew, cook from scratch and garden. She taught me to make bread and preserve fruits and vegetables from the garden. I also remember taking sewing classes in Home Economics at school.

I called my grandson, Zack who learned to sew in junior high school. I asked him what the class was called, he said it was called “Sports Sewing”.  He learned to make a jacket and a gym bag! He learned on a BabyLock sewing machine. He loved the class, he even said it was cool! I learned to sew on a Singer sewing machine. I now have a Bernina machine. I dreamed about having a Bernina from the time I was about 26 years old.  Around that time I was working part time at a Bernina store in Logan, Utah. I was in charge of designing the display windows for people walking or driving by the storefront. I rotated the different fabrics in the store and sewed clothes with those same fabrics to put on display. It was a thrill for me to sew clothes for this popular store. Looking back I guess I was a little bit of a fraud using my Singer sewing machine to sew the clothes at home. LOL! I would go “practice” on the Bernina machines, and I dreamt one day I would own one of those babies.

Well, when my mother passed away in 2006, she left me a little money and I bought a Bernina! I was 56 years old and it was a cartwheel moment for me! It took me 30 years to get one! It wasn’t top of the line, but it was a well made sturdy machine. I will never part with that sewing machine. I know my mom is looking down from heaven and is so grateful I bought that machine to honor her and continue to use one of her vintage skills called sewing.

Vintage Skills


I have mended clothes for neighbors, family, and friends with my sewing machine. I have made twirly skirts for my granddaughters with matching appliqued t-shirts. I have made quilts and embroidered towels for baptisms and quilts for christenings. When I lived at home I sewed all of my clothes. If we had a prom dance coming up, my mom whipped out her sewing machine to get started sewing all the millions of pieces of fabric for our dresses.

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My friend, JoAnn taught Home Economics when she was younger and we would compare our sewing ideas as we raised our kids together. It was nice to have a friend that understood the joy of sewing something. My sister, Carol has now taken her sewing to the next level of one of a kind perfectly sewn, appliqued quilts carefully quilted and bound with love.

vintage skills

Cooking from scratch:

I have to laugh because I know when I was growing up we had creamed tuna on toast at least once a week. I do remember having goulash, fried liver and onions to name a few things. We ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade bread, I know that! We ate a lot of beans, rice, soups and chili made from every kind of bean known to man! We also ate creamed chip beef on toast a lot. Sloppy joes were one of our favorite meals.

We had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner many nights. We usually had cans of green beans and corn or some kind of vegetable to go with meals. Breakfast for dinner was a highlight, with pancakes, scrambled eggs and hashbrowns with syrup. If we had tacos with homemade salsa that was my all time favorite meals and one I cherish to this day!

Potatoes were a staple at our home, oh how we loved homemade French fries and twice baked potatoes. Sometimes we had open faced sandwiches with melted cheese on top broiled in the oven.

vintage skills

I vaguely remember a drive through with girls on roller skates at a drive-in restaurant. It was way too expensive for our family’s budget to eat there. I know when I was raising my daughters we rarely ate out for meals. We just didn’t do it. It wasn’t until my girls were grown that Mark and I ate out a lot when we were both working long hours.


My great-grandmother would be delighted at seeing organic grocery stores. Oh, that’s right, she grew organic food back when it wasn’t called organic. It was home grown food, or as we call it today, a garden. No pesticides or herbicides. Just the earth planted with saved seeds. Imagine that, seeds that produced year after year. We used a hoe, shovel, and replanted seeds year after year. There is something magical about tilling the garden, planting, watering and checking the garden every day for a sprout. Any sprout. Then when we saw flowers on the fruit trees or vegetables in the garden, we were elated! We couldn’t wait for that first fresh tomato or peach.

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Canning/Preserving food:

My mother taught me, as well as my sisters, to can, dehydrate and use every morsel of food that was purchased or grown. No waste, ever. I carried on the tradition by teaching my daughters as well. We lived in towns that sold fruit pretty cheap and we canned and dehydrated everything we could get our hands on, and enjoyed the works of our labor for the year. Then we started again the next year, and so on. I know this was a lesson that taught my four daughters to be self-reliant and to value hard work to get needed things done.

