For many homeschooling families, crafts are a valuable part of history lessons. Hands-on activities are a wonderful way to bring history to life for kids because historical crafts give them a broader sense of how life was lived years ago.
Items that we consider crafts today, were created to be useful tools by the American Pioneers. Days were long and full of challenges, so everything they made served a purpose. Functionality was key, especially in the early to mid 1800s.
That doesn’t mean your family won’t have fun stepping back in time, creating these projects.
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Turn Scraps into Rugs
Rag rugs were frequently made by frontier women. Before the railroads paved the way for cheaper textiles, the rugs were primarily made by recycling household fabric. It was another way they used their creativity to make sure that nothing was wasted.
In the late 1800s, times were changing and an Arts and Crafts movement arose, making scrap rugs more popular than ever.
If you have extra fabric, sheets, or t-shirts lying around the house, give them new life by turning them into a braided rug. Does the thought of creating a rug seem daunting? Start smaller by making a set of braided coasters.
We turned ours in to a cushion for an American Girl doll chair.
- strips of fabric, cut into 2″ widths
- quilting needle
- quilting thread
- straight pins
- safety pins
⇨ Fold the ends of three strips of fabric together and safety-pin the end to a chair or couch. This will help keep everything in place while you’re braiding
⇨ Cut two of the strips off at different lengths to vary the pattern.
⇨ Start braiding.
⇨ When you reach a fabric’s end, cut a small slit and slide another piece of fabric through the hole, folding over the end. Then continue braiding. Keep adding strips until the braid is the length you want for your project.
⇨ Pin the three ends, so it doesn’t unravel as you make the rug.
⇨ Unpin from the chair and lay the braided fabric on a flat surface. Starting at an end, roll the braid against itself, creating a circle. Don’t pull too hard as you wrap it up or it won’t lay flat when it’s finished.
⇨ As you add a layer to the circle, pin it to the previous ring, so it will stay together. With the needle and thread, stitch through outer two layers of braid as you move along, stabilizing the rug.
⇨ When you reach the end of your fabric, fold over the ends and secure them with the thread.
5 Other Pioneer Craft Ideas
Build a wagon – With items found around the house, make your own Pioneer wagon.
Hand dipped candles – Melt, dip, dry, dip. That’s pretty much the candle making process. Making candles like they did years ago is pretty simple, it just takes time.
Learn how to whittle – If your child is interested in wood crafts, this is an excellent resource to get them started. It goes over safety, wood selection, tools, technique, and projects. If you’re not comfortable having your teen jump in to carving wood, consider having them start off carving a bar of soap.
Punched tin can lanterns – This tutorial will show you how to make a candle holder out of a tin can, replicating the tin lanterns of the Pioneer days. For bigger holes (to let out more light) just use thicker nails.
And a bonus craft – make a quilt.
Are you studying the American Pioneers? Here are some posts that might help.
- American Pioneers: Books & Resources for Middle School
- Pioneer Life – 8 Learning Activities for Kids
- Lewis and Clark Animal Discovery Journal