Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Domestic Hobbies: The Connection between the Past and the Future

Knitting, quilting, and other domestic hobbies appear to have experienced a surge in popularity over the past two decades. Perhaps it is more accurate to state that they have experienced a surge in visibility thanks to social media and other online communities, as the qualities that attract people to domestic hobbies have remained constant for centuries. In previous posts, I addressed their therapeutic benefits and ability to create a sense of community among crafters. There is a third reason why domestic hobbies have stood the test of time, a reason closer to our hearts than to our hands: these creative pursuits simultaneously allow us to honor our past and ensure our legacy in the future.

In The Mary Frances Sewing Book: Adventures among the Thimble People, published in 1913, Mary Frances’ grandmother’s magical sewing notions teach her how to sew clothes for her doll. Included in the book were actual patterns so the reader could “sew along” with Mary Frances.The warm feeling of kinship crafters feel is not just toward fellow crafters, who enjoy the same hobby. Many people learned a craft at the knee of a beloved parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle who has since passed away. The act of crafting stirs up childhood memories and serves as a tribute to our ancestors. A friend of mine gardens because it reminds her of her grandfather and of all the lessons he taught her in his garden. Another learned woodworking from his grandfather and took it up again in his 30s, after he became a parent. My stepmother and I inherited our mothers’ fabric stashes and sewing machines. When we use the skills, materials, and equipment they gave us, we are assured that they are still with us, and our finished projects feel like tributes to their lives and our relationships.

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

Behind the Scenes: Conservation at The Strong

In the spring, guests attending The Strong’s Museum Secrets events got a behind-the-scenes look at The Strong’s conservation labs and learned about some of the strategies and techniques used to keep collections preserved. In the carousel care lab, guests heard about the history of the Elaine Wilson Carousel, the second largest artifact in the museum’s…

Dino-MITE!

Dino-MITE!

GIFT SHOP. Those two words might strike fear into the hearts of museum-going parents, but for children who have been bribed into good behavior, it is a beacon. Don’t disappear, don’t have a tantrum, don’t break anything—you may be rewarded with something from the museum’s gift shop. I grew up in Pittsburgh, where we had…

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

From Italy to Rochester, Looking for the Meaning of Play

In November 2015, I came from my home in Turin, Italy, to spend a month at The Strong museum working on my research project, “The Meaning of Toys: Creating and Conveying Knowledge through Playful Artifacts.” I was honored to be granted a  Strong Research Fellowship that financed the first half of my stay.

Playmobil Play Sets

Playmobil Play Sets

In my previous blog titled I’d Like to Thank All the Little People, I described the profound impact that Fisher-Price’s Play Family had on my preschool years in the early 1970s. What I could not have realized during those formative years is that, almost 4,000 miles away in Zirndorf, Germany, another type of play set—Playmobil—was…

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Girl Gamers

Recently, debates about women and video games have been making the rounds. The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the Colbert Report, for instance, have drawn attention to what it can be like for women in gaming communities. They explain that women face a lot of pushback and find themselves viewed as unwelcome visitors in…

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

Sid Sackson: Game Player and Designer

The Strong not only collects playthings, but also acquires significant material related to the invention, manufacture, and use of those playthings. One of the museum’s treasures is the collection of games, game prototypes, and archives from noted American game inventor and historian, Sid Sackson. Sackson (1920–2002) is revered among inventors, collectors, and serious players for…

Domestic Hobbies: The Fight for Community in the Face of Isolation and Injustice

Domestic Hobbies: The Fight for Community in the Face of Isolation and Injustice

Domestic hobbies scratch the play itch—the need for creative expression and for losing yourself in the flow of an activity. In my previous blog, I addressed the therapeutic nature of crafting and the calm that it brings to its practitioners. Creative pursuits can also meet the need for community, for comfort and companionship for the…

Game Night!

Game Night!

It’s game night and my friends are gathered in my dining room. Four of them are face-down in a plateful of whipped cream, with their hands tied behind their backs, desperately trying to find snack-size candy bars hidden underneath. The rest of the group are laughing raucously, cheering their partners on. The goal of the…

When the Old Becomes New—Timeless Toy Designs

When the Old Becomes New—Timeless Toy Designs

“Hey! I had one of those growing up!” is a frequent statement we hear from guests roaming through The Strong. With such a large and diverse collection on display, everyone young and old can discover personal treasures behind the glass cases. The nostalgia of smiling childhood memories brings joy, as toy companies have discovered. Although…