It seems strange to think that we could lose knowledge, especially in today’s world of information on demand, but if you think about it, certain skills and know how are hard to come by.
At the end of 2008, over one half of the world’s population lived in urban areas. Urban lifestyles come with their own characteristics and culture and so do rural lifestyles. Urban populations don’t have ready access to many of the experiences as rural populations do. General knowledge of where our food comes from for example, the simple act of gardening, knowing the planting seasons, identifying plants and knowing when to harvest; having the understanding of why bees are important, is not something that city dwellers grow up experiencing and knowing.
Based on this, I consider myself very luck to have grown up in a semi-rural area. I was close enough to a city but within easy distance to farms, lakes and rural towns. I learned many things because of this, both craft related and non-craft related and continue to acquire various tactile knowledge (err tacit, but I like tactile better) and I hope to never stop.
There was always a sewing machine in my house growing up. I learned basic sewing skills in middle and high school in my industrial arts classes. I was so proud of the stuffed animal pig that I made. I still haven’t progressed much beyond basic sewing but I’ve owned my own sewing machine since college.
I learned basic crochet when I was very young, lost the technique, then recently picked it back up. I learned basic knitting from my mother in my early twenties. I then advanced my knowledge through the vast amount of knitting information found online.
I recently learned how to make butter. Not by endlessly churning it by hand, but with my stand mixer.
I love to bake and my grandmother makes the best fudge and the best chocolate chip cookies. I do not know how to make fudge, nor do I know the secret to her cookies. I do know how to make a pretty mean pie crust. This I attribute to my mother.
I think the point to all of this is that, yes some tacit knowledge is difficult to obtain. But with the advent of the internet is isn’t impossible. As long as we are sharing our knowledge and teaching each other, than these experiences won’t be lost. Industrial arts classes should be reinstated into school curricula. Stitch and bitch groups should be expanded. Quilting bees should flourish.
So ask your mom or grandma how to do that double cross stitch trick. Take some urban kids to the country and explore a farm. I know I’m going to ask my grandma about her cookies and thank my parents for teaching me how to fish.
[Photo by Julie K in Taiwan, under creative commons lisence.]