Historical Winter Pastimes

Historical Winter Pastimes

Knitting, Baking, Candle Making

1/25/2024 | Angela Whitlock, CSRA

With weather reaching frigid temperatures, and ice coating the streets and sidewalks this past week, we were given the perfect reason to stay inside and not leave our homes. These moments of stillness during the winter months are a great opportunity to do something different and creative.

Oftentimes, it can be easy to sit inside for hours on end with the convenience of modern technology, especially during the colder months. But have you ever wondered what kinds of winter activities people participated in when there were no modern conveniences?

You may be interested to learn that many of these activities are ones that you can do yourself today.

Here are some ideas for enjoying a winter day indoors:


Knitting (and Crocheting)

The oldest knitted artifacts are socks from Egypt that date back to the 11th century. Early evidence of crocheting dates back to nineteenth century Europe. The earliest known knitted items in Europe were made by Muslim knitters that were employed by Spanish royal families.

The stocking frame, or mechanical knitting machine, was invented in 1589 by William Lee, an English clergyman. By the mid-nineteenth century, hand knitting was declining within the knitting industry, but it was also increasing as a hobby. Printed knitting patterns and yarn were produced for leisure (as well as for industrial use) during this time. The first known published instructions for crochet that explicitly use that term to describe the craft appeared in a Dutch magazine in 1823.

To begin knitting at home, you will need: Crochet Hooks, Knitting Needles, and Yarn.

For historical knit and crochet patterns, check out this link: https://www.victorianvoices.net/topics/crafts/knitting.shtml



The earliest known form of baking occurred when humans took wild grass grains, soaked them in water, and mashed the mixture into a kind of broth-like paste. The paste was cooked by pouring it onto a flat, hot rock, resulting in a substance that resembles bread. The process became easier with the invention of fire. Baking thrived during the Roman Empire and saw commercialization in Europe by the 13th century. Baking was brought to America by the Jamestown colonists in 1604.

Before modern conveniences, the food you would cook greatly depended on the time of year and the food that you had preserved and stored. Baking was a great way to use this preserved food, such as canned fruit. It also makes your entire house smell wonderful!

If you want to try your hand at vintage or historical baking recipes, start simple with an item or ingredient that you are familiar with, and make sure to take your time.

Check out some recipes here to get you started:  https://www.victorianvoices.net/topics/cooking/index.shtml




Candle Making

Candle Making was developed independently in many places around the world. Dipped candles made from tallow (a rendered form of beef or mutton suet) were made by the Romans as early as 1000 BC. Tallow and beeswax were the two most common ingredients used to make candles. There is also evidence of candle making in ancient China and India.

The growth of the whaling industry in the 18th century caused a boom in making candles from spermaceti, an oil that comes from the head of a sperm whale. In the 19th century, Joseph Morgan, a pewterer from Manchester, England, patented a machine that revolutionized candle making. The machine allowed for continued production of molded candles, and could produce 1,500 candles per hour.

Prior to this, candles were individually made by hand. The process involved repeatedly dipping rolled papyrus in either tallow or beeswax, and could take a while depending on the size of the candle. Today, hand dipping candles involves using a candle wick instead.

To make hand-dipped candles at home, you will need: Wax, Candle Wicks, Metal stoppers, Empty clean cans or jars, Scissors, Ruler, Hanger or Clothespins, and a Stove top. Optional supplies include: Candle dyes and scents, and any other fun items you want to put inside of the candle to reveal surprises as the candle burns (Caution: optional supplies should be checked first as to whether they will react with wax or fire. Only purchase scents and colors specifically designed for candle making).

For instructions, please visit: https://www.thishouseofdreams.com/how-to-make-homemade-soy-candles/ and https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/6994/candle-dipping/



Sources for this article from: Smithsonian Magazine, VictorianVoices.net, AimeeVictorianArmoire.com, UnderaTinRoof.com, KidsActivitiesBlog.com, Wikipedia