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Forgotten Household Crafts

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  303 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Taking the reader on an evocative journey through the worlds of traditional craftspeople from blacksmith to bee-keeper, wainwright to housewife the acknowledged "Father of Self-sufficiency" John Seymour celebrates their honest skills, many of which have disappeared beneath the tread of progress.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 30th 2007 by DK (first published October 11th 1984)
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Oct 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: folklorists, SCAdians, historians, crafters
I'd prefer to give this book 3.5 stars, rather than 4. Although I ended up thinking very highly of the author and his research, I spent the first third of this book thinking it would be better titled " Forgotten Household Doohickeys". Richly illustrated with detailed, pen-and-ink drawings of seven* different types of chamber pots, 5 spinning wheels, 9 candle-making tools, etc., this book is a visual treat, as well as an educational one. The chapters covering food and cookery seem weaker than the ...more
Not a how-to book, but rather a detailed reminder of how everyday life was filled with a variety of specialized skills that took real craftsmanship and hard work and led to products that were durable, simple, useful and used local resources. Seymour intersperses his descriptions -- of everything from broom making to keeping livestock to making cider to coopering to peat cutting, etc. etc. -- with charming and trenchant mini-rants and hilarious anecdotes.

And this isn't the glossy, crafty, etsy,
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
First, let me say that I read the older version of this book (ISBN 0-394-55830-8, (c)1987). I agree with what other people have said about the emphasis on equipment, but there is a considerable amount of information about technique as well although I would never consider it a how-to reference.

It's clear throughout the book that Mr. Seymour had a lingering and pervasive melancholy about the inevitable march of progress and he often uses such colorful epithets such as "despicable," "horrendous," a
Feb 29, 2008 rated it liked it
I love John Seymour's books on farming and self-sufficiency, but this one is more a history book than a helpful manual. I think it's mis-titled. It should be called Household Crafts of the 19th Century. The problem with the book as currently titled is that it really isn't about household "crafts." It's about the equipment that people used to use to do some of those household crafts. Almost of the equipment is from the 19th Century, too. How odd! Why should I romanticize a 19th century washing ma ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fabulous book. Found this randomly while wandering around a small public library in PA, and later realized it's the same author as a book i got last year for my mom.

It's just a quick introduction to all the traditional crafts of small farms, but since most of them have been lost to our generation, almost morbidly intriguing. I had never heard of coppicing before, and also learned that a wainwright is someone who builds wagons. As a knitter, i especially liked the textiles section, but also coul
Aug 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: top-shelf
A fantastic tribute to the crafts and skills that underpinned sustainable living. Beautifully illustrated and drawing on John Seymour's fascinating life as a soldier, farmer, agricultural worker and craftsman. Spiced up with anecdotes including some from time spent in Zambia and Namibia. A wonderful treasured book.
Stephanie Moran
Mar 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I did not finish this book - but skimmed it... The writing was too detailed, and sometimes it was easy to lose focus, to just sit down and read the whole thing.

John Seymour does future generations a favor by recording all these different crafts, trades, and skills in one place. Seymour provides summaries of the work done, but does not provide instructions. It's kind of like, here's something that used to be done, why, different parts of the task - you can find the how to on your own...
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolutely delightful compendium of information, lavishly illustrated, describing household objects and activities of bygone days. Especially recommended for readers of 19th-century novels and anyone interested in British and American social history.
Aug 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always wondered about how people made things by hand, now that we're in an age where so much is made in factories by machines such that even the process of manufacturing nearly everything has become a mystery. This book addresses that problem.

The introduction to this book is nauseatingly dogmatic about how abominable and schlocky modern plastic products are compared to the noble handcrafted items made from natural materials. The author makes some good points--I get it--but the way he says i
Howard Dickins
I've known about this book for a while. My father has a copy of the "Forgotten Arts" version (basically the first half of this book)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first half - which covers all sorts of crafts such as coopering, charcoal-burning, hedge-laying and wheel-writing. The text is clear and easy to read - the subjects matter is always interesting and draws from John Seymour's own experience as well as that of many craftsmen that he has met.

However, while the book will give you an appr
Nov 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book at my local library. While I agree with some online reviews I've read on it that there isn't enough information on the "how-to" aspect (which is what drew me in also and the reason I gave only 4 stars), it is an excellent book for those looking for a comprehensive overview of these lost skills. It covers a LOT of ground!

In a day where hand-making the things we need are generally long gone, in favor of the cheaper lower-quality crap that litters our stores today and keeps us laz
Pretty rad, except for Seymour's antiquated views on gender (ten points for thinking "women's work" is just as important as men's; minus ten points for thinking that plumbing should determine occupation in the first place). And to the title should be added "...of the UK" - these are the arts and crafts of temperate forested climes. I would love to see an equivalent volume about the folk skills of southeast Asia, or sub-Saharan Africa, or Arctic Canada.

