A few months ago, my husband’s father sent him a bow tie in the mail. It was Carolina blue in honor of my husband’s alma mater, and went perfectly with his tan seersucker suit – very Southern gentleman.
But neither of us knew how to tie it. Yes, we are both adult professionals a stone’s throw from 30, but neither of us has learned this particular art.
So we turned to – what else? – YouTube, and watched this excellent and adorable video on bow tie-tying.
It strikes me that one of the reasons we’re seeing such a boom in old-fashioned domestic activities is that we now have so many digital ways of preserving and sharing skills that have been nearly lost to history. Maybe your grandmother didn’t teach you to can tomatoes. No worries – if you become interested in canning as an adult, you can turn to hundreds or thousands of blog tutorials and watch experienced canners in action. Maybe, like my husband, you’ve lived hundreds or thousands of miles from your father since you were 18 and never got a chance to learn bow tie skills from him. So you turn to YouTube videos. I have talked to so many people who have learned to knit or crochet from watching online video tutorials.
The internet seems to be filling in skills gaps, serving as a repository for the kinds of wisdom that has often (though not always – I know some people have always canned, knit, etc) become lost over the past few generations – because of disinterest, because of geographic distance between families, because modernization made certain skills seem unnecessary. No matter how niche the activity – from tatting cluny lace to skinning a squirrel – there’s a YouTube tutorial for it. So for all the recent books that talk about “lost crafts,” I wonder – will anything ever really be lost again?
It will be interesting to see what this will mean – how much will this change the passed-down-through-the-generations nature of these very, very old skills? Are things that were once regional (like a certain knitting pattern) now popping up all over the world?
Excuse me while I go blacksmith my own paper towel holder out of steel…