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Traditional skills are dying out

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Traditional household skills – like making pastry and sewing buttons are dying out – because modern mums are too busy to learn them, it emerged today.

Researchers found millions of mothers struggle with a string of skills their own mums would have carried out with ease.

Knitting, baking cakes, making jam and altering clothes also made the list of tasks that many mums just don’t know how to do.

The study also found most modern mums wished they had the skills their own mothers had but said they didn’t have the time or patience to learn them.

The research was commissioned by Neff, the UK’s number one built in oven brand, to mark the launch of their Bake It Yourself campaign. Encouraging the nation to get baking, the research was compiled following a study of 1,000 mums under 35 and 1,000 mums over 45.

Yesterday Sue Flowers, Brand Manager for Neff, said: “We know that modern mums are under different pressures today compared with 40 years ago.

“As a result, many mums find it difficult to do some of the daily tasks their own mums may have done. However, our research has shown that many do want to learn how to do these things and feel as passionate as we do about ensuring skills such as baking and sewing don’t die out.

“Mums from previous generations learnt how to do these everyday tasks from their mums and their mums before them. Despite not necessarily having the know-how, many mums today are taking a real interest in learning traditional skills to help with their daily life or to enjoy as a hobby.”

The survey also found nine out of ten younger mums don’t know how to starch a shirt, while more than half struggle to sew name tags in their children’s clothes.

Three quarters couldn’t make gravy from scratch, while nearly half couldn’t rustle up a Victoria sponge.

Nearly half of young mums said they made more of an effort to learn traditional ‘mum’ skills after their children were born.

But despite this less than one third could make pastry from scratch, less than half could sew, and less than one quarter could knit.

Eighty per cent of younger mums said they wanted to know how to keep their shirts white and eighty two per cent wanted to be able to alter clothes.

Only 16 per cent of young mums felt confident that they could make a fancy dress costume for their child and only 18 per cent could make jam.

By comparison more than a third of mums over 45 could make a costume while 43 per cent could make jam.

Four out of ten young mums still rely on their own mum to help them do things like cook a casserole and bake bread because they have never learnt how to do them.

While it emerged more than a third were embarrassed at not being able to do typical ‘mum’ tasks, a fifth said they couldn’t be bothered to sit down and learn a new skill while 21 per cent said they just didn’t have the patience.

Young mums were also more likely to try and pass off shop bought products like cakes and sauces as their own with 34 per cent admitting to taking credit for something they bought.

More than two thirds said that they intended to pass the skills they did have on to their own children while more than a fifth said they considered most of the skills unnecessary in the modern age.

The research also showed that mums who live in the south of the country were more likely to be reliant on their own mum than those who lived in the north.

Sue Flowers from Neff added: “We all like to rely on our mum for help and advice, which is why it’s such a shame that younger mums today find themselves too busy to enjoy time spent baking with their children and other traditional tasks.

“What’s really encouraging is how so many mums want to do something about this. In fact, just under half of all younger mums questioned said they had either been on – or were considering – taking a cookery course to help them become a baker or cook.

“We know that there’s a real interest in home baking at the moment, thanks in part to TV programmes like the Great British Bake Off, which is why we’re celebrating our 40th anniversary this year with the Bake It Yourself campaign.

“For the past 40 years, we’ve been helping people become the greatest cooks and bakers they can be. We want people to join in our anniversary celebrations this year and through the Bake It Yourself campaign, we want to show the nation anyone can have fun baking. It’s time to B-I-Y!”

What mums can’t do % of under 35s% of over 45s 
Bake a Victoria sponge4317
Make pastry from scratch6626
Knit7733
Sew5125
Make jam8157
Arrange flowers6849
Starch a shirt8862
Sew name tags in to clothes5216
Darn socks8559
Make a fancy dress costume8366
Bake bread7654
Sew on a button4812
Make curtains9060
Make gravy from scratch7538
Bake a pie6225


We know that modern mums are under different pressures today compared with 40 years ago. As a result, many mums find it difficult to do some of the daily tasks their own mums may have done.

Sue Flowers, Brand Manager for Neff



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