On a recent outing scavenging local thrift and antique stores, I stumbled upon a set of children’s encyclopedias, titled Childcraft: The How and Why Library. Although an incomplete collection, the books were in good shape and decently priced so I happily acquired the lot. (I am a known collector—hoarder, lover, gatherer—of books.)
While modern encyclopedias have existed for around three centuries, the first set aimed at children (aptly titled the Children’s Encyclopaedia) appeared in the early 1900s. The Childcraft books were first published in the 1930s, with updated versions produced throughout subsequent decades. The editions I found were copyrighted 1976, and I was particularly intrigued by the volume titled Make and Do, which is full of simple, kid-friendly crafts, including sewing projects aimed to make learning (and doing) fun.
In the age of digital apps and Pinterest, books like these remain a timeless, tangible resource for introducing the art of making to a younger generation. Make and Do includes a chapter on “Needle and Thread”, complete with instructions on how to create aprons from old dish towels, clothes for dolls, wearable slippers, bean bags, and handkerchiefs. It even provides a basic introduction to appliqué, explained as sewing cloth pictures to cloth. Though the instructions within are not very detailed (and often suggest asking mother for help), the book offers opportunities for inspiration through activities you can do with your children or grandchildren.
I have often collaborated on projects like these with my daughter, Maggie, and she has never lacked for creativity or doubted her ability to make. Even without resources like the Childcraft encyclopedias, there are plenty of projects you can share with the children in your life. Instill a love of making early, and ingenuity and a willing spirit will surely follow.