5 Obsolete Skills… Or Are They?


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Every day that passes, another job, skill or everyday activity bites the dust, rendering it all but obsolete. But it’s fun to think about the what we might have done just a few years ago or as kids, like when we knew how to adjust rabbit ears or blow into cartridges. And who doesn’t like to hear awesome stories from our grandparents about dueling with swords or digging motes. (OK, maybe they aren’t THAT old.) Regardless, it’s fun to remember and that’s probably why there’s a public database of Obsolete Skills where people add, edit and comment on a growing list.

But are all these skills obsolete? We think no.

Sure, most people don’t know how to churn butter or make a pair of shoes but those that do are super passionate, creating artisanal products. What were once relatively mass-produced products are now transformed into specialties. And those skills that were once ubiquitous are now fun classes and workshops to satisfy the creators within us.

Check out our list of 5 obsolete skills that aren’t quite so obsolete, but in fact enjoying a whole renaissance from individual crafters.

Milk Delivery

There are actually tons of milk delivery services just a click away. Coming from local farms, you can get raw and pasteurized, farm fresh, all natural milk from happy, grass fed cows. Some of our favorites include:

The Hudson Milk Company which delivers glass bottled milk from a set of farms closest to your home if you live in the New York Tri-state area.

In Miami or Plantation, Florida? Miller’s Organic Farm has got you covered in milk from humanely raised cows. Register to get in on the action and while you’re at it, grab some meat, oils and some frozen cow colostrum. Yep. Cow colostrum.

Book Binding

Photo: Etsy.com/shop/paperama?auto=format

Order your own DIY kit.

So more people are blogging, tweeting, pinning and facing than they are journaling and book binding, but there are still ways to learn and preserve the craft of book binding.

The Center For Book Arts in New York City offers book binding classes for beginners, advanced makers and artists. Courses and workshops are taught over a few weeks so you really get to hone your craft before you’re off writing that next collection of poetry.

The Bay Area has San Francisco Center For The Book which offers intro workshops and more advanced courses in addition to related studies such as non-adhesive binding and box making.

Want to try it out at home without attending classes (it’s ok, some of us thrive on working alone), order this DIY Book Binding Kit from Kathrin on Etsy.

Homemade Butter Is Better

If you do churn your own, try adding flavors to your spreadable treat. Photo: Readymade.com

Back in the day, most women churned their own butter. We’re talking about way before their was margarine and olive oil options. This butter was hand cranked from a bit of fresh cream into a smooth, spreadable snack.

Feel like making your own? It’s not that hard. Take it from Michael Nolan who made a handy video tutorial on how to churn it. Check out the recipe and get to churning.

Still too much work?

What better place to find butter for all your lobster basting needs than in Maine, home to Kate’s Homemade Butter. Small batch and hormone-free are two of the secrets that makes Kate’s award winning butter famous. Find out which Maine locals carry Kate’s Homemade Butter.

Printing Photographs

An Analog Darkroom Party at Gallery44 in Toronto.

Digital cameras are awesome because you can take thousands and thousands of pictures and almost never have to delete them. And for the more digitally social butterflies, they’re also easier to share. But there is something to be said for a nice printed picture from film. Holding it in your hand, framing it or giving one as a gift is an old-timey way of capturing the past. And using a dark room to do it is still totally possible.

If you are in New York City, head over to ABC No Rio where you can rent a darkroom for a whole 6 dollars an hour. They’ve also got a printshop, zine library and computer center if that’s your thing.

In Chicago? Try The Negative Space, a community darkroom in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village neighborhood. The space exists through support of local photographers continuing the practice of analog photography and anyone can use it at an hourly and monthly rate.

Sewing A Dress From A Pattern

Photo: Sewing.patternreview.com

Back in the day, you weren’t worth your salt as a woman if you didn’t know how to make all your clothes and your family’s clothes. But now we have the convenience of buying from shops and don’t all look like Laura from Little House On The Prairie. That’s not to say that homemade clothes aren’t awesome, cause if we’ve learned anything from BurdaStyle, it’s that homemade is special!

Find thousands of patterns and sewing enthusiasts on BurdaStyle, a community for sewers.

Preserving The Obsolete

There’s no denying that homesteading, crafting, and DIYs are in a huge upswing these days, helping to foster a serious come-back for things like soda jerking, a fondness for typewriters, chicken raising and handmade everything. What other “obsolete” skills are being preserved by those with an appreciation for the past?


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