Bread Making:

By now you know, I love to make bread, cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls or whatever so I can use my white bread flour or freshly ground whole wheat flour. I have taught probably hundreds of people to make bread over the years, and it always brings me joy to feel the bread dough in my hands. My daughter, Heidi makes the most beautiful loaves of bread and I have yet to form my loaves to turn out like hers. Kudo to my daughter, it makes a momma proud to see her daughter or daughters make bread, cinnamon rolls or dinner rolls. That’s how we roll, no pun intended.

Let me know the vintage skills you remember as a child, I love your comments and thoughts. May God bless us all to be self-reliant.

My favorite things:

Unco Industries Wiggle Worm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings Organic Fertilizer, 15-Pound

Dr Earth 803 1-1/2 Cubic Feet All Purpose Compost

5 Pounds of Azomite – Organic Trace Mineral Powder – 67 Essential Minerals for You and Your Garden by Raw Supply


  1. Paula Smith says:

    I love this post! I had never thought of these as vintage skills, just sills everyone needs to have. It’s great that your grandson is learning to sew! I learned in high school and loved it so much I never quit. I taught myself the rest. I was the last of 7 children and the youngest by 11 years. My Mama was working 2 jobs to keep me fed so we ate OUT a lot. Mama had a garden always and when we were home, we would have the fruits of that labor. She seldom got to cook, though and I mostly grew up in a movie theater that she managed. I HAVE taught my one and only daughter the skills, though. She can make rice and gravy with buttermilk biscuits to beat anybody!

    • Hi, Paula, if your daughter can make biscuits to beat anybody, that is truly an awesome skill. I love making gravy and some people have no idea how to make gravy! Woohoo, she can make gravy with rice! I remember teaching a class where they had two of us teach about cooking from scratch and storing food storage. The teacher or speaker after me was showing the skills she knew. She bought all processed boxes and the cans of biscuits you hit against the counter and cook in the oven. The sad thing is, that’s all she had learned as a child. She was about 30 years old and a working mom. It’s hard because most coupons are for junk food and if that’s all they can afford and have never learned the skills to cook from scratch, that’s truly sad. Linda

  2. JoEllen says:

    These are great skills to have and are becoming more necessry with the political climate and the economy what it is. The only one of these that isn’t in my skill set is gardening. My plants grow very well until in one seemingly predetermined night and nibbles them off near the ground. I may try again.

    • Hi, JoEllen, I hear you on the nibbles! We have so many critters where I live. I know some of my neighbors have rabbits stop by for a meal! LOL! I have a block wall but that doesn’t stop the insects!! I feel like we all specialize in different areas. Maybe you make bread or can sew. We can work together as a neighborhood and exchange our skills with one another. You will be fine! Linda

  3. my grandma taught me to sew on a singer tredle when i was 5. i made all my uniforms and even prom dresses. i taught my son to sew on a tredle and he helped me make baby clothes for my daughter. the kids learned to cook as early as possible. we lived in the city and also on a small farm with lots of chores and rabbits. i don’t like rabbits anymore, guess i got burned out. my garden did not go well as it was all tilled and ready to plant when we had a bad rain and it flooded everything. the yard was a swamp for weeks so i gave up on the garden that year. i did learn to can and put up lots of good stuff. i’m retired now in a small apartment and can’t do what i used to do. i don’t can anymore but i do dehydrate lots of food for myself. i passed on as much as i could to my kids through what my gram taught me and hope they carry it forward.

    love your posts, linda. i really look forward to them every week. keep up the good work.

    • Hi, Maggi, you are so awesome, thank you for reading my articles! I love hearing you taught your kids what your gram taught you. I have had trouble with zucchini in my garden the last three years. Now, if that’s not the craziest thing ever! Zucchini grows everywhere but in MY garden. BUT, I have tomatoes, crookneck, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots and onions. Life is good! I love hearing you dehydrate food, that’s something we can all do. We will never have waste if we can dehydrate those bananas that are getting too ripe but not overly ripe. They make great snacks!! Love you girlfriend! Linda

  4. I was taught that to scare off birds and other critters in your garden to put a hole in the
    top of a pie plate and put a string in it and tie to your fence or on a pole or something. The wind will blow it and the reflection or movement will scare them off. The bugs is another story, I use sevens.
    You mentioned what you grew up eating , I ate things are now considered gourmet, Squirrel, rabbit,
    raccoon, brains, tongue, gizzards, liver, and heart things people today would gag on.

