1930s Crafts Show Just How Much People Struggled (and Triumphed)

Even in times of hardship, most folks will find ways to increase the joy and beauty in their lives, despite having next to no resources. For many people during the Great Depression buying anything at all was a luxury and things were bought used whenever possible to save money. Accordingly, 1930s houses were most times not decorated in a chic manner, but rather with handmade objects made with what they had on hand. Have a look below at 9 crafts that were quite popular during the Depression.

9) Decoupage

This was an easy way to personalize your home since you could turn glass bottles (like the ones that ketchup or beer came in) to treasures with only paper and glue. Stained glass effects were common since they brightened up the home and new items of glass and china were often too expensive.

Via/ Flickr

8) Quilting

During the Great Depression women toiled even harder to eek out a living and making their own quilts was one way of doing just that, using every last little scrap of fabric. Quilting once again became a really important craft for women as staying warm was of paramount importance (especially should the coal have run out).

7) Corn Husks

Like other pioneer arts and crafts that made resurgences during the Great Depression, corn husk dolls (often with acorn heads) were one more way to feel productive and accomplished and store bought dolls were precious and hard to come by. Corn husks, once soaked in water, become pliable and can shaped. When they dry out again they harden into their new shapes and make dolls that cost just about nothing, even if you had used some string to tie them off instead of corn husk strips.

Via/ Flickr

6) Rag Rugs

One handy way to use up long strips of fabric was to make a rag rug. These rugs could be cotton or wool, and any colors would do. And, they were really quite durable underfoot, which made them ideal for impoverished families who had little to spare in the way of money.

Via/ Flickr

4) Paper Dolls

A cheaper option for many families than real dolls was to make paper ones and some families spent a great deal of effort making a set of paper dolls with wardrobes to match a Hollywood starlet in elegance. Paper dolls could be bought as well, but if you had the supplies on hand to make them at home then you could make a completely custom set.

Via/ Flickr

5) Wood Scraps

In the 1930s small scraps of wood were used to create tables, birdhouses, dollhouses, boxes, and other handmade items. The leftover sawdust was sometimes used to fill homemade dolls or stuffed animals. This made the toys quite a bit harder than cotton stuffing, but it was still preferable to paper dolls since they could be carried around and squeezed.

3) Knitting

Knitting has been popular for centuries, but during the Great Depression it became an important craft. An old sweater could be unraveled and the yarn reused to make a hat or mittens for the kids and so it was one more way that people made do on less money. Knitting offered a way to make something almost out of nothing and so even young girls were taught early.

2) Small Embroidery

Another way to use small scraps of fabric and embroidery floss was to make dresser scarfs and antimacassars. These tiny little bits of decoration really livened up the home and made long periods with no new furnishings just a bit brighter. It seems fussy today to decorate in this way, but just imagine having almost nothing new in a year: at the end of the day you’d be looking for any way to spruce up your home.

The dresser might be missing its mirror, but atop a lovely dresser scarf sits not only face cream, but also lipstick and nail varnish. Via/ Library of Congress

1) Flour Sacks

They made flour sack dresses using the printed cotton bags that large quantities of flour came in. This was usually only done on farms and flour suppliers began to market their flour with more and more elaborate calicos and floral patterns in an attempt to lure farmer’s wives to the product. Leftover fabric from flour sacks could be used to make quilts, rag rugs, accessories, and even dolls clothes.

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