Vintage Skills

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 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.

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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.

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.

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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 homegrown 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.

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.

Final Word

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.

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  1. With any stale bread we had bread pudding. It was a delight to smell the cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins drizzled with vanilla sauce.

  2. I don’t know if this qualifies as a “skill” but my mother taught me to take care of things, especially clothes. When we came in from school or church we immediately took off our “good” clothes & changed into “play/work” clothes. There weren’t many wash & wear fabrics in those days & many things had to go to the cleaners. We hung our skirts or dresses on hangers & hung them in the screened-in back porch for a little while to “air”. Our shoes never went more than two days without being polished. Coats were gently brushed after each wearing. We weren’t poor but my mother had been brought up with very little. She paid more to buy high quality things but everything was cared for to last a lifetime! Clothes were handed down through the family to sisters & cousins looking just as good as they did when they were purchased. I don’t even want to imagine the scene if one of us kids had just dropped our clothes on the floor the way I see my grandkids do today!

    1. OH, Linda, this is the best comment ever! I totally forgot about the polished shoes!!! Oh, this brings back so many wonderful memories. I remember getting a box of clothes from friends and my sisters and I could hardly wait to go through them. I remember changing into play clothes as well. Oh, how I love your comment today! Thank you, Linda

  3. My sister lives in Logan and she uses the Bernina shop all the time! I have a Bernina machine and absolutely love it!
    My grandmother will be 100 this November! She taught home economics in classrooms and on the radio. She taught me how to sew on her singer feather lite when I was 8. I also learned gardening, cooking, bread making and canning from her. My father taught me how to do home repairs and gardening. My mother continued my education on sewing, cooking, baking and canning, as well as how to clean my home. The only thing I do not do is hunt. Now, if I had no choice I’m sure I could do that too!
    There are so many skills that people no longer use. There may come a day when those folks realize that they are in a pickle! With no knowledge of how to sew or bake your bread you will end up naked and hungry!
    My 18 year old son called me the other day while he was sewing curtains for his girlfriend. I asked him how he learned? He said by watching me! I am so proud of him!

    1. Hi Jane, oh my gosh I love hearing this! Your 18-year-old was sewing curtains!!! I tip my hat to you mom!!! Your sister lives in Logan, oh my gosh, I love it! Isn’t it wonderful how we learned to do all these skills? I’m not a hunter either, but I could be if I wanted to be. Your grandmother will be 100 in November? Oh my gosh, I love it! I love your statement they will be hungry and naked. I got the giggles on that one, but it’s true. Great comment, thank you for sharing. Linda

  4. I have an 830 Bernina that I bought almost 50 years ago as a state fair special. It sews as good today as then. I keep it dusted and oiled. Have literally sewn 100’s of quilts and almost all of my childrens clothing when they were younger and now for grandkids. Berninas are the best! I love all your recipes, tips and shared info so a big THANKS!

    1. Hi Phyllis, oh my gosh I love hearing you have an 830 Bernina! I have the 630 Bernina and it’s a rock! I wanted a Bernina forever and I’m never letting go of this one! If we keep them cleaned and oiled they will surely last a lifetime and then some! I bought the embroidery deal with it which is fun. I think the 830 included that. Anyway, life is good with a Bernina! Thank you for your kind words, Linda

  5. Lots of memories from this post. My mother was an exceptional seamstress and until I revolted in high school, she made all the clothes for my sisters and I. She tried to teach me to sew, I had no skill and little desire to learn. She gave me a sewing machine and in the 20+ years, the only thing I made was Winnie the Pooh curtains for my son’s nursery. I ended up sewing them so the print was upside down and had to take out all the seams and try again. When he was too old for them, I bought him a set of curtains. I now use those curtains for bedding with my foster kittens. I am so delighted that my daughter inherited my mother’s talent and love for sewing.

    My dad was the “organic” gardener before organic was talked about. He had about 1/2 to 3/4 acre garden with corn, green beans (we called them string beans), peas, strawberries, tomatoes. We would go out and eat directly from the garden. Dad had to plant 3 or 4 times what he thought we needed for the table and to be frozen for the winter. We’d pick the peas and eat them right there in the garden, dropping the pod on the ground. When ever my mother could not find a salt shaker, she knew to check the tomato patch. We had a huge old pear tree that would produce hundreds of pears. Mom would make pear jelly, she would make stewed pears and freeze them. We had pear sauce. I really miss all those pears. My mom planted mint next to one of the sheds and it took off and ended through out the side yard. Dad had an electric mower that only he could use and then there was an old fashioned rotary blade mower that we kids had to use. Every week it was a fight over who got to mow the yard with the mint, it just smelled so good. Mom would make mint jelly every year. Mom planted grape vines on a lower part of the property (we had 5 acres) and she always thought the birds ate all the grapes. I remember after I left for college and my brothers left the same year, my mother was amazed that the grape vines produced a lot of grapes. She never figured out that the “birds” who ate the grapes were sitting at the dinner table with her. I used to think about that when my daughter and her friends would pick my grapes and then lay on the hammock and giggle while they ate them. Worth every bit of work that went into growing them.

