Lost Crafts: Rediscovering Traditional Skills by Una McGovern


As promised here is my review of Una McGovern’s Lost Crafts which I received from my boyfriend’s parents for my birthday.

“Once upon a time an ordinary day might have started with milking the house cow and sweeping down your front step with a besom broom. After making a trip to the wheelwright for a quick repair, you might have visited a nearby copse, under horsepower, to pick up and deliver a cartload of bodged chair legs, tied down with handmade rope. A lunch of homemade cheese, jam and pickles, and honey from your own bees, might have preceded a sneaky visits to the river for some illicit trout guddling. Failing that, you could have skinned and cooked a rabbit to supplement the harvest from your kitchen garden. Twilight might have found you sitting with a friend outside a local inn, whittling and drinking a pint of ale (brewed on the premises and poured from a wooden cask made last year) while the rushlights burned low.”

This is the opening quote from the Introduction to this amazing guide to traditional crafts and perfectly sums up its tone and style. For me, this book read a bit like a history book; a history of traditional crafts and ways to rediscover them. It paints such an idyllic picture of pre-Industrialised Britain.

The book itself is split into six sections; farming, hunting and gathering, food and drink, home and garde, practical crafts, and decorative crafts. Each chapter then discusses a number of crafts which all vary in their applicability to modern life (In my eyes anyway! There are some crafts which seem fairly feasible to try out and others which I think I would never try out, such as tanning leather.)

For each craft McGovern gives a short history and informs the reader of regional variations as well as different uses for the craft. The practical information on how to undertake most crafts is brief and more of an introduction rather than and in-depth guide. As such McGovern ends each craft with where to go for more information such as guidebooks and courses. I would definitely recommend this book as a starting point if you are interested in traditional crafts and skills.

Some of the crafts I would definitely like to try out are…

  • foraging for wild food
  • using elderflowers
  • making lemonade
  • making jams and marmalades
  • pickling
  • weaving
  • and making baskets

As an additional note, if you are interested in traditional crafts and skills of the past I suggest you check out a TV series called Edwardian Farm (there are also several others from different time periods which are also really good!) which you can find on Youtube.