    • Hi, June, oh y gosh, I grew up eating beef tongue. I always wanted the tip because it was less chewy! We ate chicken livers and my husband always wants the turkey heart. I got the giggles thinking about what we used to eat. You ate squirrel, brains, and gizzards! You were truly gourmet without knowing it! I Love hearing this! Linda

  5. Lauralee Hensley says:

    I learned to embroider (both thread and liquid) from my mother and she from hers. I learned to quilt in elementary school at church. I actually have quilt pieces all cut out for a twin size bed right now, I just need to get into the mood to sew them all together. There were only a handful of girls between junior high and elementary school that went to the quilting ladies group. We learned quilting from ladies 30 to around 92 that were in that group. I have made three small rugs, which I learned how to do (three different types) by a friend in high school (she had learned from her mother how to do rag rugs, yarn loop rugs, and I don’t remember the name of the other type). I don’t have those rugs now. I have canned a few things in my life. I learned a little about canning from my mom, but I also as an adult went to a class at a university extension class. I actually watched some canning episodes on You Tube the past couple of days. I’m thinking about dry canning some hamburger after I saw it done on You Tube and heard the end results were really good in the texture department. I grow some fruits and vegetables in my garden, but scaled back this year as between me and hubby we are healing still from surgeries we’ve already had this year. I did gain some skills on companion planting from watching a DVD seminar on such and getting some planting charts from the same people. I also learned some on companion planting online. I have done that with my tomato plants this year to try and scale back worms wanting to get to the tomatoes before I do. I have a small wood pile and yes we cut the wood for the pile ourselves. We even built the wood holder. I can sew some clothing items, but I do not like doing buttonholes at all. I’d rather put in a zipper or even do snaps instead. Mostly my mom and older sister taught me the little clothing sewing skills I have. My mom was a good clothing sewer, but my older sister was an excellent one and took clothing sewing for more than one year in high school when it was still offered. By the time I got to high school many classes my older brother and sister took were no longer offered. My older sister learned how to make a lined dress coat and some other really fancy items. I can cook from scratch and a couple of my old physical cookbooks have been used so much I truly use big rubber bands to close the books with and keep them together. I prefer physical cookbooks over computer sheets to look at when making a recipe. I probably don’t have as many old skills as some do being raised in the city and not in the country, but I think any can help. Just wish my mom had known how to knit or crochet. I tried taking crochet classes, but I couldn’t catch on from the woman teaching it. Even when I asked for one on one, it was like she was purposely keeping her hands way above my eye level so I couldn’t see what she was doing. When I’d move to try and see, so would her hands. I just dropped out after a few classes after that since we paid for each class on the day we attended. I think she didn’t like me because I said I wouldn’t be buying any of her wool yarn as I am allergic to wool. I told her I’d have to stick to acrylics. I did grow up with my parents having a month’s worth of food for our whole family in the house at all times. It was the basics, like oatmeal, flour, sugar, beans, rice, some home canned and some bought canned goods, some meat was always in the freezer. My Dad always wanted a cushion in case something happened. So we too in our household have food stored away for emergencies. I do know how to shoot. I was taught as a kid by my Dad and then when I married my husband made me get back to knowing how to do so in case I ever needed to, which thankfully I haven’t had to resort to such.

    • Hi Lauralee, I have never heard of dry canning hamburger. Last year I got my Master Canning Preserver Certificate from the university extension class, it sounds like you did the same thing! I love hearing this! My cookbooks have rubber bands as well! I go to thrift stores and find some cookbooks that are from years ago. They have simple recipes with the basics like you mention above. I need to learn to shoot better. I really want a shotgun, I have a gun with ammo but I’m saving for a shotgun. It’s so fun to think back what we learned over our lifetime from classes and family members. I had to laugh I can sew buttons on with my sewing machine if they have two holes better than the four hole buttons. LOL!Years ago we used a needle and thread! I still do unless it’s a LOT of buttons I use my sewing machine. So good to hear from you! Linda

  6. Vintage skills are not a thing of the past. I also learned to sew at home and in high school. I learned gardening from my father, preserving (canning, freezing, and dehydrating) from my mother. Nothing was “store bought” when it came to food – other than sugar, flour and coffee. Everything else came from our farm – meat, veggies and fruits.