    The other thing that most people don’t know how to do today is simple car maintenance. Before we were allowed to get our driver’s license, dad made sure we knew how to change a tire, gap a spark plug, change the oil and checks all the other fluids. What I learned from all this is that AAA is not all that expensive. I still know how to do all that and could in a pinch.

    1. Hi Angela, what a great comment! I really loved reading it! It’s funny you only plant mint once and you realize it flourishes like crazy! Your stories are priceless, we should all be making pear sauce, and so much more! Best comment ever! Linda

  6. Many years ago, my husband built a camping trailer that he modified from a cab over camper top. He asked me to call around to find someone to make the cushions and curtains for it.I figured,if I could sew my own maternity clothes ,make my daughter’s clothes and make a suit for my son for Easter, how hard could some cushions and curtains be ? So, after sourcing the materials, I made them myself after taking measurements while he was at work. (Only my best friend at the time knew what I was doing). I can still remember when I put the curtains and cushions in the camper while he was sleeping. (it was Father’s day). Well you can imagine his surprise when he came out to tweak a couple of things inside the camper. I felt so proud. I have taught my daughter and grand daughter’s to sew,both by hand and with a machine. We also bake together. Even my 2 1/2 year old grand daughter is always in the kitchen when I’m cooking. ( she pretends to cook). I learned a long time ago, if you know how to cook , garden and sew , you will always be able to feed and cloth yourself. I am happy to say that all 3 of my kids (now adults with kids of their own) know how to do all three of those skills. My daughter and oldest son are good at car repairs. The youngest son ( an attorney), is well versed in electronics ( computers, radios,wiring, etc). We all love to fish. And the oldest son loves to hunt. My hope is that they teach their children all that they have learned . Thank you for another great post. God Bless

    1. Hi Judy, well done, mom! I love hearing how people have taught their kids and grandkids skills, best thing ever! I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Father’s Day surprise, oh my gosh, that is so awesome! Great comment, Linda

  7. Thanks for this post I do all of these skills thanks to my grandmother who taught me homemaking skills, my father who loved to garden, my mother who put up with my latest home-economics class assignment, and all the classes and books on these skills. When I had my sons, our budget was so very tight, I sewed most of our clothes including suits, and was able to knit sweaters, socks, and hats. When my oldest son was about to graduate from junior high, he broke his arm and it was in a cast. Well, knowing how to sew was great because I made him a suit, with the arm seam stitched with Velcro so he could wear the jacket with a greatly altered sleeve pattern and seam!!! With the garden that we grow in raised boxes, I am able to share with my elderly neighbors. One of them loves the fresh lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and peas. Another loves the multiplying onions – haven’t had to buy green onions since I planted these multiplier onions. I dehydrate a lot of herbs and the onions. While I know how to can, I choose not to do it now as my gardens are smaller since downsizing and moving into a home with a smaller back yard.

    1. Hi Carol, I LOVE your comment! It’s amazing how much we learned about survival before we talked about preppers and survival. The skills you learned are keeping you and your neighbors healthy eating right from the garden! I need to check into those multiplying onions. I really enjoyed the story about the velcro, thank you so much for sharing!! Linda

  8. Lovely post, Linda, thank you. Ditto the wonderful skills you mentioned!! Bread making took me the longest to master when I was a young wife.
    My daughter once accused me of being Suzi homemaker because she thought our church made me learn to do those things, but I told her no, these are the things that l LOVE to do and no one makes me do them.

    My Mom taught me proper bed-making. And how to clean a house.

    Mom was an excellent seamstress and made all of our dresses, back then girls wore dresses everyday. From watching her, I decided to learn to sew when I was 11 years old: my first project was a dress. This progressed into me sewing Vogue patterns in high school. Then I decided to take a semester in high school of home ec. and my teacher seeing my sewing skill, helped me make my first properly done suit….never knew how much work a good suit took until then! After I got married, I made my husband a suit and a sports jacket. From all of this, I had my own part time alterations business for a few years, and found out I could figure out even the really hard projects brought to me.

    My Mom and Grandma taught me canning, and we all had to help prepare the food on endless canning days.

