Kathryn here today! This is one of the exercises in my book Hook to Heal: 100 Crochet Exercises for Health, Growth, Connection, Inspiration, and Honoring Your Inner Artist. It starts with the concept of the family tree, something most of us have had to work on at some point during our school years. However, instead of emphasizing who was born to whom in the family, this crafty family tree is all about exploring how knitting, crochet, quilting, woodworking, and other craft skills were passed down through your family.
Why Create Your Crafty Family Tree?
I think this is an amazing project for getting a better sense of where your creative talents lie in your family. Is crafting something that was honored and passed down from generation to generation or are you a lone voice in this world? What does that say to you about the messages you received growing up and how you do or don’t value craft time today? Was it mostly the women in the family who did certain crafts? If so, were they valued? Or were different crafts gendered in your family?
What has happened in the generations before us filters down through our lineage and impacts us in ways both big and small. What we carry forward with us can greatly impact the generations to come. We have all of these internalized messages about crafting. Exploring our family trees through craft can help us better understand those messages and they ways in which they influence our lives to this day.
Moreover, the crafty family tree can be a fun thing to pass on to future generations. It can be a great legacy to pass on to your children and grandchildren so that they can see the hands-on artistic bloodline that they come from. It tells the story of how your family honors craft.
Plus, this just gives you a chance to look back at your own family’s makes and heirlooms with a new perspective.
How to Make a Crafty Family Tree
Here are the basic steps to make a crafty family tree. Adapt them as you see fit.
Draft out your basic family tree as you know it.
If you aren’t sure how to do this, you’ll find ample resources online to get started. You can keep it very simple. Keep the tree simple in terms of who was who. Most family tree resources ask for birth and death dates and other details but you don’t need that information when you’re making a crafty family tree. This is a version focused on creativity.
Also, define family in the way that feels right for you. You can add people to your family tree that are honorary members through crafting. For example, a schoolteacher might have taught you to crochet. If that means a lot to you, give her a branch on your crafting family tree! We have birth families but that’s not all that “family” means.
Make a Note of Anyone Who Knits or Crochets
Think about who taught you how to knit or crochet. What stories do you know of people in the family who did this type of yarn work? Make a note of them on the crafty family tree. You might use a certain color or a symbol such as a yarn ball by their names.
Does / did anyone in your family do any other fiber art or needlecrafting?
Sewing, embroidery, quilting, macrame … these are all sort of cousins to our knitting and crochet. Therefore, you should mark those on the crafty family tree. Again, use a color or symbol by the names to showcase these crafts.
Now how about any other crafts?
Woodworking, painting, boat building … you can expand the categories as far as you want to explore what creative things were done in your own family. Add these to the crafty family tree.
Tip: When exploring memories, try to think of what people did in their free time. However, also consider what they did for a living. Moreover, think about how they helped the family around the house. In generations past, mothers mended everyone’s socks; it may have been a necessity but it was also a crafty skill. In my family, grandpa was a tailor. One of my grandmothers embroidered and crocheted for fun.
Dig deeper into researching your family’s crafty history.
Your initial pass through might just be based on your own memories. Next, ask other family members about their crafty memories. Moreover, search through family obituaries. You might be surprised that many of them mention the person’s passion for crafts! Use all of this information to color in your crafty family tree.
Make Creative Connections Using Your Crafty Family Tree
Your first family tree will show the lineage of you with children below you and parents above you. However, now you ca get creative with the design and layout. This might allow you to see new things about your craft history.
Rearrange the information to show how crafts were passed down through the generations. Which ones did only boys do? Only girls?
Perhaps your aunt was your “crafty mother” who passed crochet down to you? Maybe knitting skipped a generations.
Crafty Versions of Crafty Family Trees
Make a version of the crafty tree that you can pass down to the generations younger than you. This might be a scrapbook that includes photos of various craft work, for example. This can make an amazing gift, especially for someone else in the family who has budding artistic tendencies. Alternatively, consider making a big visual tree in knitting or crochet, with a crochet leaf for each member. You can label the leaves using fabric paint. Have fun with this summer project!