That said, the top flap quote - "there is no
I really enjoyed this book. I didn't care for the personalized writing as much as I did the pictures. This would be a great book for anyone interested in "how they used to do it." I definitely learned about some items and ways of doing things that I did not know about before. I think a lot of this type of knowledge does become "forgotten" and it's wonderful that Mr. Seymour has gone to the trouble of compiling it for us to enjoy.
May 06, 2008 rated it liked it
I have to second anther reviewers idea that this book is about forgotten household TOOLS, and not the crafts. It was a fascinating overview on what tools were used in everyday life a century ago, almost like a museum in a book. But there was not even any cursory description of crafts, per se. It's the everyday and mundane that gets lost as life and technology advances, so I'm glad the author took the time to document this facet of life.
May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book was an interesting look at many household chores of yesteryear and the tools and implements used for those tasks. The amount of work involved in keeping a home in good order was amazing and I certainly felt glad that I live in these times. However, there is also a sense of loss - loss of many of these old-time skills that few today can still do with the finesse and pride of not so long ago.
Not what I expected the book to be about (I wanted something I could inspire the Scouts with as none of them are very 'crafty') but for myself I found it a truly lovely book with great descriptions and wonderful illustrations explaining about 'old' crafts. I keep dipping into it to learn something more.
The title should have "...of Great Britain" tacked on at the end. The author writes in a patronizing mixture of sexist, rose-glassed nostalgia for When Men Were Real Men, Women Were Real Women, And People Did Real Work, and some classic Noble-Savage tropes. The sole redeeming feature of this book is the lavish illustrations and diagrams of how things are done.
A sampler platter of arts and crafts that are near to dying out in the Western world. Some won't like Mr Seymour's smug, holier than thou attitude and commentary, but the pictures are interesting, and it sheds light on how things have changed in the scant century or so since industrialization became the norm on Earth. It's a quick read, with lots of pictures and a less than dense writing style.
Teresa Russell
I picked up this book expecting to find a little more about textiles, sewing, embroidery and other crafts. There wasn't much but what there was, I found very interesting, historic and helpful. I had no intention of reading the book entirely, just the parts that interested me. I borrowed it from my local library.
Aug 14, 2012 rated it liked it
At first I thought this book was going to teach me how to do things, but the author really just talked about how things were done – not step-by-step instructions – when he was younger. I really enjoyed the personal vignettes about his family and childhood, and of course I learned a lot about what it was like growing up in the early 1900s.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why would one of the best boat builder, Harry King of Pinn Hill, ask for his work less then the average boat builder?

This book is more about the people doing the old, last crafts, then the crafts themselves. I bought it because of my interest to old and lost crafts but really liked it for the insight it provides into the life of the ones exercising this crafts.
Damian Kinsella
Nov 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
i pick this book up all the time and what bothers me the most about it is that few know how to do any of this any longer. Buy it, and make one of the things in it while you still have access to these so-called "old world" crafts. This book amazes me.
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Hey Steam Punk Writers - Get this book and sit with it for hours until its imprinted on your brain! Knowing what was is EXTREMELY helpful in world building! A damn fine bit of everyday historical research. (found it in a used bookstore for a steal!)
I love Seymour's books. Some are better than others. This one is great! Loved it. Excellent pictures and drawings of so many things I never knew existed. It is so interesting to see how we have changed doing things around the home and land over the last 100+ years.
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
another one by John Seymour the godfather of sustainability, I scored this at an army surplus/gas station on tour this year, detailed instructions with great illustrations, it will make you want to build a fence with your bare hands
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
From the point of view of someone who grew up in Europe, it was more intriguing to read not only the how it was done, but the perspective from a child growing up, seeing the results of how it was done.
Jan 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Didn't read every word, but gazed at every one of the beautiful drawings of the equipment that has made a house a home for the past few centuries. Also learned quite a bit about cauldron cooking and the practical beauty of the Aga stove.
Jul 24, 2009 rated it liked it
Every summer I get this weird urge to read books with stories from around the turn of the century/pioneering days. In addition to re-reading the "Little House" books, I've added this one to the mix. It's already a lot of fun!
Aug 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book to take to start a new civilization, or to a desert island, or to pack in your bunker with your apocalypse-preparedness items.
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: dyi
I found the book to be nicely illustrated and fun to see all those forgotten ways of live in one cover.
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John Seymour was an idealist- he had a vision of a better world where people aren't alienated from their labours.
As a young man, he travelled all over Africa and fought in Burma in World War II. Returning penniless to England, he lived in a trolley bus and on a Dutch sailing barge before settling on a five-acre smallholding in Suffolk to lead a self-sufficient life. He continued this lifestyle wit
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“I'm only a housewife, I'm afraid." How often do we hear this shocking admission. I'm afraid when I hear it I feel very angry indeed. Only a housewife: only a practitioner of one of the two most noble professions (the other one is that of a farmer); only the mistress of a huge battery of high and varied skills and custodian of civilization itself. Only a typist, perhaps! Only a company director, or a nuclear physicist; only a barrister; only the President! When a woman says she is a housewife she should say it with the utmost pride, for there is nothing higher on this planet to which she could aspire.” 40 likes
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