Get Creative! Handicrafts for a Simple Life

Handicrafts for a simple life are a necessity, but they also make necessity fun and enjoyable! But don’t make the mistake thinking they are just about knitting or crochet.

Yes. Fiber arts are one of the most popular ways to create. With a skein of yarn and a hook or two needles, you can create beautiful useful items. But there is more to handicrafts for a simple life than that!

a teddy bear sitting next to a handmade pillow

Handicrafts – also known as handmade, handwork, and artisan crafts – have been created for centuries. Originally these works were used for practical purposes, such as pots for cooking, supplies, and clothing.

As time progressed, modern inventions replaced many of the hand work with machines that now do it for us. These machines did it faster, and over a course of time, cheaper.

The drawback to machine made items is there is little to no imagination in the final product. Each item made is exactly like the other hundreds or thousands of them produced. The individual artisan’s character is no longer available.

Today, many of the old forms of handicrafts for a Simple Life are being brought back to life. Individuals who have watched their mothers or grandmothers create with their hands have a desire to continue the traditions.

a primitive bed with quilt and 'walking' spinning wheel

Groups, such as the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is “an inclusive community pursuing research and re-creation of pre-seventeenth century skills, arts, combat and culture.” This group is well versed in many of the ‘old’ crafts. When I first purchased my spinning wheel, a lovely woman named Kendra, who is a member of our local SCA, offered to give me a demonstration and get me started.

Handicrafts for a Simple Life are still alive and well today, thanks to the many artisans whose desire is to recreate and preserve the skills of yesteryear. These are just a few you can start learning today!

Just so you know: This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission, but it does not affect the price you pay!

For the purpose of this post, Affiliate Links are in Green. Informational and Instructional Links are in Purple.

Types of Handicrafts for a Simple Life

There is no limit to the type of handicrafts for a Simple Life. But for each project created, the look of the end product will be original to the craft and the artisan.

Yes, you can knit or crochet a scarf. But the color(s) you use, the pattern you work from, your tension and way of knitting will be different from the next person. The same goes for all the other handmade items.

These are only a sample of some ways you can express your creativity through handicrafts for a Simple Life:

a floor weaving loom with a red and white plaid dish towel

Fiber Arts

Again, knitting and crochet are some of the most popular ways of creating with fiber. But there are others as well:

Weaving

Weaving is by far one of my favorite handicrafts for a Simple Life. As a weaver, I am always in awe of all the looms you can purchase. Pin looms alone come in almost any shape and size you can think of. There are also Rigid Heddle Looms, which are a small portable version of the shaft loom. Floor looms come with 2,4,8, and 12 shafts, and are usually the most expensive of the weaving looms.

There are also other types of weaving as well. Band weaving, such as purse straps and the decorative trim for clothing, can be done with an Inkle Loom or rigid heddles, often referred to as backstrap weaving.  Tablet weaving creates bands as well and uses small cards to create the woven pattern.

Another form of weaving is Basketry. Baskets can be made of splits, fabric, pine needles, twigs, and many other supplies. Some of the most beautiful baskets I have seen have been made with yarn and rope.

colorful balls of roving, a niddy noddy and a drop spindle

Spinning

Spinning is one of the oldest handicrafts for a Simple Life. It is the art of taking wool, fur, hair, or natural fibers, and turning it into yarn. To make yarn from the ground up, so to speak, can be a lengthy process. It requires shearing (usually sheep, alpaca, etc.) or combing (rabbits, dogs, cats, etc.) the animal.

Once the wool or hair is removed, then it is ‘picked’ (the removal of grass, burs, dirt, and other debris), prewashed (sometimes an optional step) washed, and carded, before it can be spun.

Thankfully, you can also purchase roving or batting that is ready for the wheel or spindle. Both can be purchased in its natural colors or dyed through natural or chemical methods.

 Often, different fibers are combed and blended. Angora (rabbit), Cashmere (goat), and Mohair (also goat) are often blended with wool and other fibers a) to help with softness, and b) to lower the cost of the item, as all three are very expensive to process.

The spinning wheel and a drop spindle are the most common ways to spin fiber. The wheel possibly dates back to 1000 BC. Some archeologists believe the drop spindle may date back as early as 9,000 years before the wheel.

Spinning wheels come in many sizes, from the traditional, an upright, and even small easily portable versions. You can even take your creative nature up a notch and create your own Indian Head Spinning Wheel!

If you have visited any of the links above, you can see where spinning wheels can be very expensive. For fiber artists, these tools are considered investments. If you love the craft, it is well worth the cost.

But if you are a beginner, and aren’t sure if you will even enjoy spinning, a drop spindle may be the way to go. These are not only an easy way to learn spinning but are also more affordable.

Drop spindles can be made from items you have laying around the house or can be purchased ready to spin. They have a spindle with a hook on one end and a whorl. Some pre-made drop spindle are simple; others are beautifully ornate

a spinning wheel and colorful roving

A little note here. If you are a beginning spinner and want to purchase a wheel, I recommend doing thorough research before you hit the ‘Buy Now’ button. Wheels come in many different types – from the drive (single/double), tension (Scotch, Irish) lead (bobbin, flyer), to the style of wheel itself (Saxony, Castle, Norwegian, Walker (Great), etc.).

And before you pull great-grandma’s wheel out of storage – know that many of the old or antique wheels may no longer be feasible for spinning. Some are in very poor condition, others have been modified for show, and no longer have all the parts.

For most of us, the very idea of spinning fiber seems a little much as one of the handicrafts for a Simple Life. It is just so much easier to purchase what we need online for our latest project.

