The community of the American Colonies in the 16th to 17th century shared ideas and ways of life with one another. “The colonist came from many countries—England, France, Holland, Germany, and Spain. They brought with them their different customs and skills” (Corwin 7). Together they learned to formulate and develop items. Home crafts are gender specific; typically women became the ones who wove, sewed, embroidered, and quilted; while the men cleared land, farmed, cut wood, butchered and hunted animals. In colonial America, home crafts became not just decoration or a hobby, but a thrifty use of leftover resources, a way of life, rebellion, and a huge role in women’s history.
Colonial women did not have many materials; they either made what they needed or bought it from Europe. Due to lack of supplies and money, the colonists never wasted materials that could be used again. The colonist saved grease and wood ashes; grease became used for lighting and was also the basis of soap, ashes became used as the soap ingredient called lye (Tunis 43). Salt was limited in the colonies, therefore not much salt became wasted on hardening soap; as a result they made it soft. Due to the hazardous fire of melting iron, common colonial citizens did not have much iron in their homes. As a substitute for iron; door hinges, latches, barrels, and utensils were all made out of wood.
Fabric that came from Europe costed as much as the equivalent to the garment itself. It became less expensive to make your own fabric than to buy it. “Producing one’s own clothes . . . meant weaving the cloth to be tailored, spinning the yarn to be woven, and raising and preparing the materials to be spun” (Tunis 46). Every piece of cloth became valuable; women used the leftover pieces of clothing and stitched them together to make a quilt. Quilts became extremely useful, they provided warmth, comfort, and served as a gift. Colonial women created beautiful pieces of art with leftover fabrics, which proved to be cheaper and easier than buying new fabric.
Colonial life, for women, was full of work. They cleaned, cooked, farmed, and cared for children. These by itself became a full time job, plus the countless hours they spent making clothes and other needed household items. While most boys went to school, the girls stayed home and learned the essential home skills. Girls started learning to make home crafts at a young age, to prepare for their future family. “Knitting was taught to little girls as soon as they could hold the needles. Girls four years of age could knit stockings and mittens” (Earle 339). The women’s role in society became centered on the home. They were expected to know how to make home crafts.
Women and their ability to...