    I have been involved with a primitive skills weekend in May for the past 10+ years. It is for women and girls only. We teach each other old skills as well as learn new skills. I have learned to dip candles, felt soap, make footwear, weave a basket, start fires using flint and steel to name just a few. I have taught food dehydration, easy cosmetics – lotions, balms, etc., and some things you can do with sugar – sugar cones, cubes, etc.

    Our weekend skills are typically pre-1840 but we do have some skills from the pioneer days. This year a woman taught pressure canning. I have learned a lot of colonial skills as well as skills as far back as medieval days.

    Not long ago, my nephew (he is very interested and technical with his bread baking) taught me how to make an all natural yeast. I used apples but other fruits can be used as well. What you do is this: Take a quart jar, one apple and some filtered water (if you live in the country and have your own well, tap water is fine but if you live in the city, tap water, with its chemicals, will kill the natural yeast). Chop up the apple – doesn’t have to be fine and DO NOT PEEL IT NOR WASH IT if it is organic. Put the chopped apple, peels, core, everything in the quart jar. Fill the jar with water and place cheesecloth or a coffee filter over it securing with a rubber band or string (just to hold it in place). The cover is just to keep undesirables (say bugs) out. Place it on your counter and leave it sit for several days. The water will turn cloudy and the apples will float. You should also see sediment at the bottom of the jar. It is ready for the next step. Slowly pour the water and sediment into a container that you can pour from. I used a bowl. Using a kitchen scale with grams, measure out 100 grams of water/sediment into a quart jar. In a separate container, measure out 100 grams of flour (I used all purpose flour). Mix the 2 ingredients together. I put a mark on the outside of the jar just to know how high these two ingredients came to. Again, cover with the cheesecloth or coffee filter. Leave on the counter. When the flour/yeast water have roughly doubled in size in the jar, the starter is ready to use. Use as you would any sourdough starter. Refrigerate. If you do not use it at least once a week, take it out, weigh out 100 grams of starter, 100 grams of flour and 100 grams of water. Mix well and let rest on the counter. Then, discard 1/2 of the starter in the jar. I use the discard in pancakes, biscuits, or bread. No waste.

    I have not tried to make this using other fruits but it would work the same way. Some natural yeasts such as sourdough, apple yeast, etc., will all have varying success rates. In other words, true sour dough may rise more than the apple yeast or vice versa.

    This was just another skill to sock away in my brain in the event of SHTF!!

    • Hi, Lea, this is a skill we all need today and when the SHTF! I would love to go to some of these classes you teach and attend. I love this kind of thing. We can always learn new skills, you rock! Keep up the good work! Linda

      • Linda – all you need to do to attend the Women’s Primitive Skills Weekend is this:

        1) it is always held the weekend before Memorial Weekend in Puyallup Washington
        2) we wear primitive clothing, i.e. pioneer (easiest way for beginners), Native American style, or colonial. At least those are the most common styles of dress. I have yet to see anyone in medieval clothing.
        3) plan to camp out or stay in a hotel and drive out to the site each day.
        4) it is held at the Paul Bunyan Rifle Club in Puyallup Washington
        5) classes are held Friday from noon to about 5 pm with a potluck afterwards
        Saturday from 8:30 to about 5 pm with a potluck afterwards
        Sunday from 8:30 to about noon with prizes afterwards
        6) we welcome all women and girls (12 and up). There are no accommodations for women with physical challenges but there are several who use walkers and scooters. The grounds are uneven but they seem to get around just fine. There is a lot of walking (between classes) and a lot of sitting (in classes). Lots of laughter.
        7) check out the website:

        Just an aside to the above. We have had one woman who flew in from Toronto Canada for a couple of our weekends (she wasn’t here this year though). She only brings her primitive clothing and eating utensils, sleeping bag and likely a small sewing kit. We have a tent or two that people can stay in with prior arrangements. There are stores very close and motels available close by.

