11 Vintage Photos of Crafting Through the Ages

From building furniture to sewing quilts, crafting is a pursuit as old as time. And while making our own everyday items is much less necessary than it once was, crafting still remains a popular hobby — and, in many cases, a full-time job — though it looks quite a bit different than it did in the days of quilting bees.

For today’s Throwback Thursday gallery, we’re digging through the archives to look at vintage photos of the olden days of crafting, from sewing for the war effort to doll-making in a generations-old style.

vintage photos of crafting

The State Library of New South Wales provides this image of women “spinning wool to knit socks for soldiers during World War I.” The image is dated 1915, and the women are named as “Mrs Marson, Miss Nelly Kelly, Mrs Eileen Pettett.”

vintage photos of crafting

The wool that was spun was then knit into socks by girls like the ones in this photo, also from the State Library of New South Wales. This photo is dated between 1914 and 1918.

vintage photos of knitting

Here’s some more sock knitting from the State Library of New South Wales. This photo features Pilliga Red Cross members, circa 1915. The photographer is unknown.

vintage photos of floral arrangements

Floral design is another legacy craft. This photo is from The Caernarfonshire Federation of Women’s Institutes flower arranging competition in 1959. The photographer is Geoff Charles (1909-2002). Image via the National Library of Wales.

vintage quilting photos

“A group of women quilting for Maifest in Hermann,” writes the Missouri State Archives about this 1953 photo.

PortraitCrafting was often a way to feel connected to the home countries of U.S. emigrants.

The caption for this photo, from the U.S. National Archives, “Older citizens, retired persons and those unable to care for themselves physically are cared for in two community centers. This woman lives at the Highland Manor Retirement Home, keeping busy with “Old Country” crafts.

New Ulm is a county seat trading center of 13,000 in a farming area of South Central Minnesota.

It was founded in 1854 by a German immigrant land company that encouraged its kinsmen to emigrate from Europe.”

The caption is the description, which most likely came from the photographer, Flip Schulke (1930-2008).

old time crafts

“Making ‘Bohemian Lace’ is a tradition and craft handed down through generations of women living in New Ulm, Minnesota,” writes the U.S. National Archives. “Mrs Francis Zeug, right foreground, is working on the lace. Thread is stored in small wooden bobbins called ‘Knipples’ in German.”

vintage bookbinding

This photo features “Sharon Conway bookbinding in Document Preservation, early 1970s,” according to the National Archives.

vintage photos of quilts

The caption from the Library of Congress: “Mrs. Bill Stagg with state quilt that she made, Pie Town, New Mexico. A community settled by about 200 migrant Texas and Oklahoma farmers who filed homestead claims … Mrs. Stagg helps her husband in the field with plowing planting, weeding corn and harvesting beans. She quilts while she rests during the noon hour. 1940 Oct.”

vintage photos

“Alice McCarter, weaving a baby blanket at the Pi Beta Phi School, Gatlinburg, Tennessee. This particular material is very fine weave. She learned weaving at this school and is now unusually skillful in the craft, November 1933,” wrote photographer Lewis Hine about this photo, via the National Archives.

vintage dollmaking

This image shows a collection of Seminole dolls in the process of being made by Mary Billie on the Big Cypress Reservation, Florida. The photos, which comes from Florida Memory, note reads “Mary B. Billie has been a dollmaker since she was 17. She learned the skill by watching her mother, who learned it from Mary’s grandmother. Seminoles used to make dolls mainly as toys for their own children, but now Mary, like other Seminole dollmakers, depends upon the craft to earn her living. ‘They were for the kids to play with at first. That’s what they were making it for, for the kids to play with.”

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.