But spinning is not only a way to keep one of the old handicrafts for a Simple Life alive, it is also a very calming activity.  And the idea that you can take ‘original’ to the next level is just the ticket for many who love all kinds of fiber arts.

Other Fiber Arts

an unfinished embroidery project using bright colors

Needlework

Needlework is pretty much self-explanatory. These are any of the handicrafts for a Simple Life that are created using a needle. As most of us know (or even enjoy) needlework, I won’t go into as great of detail with these. But please feel free to click the links to learn more!

a sewing basket filled with supplies

Fabric Art

When it comes to creating with fabric, your options are limited to only what your imagination can provide. Clothing, quilts, rugs, toys – there are numerous things that can be made with fabric.

Quilting is one of the most popular handicrafts for a Simple Life in today’s society. One of the best parts of quilting is they can be created from bolts of fabric purchased at the store, scraps from other projects, clothing, and more.

In the days of our grandparents, flour and feed sacks were used to make clothing, aprons, quilts, and other necessary items.

One of the lost arts of handicrafts for a Simple Life that is being revived today is rug twining. This is the method of twisting two strands of fabric (weft) around horizontal threads (warp) to create a solid piece. Where twining was often used for rugs, today it is used for place mats, coasters, and more.

A simple sewing machine can be used for any number of projects. It is often difficult to find the exact color, fabric, size, etc., for something you need or want to give as a gift. By learning how to sew, you have more leeway in creating exactly what you want or need.

Curtains are a great example of this. Every window in our house seems to be a different size. So to get what I wanted, I just made my own!

But hand sewing is also an efficient way of creating small projects. All it takes is a needle, thread, fabric and a pair of scissors, and you can be creating any number of things to use for the home, apparel, or gifts!

a blacksmith working over a forge
photo credit: Miriam Alonso/Pexels

Metal Work

Have you ever seen the beautiful fences created with iron? What about a piece of intricate jewelry made with wire and beads? Metalwork is believed to predate recorded history. It was used for armor, weapons, household goods and more. It is probably one of the oldest handicrafts for a Simple Life.

The art of metalwork comes in many forms. Although it isn’t something I do, the Country Boy uses it to create things we need on the farm – from wheels, lids, and braces to gates and more.

For Christmas one year, he made me a beautiful stand for a garden gazing globe. We joke now about it being the ‘most expensive gift he ever gave me’. It cost us $1,000.00. $20 for the welding supplies, and $980 to get the piece of slag out of his eyes. And he was wearing safety glasses!

Metalwork can be challenging to learn, but it also opens the door to another aspect of being self-sufficient. From necessities to gifts and decorative items, metalwork may also be one of the most versatile handicrafts for a Simple Life.

a seed tray representing woodworking as handicrafts for a simple life

Woodworking

Growing up, one of my favorite scents was sawdust. This meant that my dad was in his workshop creating yet another piece out of wood. Woodworking is a beautiful way of expressing the creativity surrounding handicrafts for a Simple Life.

Mom and dad were raising four children, so there wasn’t always enough money to buy extras. When Mom found a set of end tables she would have liked to have, Dad disappeared into his workshop. Several days later, he brought in two beautiful pieces. That was over 50 years ago, and they still grace Mom’s home.

Handmade pieces from wood are often sturdier than those you can get in the stores now. From small items, such as boxes, hand-carved pieces, and toys, to larger items such as bookshelves, furniture, and mantle pieces, woodworking is a versatile craft to know.

A Simple Life eWorkbook

Another wonderful thing about woodworking – the pieces created can easily become family heirlooms. When I was very young, my dad built me a child-size kitchen cabinet and a doll cradle. I still have both pieces, and they will soon be handed down to grandchildren.

Yet another piece became a family quest. When my sister was three, Dad built her a wooden rocking horse. No one is sure whatever happened to it, but once I was older, I told him I wanted a rocking horse.

For the next three years at Christmas, I had a special gift from my dad. Each one was a rocking horse. One was an extremely tiny plastic toy. The next year, one that was a bit larger. The third year was a ceramic rocking horse that doubled as a music box.

And then my niece was born. It took having her come into this world to get Dad back in the workshop. That year he built three – one for my niece, one for my mom, and finally – one for me! That rocking horse has had a lot of miles on it, but it is still enjoyed by all the kids who come to visit the farm!

a paper woven greeting card in christmas colors

Paper

Papercrafts is something I would love to learn more about. I have seen beautiful works of art created with nothing more than strips of paper curled into various shapes (quilling).

As a lover of books, learning how to make my own, or even repair the bindings on an old favorite definitely sounds enjoyable.

The art of scrapbooking is relatively new in the realm of handicrafts for a Simple Life but is a favorite past time.  It is a perfect way to embellish all of those photos you have collected over the years.

And what better way to be frugal and creative, than to make your own cards? From births to birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, cards are a great way to let folks know you are thinking about them. And one beautiful way to get original is to combine two crafts into one by create a handwoven greeting card!

a selection of needle felting tools and supplies

Handicrafts for a Simple Life

Spring, summer, and fall often have us spending our time outside enjoying the weather, planting or harvesting the garden, or doing general yard work. But winter has us cooped up inside and often, searching for things to do that can keep us busy.

Instead of wondering what we can do, settle in for an enjoyable winter’s day discovering all the handicrafts for a Simple Life that are available. Keep doing the ones you love to do, but also stretch your wings and take the time to find a few others that will be just as fun.

And while you are at it, be sure to invite a young child to learn as well. This way, you can keep these handicrafts for a Simple Life alive and well!

Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.

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