Crafts of the Past at Fort Nisqually

Photo by Morf Morford

Photo by Morf Morford


Historical crafts and skills come to life during the popular Crafts of the Past series at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. This is the sixth year of the program, which features modern practitioners of 19th century artistic traditions sharing the methods and materials of their work.

Each weekend from May 27 through September 4 a different artist will be “in-residence” at the Fort with demonstrations and displays of their work. Most will also offer guests the opportunity to try the craft themselves and make something to take home. Featured crafts include tatting, wood turning, Native American basketry, scrimshaw, and banjo making. For the complete schedule, visit

Crafts of the Past is sponsored by the Fort Nisqually Foundation and made possible by a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission. It is free with paid museum admission.

  Upcoming Artists-in-Residence:

June 3-4, Sheep to Shawl

  Heather Kibbey has been spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, and tatting for more than 40 years. Guests will see her at work and have the opportunity to try their hand at using drop spindles or weaving on a loom. Heather is a regular volunteer at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum and often mentors other volunteers. On Saturday, guests will also get to see how the whole process begins — with the shearing of sheep — thanks to visiting sheep and Elaine Thompson from Blackberry Patch Farms.

June 10-11, Blacksmithing

Ray Baker (Saturday) and John Simpkins (Sunday) have together volunteered more than 20,000 hours as the Fort Nisqually blacksmiths. Throughout the weekend, visitors will have the opportunity to see them in action in the Fort’s smithy. John Simpkins started working with metal in high school. He has hand-forged items for displays and living history programs at the Fort, where he has been volunteering for more than 20 years.

Ray trained with the NorthWest Blacksmith Association (NWBA) and has participated in workshops with master smiths from Colonial Williamsburg. He has forged thousands of items for the Fort and the gift shop. He is a published author and has mentored several budding blacksmiths at the Fort, where he has been volunteering for 20 years.

June 17 (Saturday Only), Tatting

Patti Logan will demonstrate the ancient tradition of tatting — making knotted lace. Visitors will have the chance to try their hand at tatting with needles, learning to make double stitches and picots. A simple rings-only pattern will be available as a handout.

Tatting was popularized in the mid-1800s. Beginning in 1846, Mademoiselle Eleonore Riego de la Branchardiere published numerous books that helped promulgate the practice. During the 19th century, women in North America learned and embellished their clothing, pillowcases, handkerchiefs, made tatted christening bonnets, etc.  Logan has been tatting for more than 20 years. She first mastered tatting with a needle, then became accomplished with a shuttle. She now teaches others at Arbutus folk school in Olympia.

July 1-2, Scrimshaw

Rich Repp has a love for history that led him to the arts of the era of Fort Nisqually.  It was a logical progression of arts for him – first with leather work, then horn carving & wire inlay and finally, to scrimshaw. Rich will showcase his powder horn carving and scrimshaw work. His crafts’ demonstration will show the basic overview of what it takes to make a powder horn and personalize it with a design, name or both.  Guests will be able to help with the steps to cut, file, shape and finish a typical horn and try some scrimshaw work.

Please visit for the complete schedule.

Located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. Visitors experience daily life during the 1850s with the help of costumed interpreters. Seven restored and reconstructed 1850s buildings are open to the public, including two National Historic Landmarks. There is also a Visitor Center with Museum Store. The Fort is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma.

-Metro Parks Tacoma