How did CM recommend teaching handcrafts?
...two more important subjects -- the Handicrafts and Drills -- which should form a regular part of a child's daily life. (Home Education, pg 315)
The handicrafts best fitted for children under nine seem to me to be chair-caning, carton-work, basket-work, Smyrna rugs, Japanese curtains, carving in cork, samplers on coarse canvas showing a variety of stitches, easy needlework, knitting (big needles and wool), etc. (Home Education, pg 315)
The points to be borne in children's handicrafts are:(a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such a pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children's work should be kept well within their compass. (Home Education, pg 315-316)
... a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books... (Toward a Philosophy of Education, pg 154)
Again we know that the human hand hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts. Some day perhaps, we shall see apprenticeship to trades revived and good and beautiful work enforced. In so far, we are laying ourselves out to secure that each shall "live his life"; and that, not at his neighbor's expense; because, so wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbor as wll as himself; we all thrive in the well being of each. (Philosophy of Education, p. 328)
So, learning a handicraft is learning a life skill. But Miss Mason didn't think knitting or any other handicraft should be taught just for itself -- it should be taught to help the student "live his life" to the full and "not at his neighbor's expense".