Vintage Origins of Modern Craft

Crafting is an ever-favorite past time of artists and creators. We’ve seen our favorite craft shops stock on new tools and ideas every now and then and they’re always interesting to try out, but it should be considered, are these crafts really new? Surprisingly, most are either entirely or inspired by craft-work as old as the 12th century!

Here’s a collection of crafts, and their origins and a little inspiration for your next project!

Knitting/Crochet – Nålbinding

Perhaps the most common of the fabric arts, knitting, preceding crochet has an interesting history – a Viking-origin craft called Nålbinding . This method of fabric construction – using a needle, yarn and loops; is said to have inspired knitting, and subsequently other fiber arts such as tapestry crochet, shell and needle tatting, lace making and lucet crochet to name a few.

Nålebound socks from Egypt (300–500 AD) (Source)

Its oldest known surviving fragment is a sock from 6500 BC from Nehal Hermar cave, Israel. Others are color-patterned sandal socks of the Coptic Christians of 4th Century Egypt and hats & shawls from the Paracas and Nazca cultures in Peru, dated between 300 BC and 300 AD.  Nålbinding was used during the Viking-age of 793–1066 AD in Scandinavia.

The difference of looping between knitting and nålbinding. (Source)

It’s interesting to note that this method of single needle knitting was created to work with short pieces of wool or fiber rather than continuous yarn. The technique creates sturdy, elastic fabric created from interloping the yarn around one’s thumb with the help of a needle. The effect is very similar to knitting but the thread flow and stitch constructions differ – making nalebound fabric tougher than knit.

Sample created by Anne Marie Decker of

With the assistance of passionate artisans and now the internet, Nålbinding isn’t a lost art. Here’s a video tutorial by HomeWithMyBookshelf teaching the basic Oslo stitch. The technique is still used to create  socks, hats, gloves and scarves much like knitting and crochet.

Quilling – Paper Filigree 

Paper-Rolling, Paper Scrolling, Filigree, Mosaic and Quilling are all names of the art of decorating using rolled or folded strips of decorative paper. 

Originally inspired from the renaissance ironwork, the art created decorated book covers and religious items with paper from gilded books, velvet trims, beads and precious stones – mostly practiced by French & Italian Nuns of the renaissance period. 

Fresh Cut Flowers by Judith+Rolfe (Source)

Popularized in the 18th century, quilling had become a past-time for ‘Ladies of Leisure’, whom started with panels and coats-of-arms, and later extending to decoration of tea-caddies, work boxes, screens, frames etc. 

Special Girl by Yulia Brodskaya Artyulia (Source)

Quilling has transformed through the years, incorporating special tools, a larger variant of paper and it’s no longer only to decorate products, but create portraits, 3D art and even jewelry. 


The art of decorating an object by gluing paper cut-outs in combination with paint, gold leaf and even fabric is called Decoupage. 

Decoupage dresser (Source)

Finding origins in Eastern Siberia, the practice was once an form of honoring the deceased by decorating tombs with felts. By the 12th century the Chinese were creating paper cutouts in vivid colors to decorate windows, lanterns, gift boxes and other objects. Modern Decoupage is more closely associated with 17th century lacquer-work from the far east, inspiring l’arte del povero – Poor man’s arts. 

Ornamental vintage easter eggs by Melania Cristea (Source)

Laquerwork wasn’t an affordable luxury hence people began to replicate the technique with paper. An alternative form of decoration was to cut out and glue drawings from artists, coated with lacquer to resemble original paintings. The ladies of King Louis XV’s court took to making ornate hatboxes, wig stands, fire screens and toiletry objects. A master of this art was Mary Delany, who’s exquisite work is now displayed at the British Museum. 

The interesting evolution of decoupage has become a technique to give objects a vintage look. Decoupage is a great way to revive and find decorative uses for old containers, candles, lampshades and even wooden furniture. If you aren’t an experienced Decoupage artist, its recommended that you start small. Coasters are a great start, and here is a tutorial by Hobby Ideas India to make your own Mughal style coasters.

MacraméMcNamara’s lace

The term itself comes from multiple sources; one being a 13th Century Arabic word migramah meaning “fringe” and another being the Turkish makrama, meaning “napkin” or “towel”. 

16th Century Towel (Source)

One of the earliest instances of this art appeared in Babylonian and Assyrian carvings, braids and fringes adorning their costumes and armors. Macrame travelled from north Africa to Spain with the Moors and eventually into Europe from France. The art was most popular in the Victorian Era, incorporated into household items such as table cloths, bedspreads and curtains. 

Sailors also made McNamara’s lace (their word for the art) a leisure activity, creating objects while at sea and subsequently selling or bartering them when they landed, thus spreading the art to China and the New World. Macrame’s revival happened in the late 70’s and early 80’s, incorporating itself as a trend in fashion.

Still very much relevant today, macrame is being used to create apparel, jewelry, bags, decorative wall hangings and even hanging plant harnesses. The art is versatile enough to support any type of thread from polyester chords, jute, hemp and even simple cotton twine.

Mandala Blue Macrame Necklace (Sources)

What will your next craft project be? Let us know in the comments below!



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