        I would love to see you there sometime. We have a wonderful time and learn so many things. If you check out the website, you can see what the classes are although they change every year. I am thinking of teaching knot tying next year and may come up with something else.

        ~ Lea

  7. Great post. My daughter and I decided to run this past week’s laundry through our bucket system just to keep our skills up. When wringing some jeans, I pulled something in my wrist, rather seriously. So I’ve been wearing a brace. I now think I need to invest in a laundry aid so I can get the soapy water out. I need something non-electric to make the chore much easier and save my wrist. I didn’t break it but I sprained it pretty bad, and doc says that I’m forbidden to wring out clothes any more. Evidently once you do a bad sprain like this, the same action will reinjure it. While convalescing, I sat and did some research on laundry and found several options for making machines, most were too big or took up a lot of space with a bicycle and such. But I saw one that was intriguing called a GiraDora. It was designed for 3rd world countries, but I thought, hey, this is a pedal powered barrel you sit on. You could do just about anything at the same time as laundry because your heel pushes the pedal on it while you’re sitting on it. You can even spin dry with it. I was thinking this is really cool. Then I found out that this was just an idea that was tried out and never brought to market. The key is the ability to spin dry because the rest is easy in the bucket system. And then I thought of what our grannies did back in the day. They didn’t hurt their wrists because they used a wringer. So now I think we’ll get one. But first need to do research in that vintage art.

    • Hi Debbie, oh my gosh, I feel so bad about your!! Now, here’s the deal it will ALL of us how hard it would be to wring out jeans! I only use my emergency washer for underwear, wash rags, hand towels or t-shirts. You know I am going to look into a wringer as well. I’ll keep you posted. We BOTH need one! Love your comment! Linda (I hope your wrist heals ASAP)

      • Thanks for the well wishes! Oh of course I had to do ALL the clothes to show my daughter that we can do them all in the buckets. LOL I have a neighbor that has a chamois wringer in his shop/garage. I’m not sure, but that type of thing might work. I’m going to try it out and see. Always good to try it before buying! Will report back how it goes because the only wringing I’m going to be doing is hankies while I worry about my children. LOL

        • Oh, Debbie, I hear you on the hankies and the worrying about kids and grandkids. Thankfully we have raised them to be self-reliant. May God bless you and your family! Hugs, Linda P.S. I’m on the lookout for a wringer as well!!! LOL! I’m going to look at a store called Lehman’s. That’s where I bought my Amish made very sturdy wood rack dryer.

    • I saw something on a TV show a few years back that helped with wringing out clothing. The woman had a rope tied around a tree with a loop hanging out. She sort of folded the washed items – I think she was washing sheets – and put it through the loop then she just twisted. Perhaps it was only that she was having to wring out the clothing by herself but it looked handy and I stored it in the back of my mind for those times that I might need to do laundry by hand.

  8. Kathy in Idaho says:

    I learned how to sew from my mother and I sewed my first button on a doll dress when I was 4 years old. My mother tried to teach me how to knit and crochet, but she was left-handed and I am totally right-handed. I could never figure out how to hold the thread and needles like she did. But sewing was much more straight forward. I have sewn everything from panties to a dress coat for my husband. I’ve made many quilts and my new challenge is that I want to learn how to sew bras.

    My mother had never really done much cooking, but my step-mother taught me so much about cooking, that I am forever grateful. I learned how to can from a college friend and have been canning everything for over 40 years. I have tried to teach these skills to my children and I’m happy to say that my oldest daughter can sew, cook and can.

    • Hi, Kathy, oh my gosh, your comment about making bras, reminds me when I wanted to learn to make shoes for daughters when they were little. LOL! Now, I want to make some bras, I never thought about making those!!! It looks like we both wanted to learn to knit and crochet!!! I know I didn’t know how to sew a button on anything when I was four years old! That is awesome! Linda

  9. The comments were as fun as the post!  Thanks!

  10. Hi, have you tried using a floor mop wringer. They are square and alot of schools and churches use them to clean bathroom floors etc.. I got a new one for rags etc. but I think if your careful you could use it for jeans.

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