Call me mad but two years ago I bought an Edwardian dress for my daughter, then four, to wear at a wedding. She still wears it now but a few months back two of the hand-crocheted buttonholes came undone. I knew my favourite tailor didn\u2019t have the time to crochet buttonholes (and I didn\u2019t have the skill) so after a fruitless search for help I posted the dress to my Mum in England, who did a beautiful job and posted it back.\r\n\r\nI\u2019d bought the dress from Beth Armstrong, a filmmaker and avid collector of antique clothing in inner-west Sydney. She told me she used to work with a young Indian woman who learned her sewing skills from her grandmother. \u201cHer work was exceptional and she could do any cross stitch, Victorian padded embroidery, invisible mends with the finest thread of silk.\u201d When that seamstress moved on even Beth \u2013 with all the contacts you could hope for \u2013 couldn\u2019t find anyone with the skills to repair an antique sheet. \u201cI took it to be patched by a local tailor and she just machine-stitched a square onto it. The ladies of yesteryear would have rolled in their grave.\u201d\r\n\r\nOur dexterous and meticulous ancestors will no doubt have grown tired of rolling in their graves by now, such has been the downward journey of \u2018handmade\u2019. Wheelwrighting, manual metal spinning, blacksmithing, coopering and saddle making skills are mostly confined to \u2018historical towns\u2019 such as Sovereign Hill, retaining only their novelty value. While it\u2019s true we must continue to forge ahead in manufacturing, are we being too careless with our heritage crafts? \u2018Old master\u2019 of timber restoration, 74-year-old Heath Larke simply shrugs and says: \u201cAll these skills are going with us when we pass on.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cOld master\u201d is how a younger peer, plasterer David Hough describes him, but Heath insists on being called a \u201ctradesman\u201d. He\u2019s semi-retired now but can count among his life experiences months spent alone on Fort Denison restoring doors and windows. Indeed he\u2019s worked on his own for 40 years, never being able to afford an apprentice. He recalls \u201cBig Pete\u201d in the 1970s who \u201cdid the whole thing himself\u201d; Patrick, who gold-leafed and Ivan who French polished. If their offspring weren\u2019t up for it and the cost of an apprentice was crippling then how could they have passed these skills down?\r\n\r\nWe almost lost hand-thrown ceramics in the 1990s, a decade that ironically began with Ghost and pop culture\u2019s subsequent lust-affair with a potter\u2019s wheel. Joe Darling, founder of The Pottery Shed in Surry Hills, remembers a stark dip in hand-thrown ceramics due to cheaper overseas mass-production and names one of its saviours as Danish ceramics company Tortus and its \u2018rockstar\u2019 founders the Landon brothers, along with a worldwide internet campaign. Now buying and making handmade ceramics only seems to gain popularity with time.\r\n\r\nA craft that can\u2019t currently claim the same is upholstery. We need a Ghost equivalent Hollywood blockbuster to make upholstery sexy \u2013 cue the scene of a beautiful young couple unpeeling the moth-eaten velvet off an easy chair. Interiors veteran David Clark, who began his career selling textiles, doesn\u2019t know of many learning the upholstery trade today. TAFE offers it but classes only go ahead if enough apprentices register, and though the average salary for an upholsterer is on par with a plumber\u2019s, I find no jobs for the former advertised on Seek.com. Little encouragement for a school leaver, but perhaps we need to market upholstery as the acquired craft it could be; much sought-after by top interior designers. Apprentice upholsterers should learn the skill of not selling themselves short or \u2018how to ask for more money\u2019.\r\n\r\nMorrison Polkinghorne skipped a career in upholstery to funnel his skills into an even tighter niche. The textile designer is one of only a few in the world to specialise in passesmenteries \u2013 hand-crafted French-style trimmings, braids and tassels. He\u2019s created custom fit-outs for the Prime Minister\u2019s residence and the Packers. Like many of these skills, passementeries is time-consuming and resource-heavy but, more importantly perhaps, can be taught to anyone possessing a little patience.\r\n\r\nIt might be too early to sound the death knell for many historical crafts because each one I find seems to have a dedicated champion quietly beavering away in a corner of the world. And each heritage council across Australia knows at least a handful of craftspeople who help preserve and restore our protected built environment. It could be as simple as matching each master with a couple of eager apprentices, but then nothing is that straightforward \u2013 it took months just to fix a pair of broken buttonholes.