    My Dad did the garden every year, but in my home, my husband and I gardened together and taught our son to garden by giving him his very own small garden patch. He was also required to help weed the family garden. He had a friend visiting one day when we were working in garden, so the friend helped too. Then he went home and told his Mom he wanted a chore list like my son had

    Now for the crowning glory: when married, our food budget was so tight for so many years, that I had to learn to use every drop of food. “Waste not”. And I wanted to learn to feed us nutritionally dense foods so we would be healthy. One year when we squeezed out enough money to buy a few bags of wheat to start our own food storage, I kept getting this feeling ‘use it now’. The results were hilarious for a long while, but over time I got good at making while wheat bread; and hunted up every possible wheat recipe to try. Then the miracle of: ideas for recipes just started coming into my head. From those praying/learning years, we ended up having such good health that we hardly ever went to the doctor because we weren’t sick, and I learned how to feed us healthy meals on pennies per day. (Even in these days of much higher food costs, eating a bowl of oatmeal is just pennies per person!!) Later I ended up writing a 500 page cookbook and teaching classes on how to integrate food storage into meals; also started a class on eating well for $1.00 a day per person (very popular class).

    1. Oh my gosh, Janet, you are amazing! I LOVE LOVE LOVE your comment! We both grew up doing very similar things, so fun! I never wrote a 500-page cookbook, though!! Wow, that’s amazing! Oh, I remember having a job chart for my girls. We didn’t make enough money to pay them but the chores were expected to be done. If everyone in the world could go to your class on eating well for $1.00 per person, no one would be on food stamps. Good job!! Isn’t it awesome you learned to sew and therefore could alter clothing for others and so much more? GREAT COMMENT!!! Linda

  9. Hello Linda, I have found your blog few weeks ago and so far I am really enjoing it. I come form a totally different background, then the rest of you here – I grew up in socialist era of the former Czechoslovakia. There were no exotic fruits in the shops, having a banana for Christmas time was a real treat. But we never eaten outside and our meals were always cooked from scratch (my mom does not have a microwave till now). Polishing the shoes were the childrens duty every Saturday. When on holidays at my Grandmother we always had “Sunday clothes” in the wardrobe, not to make scandal on the village on Sundays, running around in our everyday clothes. I learned to knit, to crochet, to sew, to stitch, I watched my Grandmother by canning and my Grandfather butchering the rabbits. Although we lived in a flat, we have rented a garden in the neigbourhood, where we have grown all possible fruits and vegetables. And I use those skills now, when having my own children, although the times have changed, and you can buy almost everythig in the shops ready and prepared. My kids do LOVE the elderflower syrup 😉 Wish you all the best to your end of the World. Daniela

    1. HI Daniela, I love hearing about your childhood, thank you for sharing! I grew up quite poor and that’s why I know all the skills I know. I had to bake bread and make soup or we would not eat. I learned to stretch our pennies, and it was hard. But I made it work. I had the skills to make bread, garden, and sew all of our clothes. I go into stores now and see clothes that would be more expensive to sew, we can go to the clearance section. Life has changed. LOL! Linda

  10. Mending is something a lot of people don’t know how to do anymore; sewing on a button, mending a seam, putting in a hem, patching a hole, and so on. Hand sewing, because you may not always have your machine with you.

    Another one is reusing the material from worn out clothing etc, to make something new. One of my great aunts knitted all her husband socks, and then darned them when they got holes in them. When the socks were more darn than sock she cut them in strips and braided them into a beautiful rug. It started out to be a bedside rug, but through the years grew to fill the livingroom floor!
    My daughter made a bath mat out of old towels the same way.

    1. Hi Diana, oh wow, I LOVE these ideas! I remember my great-grandmother made a quilt for me out of old shirts, dresses, and leftover fabric. I loved it! I can’t imagine knitting socks, I love the ones my neighbor knits for her kids and grandkids. When my family comes to visit they bring the items that need mending. I would love to make a bathroom rug out of old towels. I bet that living room rug was beautiful! Thank you for sharing!! Linda

  11. It was beautiful, but it got so big that, being an oval shape, the curved edges went up the living room walls a bit! It took at least 4 people to drag it outside for its annual beating over a strong rope put up for the purpose. We kids went out and whalloped it with carpet beaters (remember those?) brooms or sticks , getting covered in dust and !aking huge clouds of it fly out. We thought it was fun. I loved having lots of old great aunts and uncles to learn neat things from. They were the grand children of Oregon pioneers .

  12. 80yr old. I used to make a different steamed pudding each day. One with suet crust and filled with apples and saltanas or any available fruit. Ginger sponge pudding. Red cap pudding (jam). Golden syrup pudding. Upside down pineapple pudding. Bread pudding. Steak and kidney pudding. My favourites were rolled in a cloth put into boiling water and kept boiling for 2 hrs. They were my recipes for Bacon Roly poly and the same way of cooking but had saltanas inside and turned out onto brown or white sugar. Served with custard.

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