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Knit stockings inspired by Little House in the Big Woods

Oct 5, 2011

   
Lacy Little House Stockings by Lauren A. Ramsey, from the Fall 2011 edition of Knitting Traditions
I've read every one of the little house books more than once; probably more than twice! My favorite is These Happy Golden Years, mostly because of the love story between Almanzo and Laura, but I can name so many moments from those books that have enriched my life.

How about the time Mr. Edwards crossed the flooded river to bring Christmas presents to the girls? Or the time Pa bought Ma a sewing machine? Or Laura's first, harrowing teaching assignment? Or the sod house on Plum Creek? Or the maple syrup dance celebration? I told you I've read them all!

Speaking of the maple syrup dance celebration, I came upon this little article in the new edition of Knitting Traditions:

Lacy Little House Stockings from the American Prairie
by Lauren A. Ramsey

In the book Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (originally published in 1932 and the first book in the Little House series), six-year-old Laura watches her aunts Ruby and Docia as they dress for a party:

"Then they pulled on their beautiful white stockings, that they had knit in fine cotton thread in lacy, openwork patterns, and they buttoned up their best shoes."

There are many, many references to needlework in the Little House books, but it was this mention of handknit lace socks that struck and inspired me. How lovely they must have been, to merit a place in an autobiographical story half a century later!

—from Knitting Traditions

Lauren designed the stockings as a tribute to Laura and the Little House books, and they're very special. I think Docia and Ruby would wear Lauren's stockings with pride. And I love the background fabric in the photograph—it evokes the fabric that Ma might have made a special-occasion dress with.

Lauren used what's called a "lozenge" lace pattern to make up the body of the sock. The chart below shows how this pattern works. It would be a good one for a lace scarf, too, or even a shawl.
The Lozenge chart is worked over 31 stitches. The red box shows the pattern repeat.
I think the Little House books are such important parts of our American Heritage. The simple, effective way of life is so interesting, and so far from how we live our lives today. Sometimes I wish that my evenings were spent  knitting in a rocking chair by the light of a gas lantern. Then I think about my recliner and Ott light and I'm happy for the strides we've made!

But I'll always hold the Little House books in a special place in my heart and memory.

Get your copy of Knitting Traditions today and join me in reeling back the years to a simpler time.

Cheers,

P.S. What's your favorite Little House book? Leave a comment and let me know which one and why you love it.


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Comments

JackieJ@8 wrote
on Oct 12, 2011 11:08 AM

As someone who has tried to knit socks by the light of a kerosene lamp during a four-day power outage in the middle of December, I have tremendous respect for those who can do it.

praise626 wrote
on Oct 12, 2011 9:36 AM

Wow, this post and the accompanying comments really inspired me to buy the boxed set for my niece for her upcoming birthday! I have been pleasantly surprised to see, over my teaching career, that students are truly interested in fiber arts. Our art teacher does a fantastic job of inspiring them, but I often teach finger knitting to my 4th and 5th graders during rainy recess periods and during the cold winter months. They find it relaxing and I love to share my passion for knitting.

emmer97006 wrote
on Oct 11, 2011 8:13 AM

lucky me, i still have my 1953 hardback copies, which i was young enough to have purchased one with money from the tooth fairy.

the books have many practical aspects which i didn't pick up on until i read them to my own chilcren. we lived on a tiny piece of an old dairy farm and had our own cow. the cheese making instructions were complete enough for me to make a cheese press...helpful when the cow gives you 5 gallons a day. :-)

another commentor mentioned rose wilder lane and the needlework compendium she did for woman's day in the 60's. i had that,too, and found her writing inspiring. turns out she was a news correspondent and best selling author herself, long before her mom. she was also the unacknowledged editor of the little house books.

i remember a bit from rwl's needlework book in which she talks about how we undervalue our handwork. she is traveling, i think in albania, and visits a museum. the curator shows her the treasures there, including a case of crocheted edgings. rose is nonplused and the curator, surprised, asks if she is not american. this is, he says proudly, their collection of american laces. first i knew crochet was lace. hey, i am a lace maker!

DanielleH@11 wrote
on Oct 9, 2011 8:37 PM

I loved reading those books as a child and imagining what it would have been like to live that life.  My favorite scene though, maybe because I grew up as the eldest child, is from Farmer Boy, when Almanzo got shoe polish on the wallpaper of the sitting room after fighting with his sibling, and was too ashamed and afraid to admit it to his parents.  They have company over, and he's expecting them to find out and get a huge punishment, but his sister has gotten the saved remnants of wallpaper and pasted them carefully over the stain, to protect him.  It always brings tears to my eyes, the closeness of family.  And the way their meals were described always made me hungry.  I wanted to be in the kitchen with his mom as she prepared foods and made those tallow candles, or with Almanzo as he retrieved food from the root cellar, even as I knew that their life was not easy.

I think my mom gave away the books a while ago, but now I want to reread them to notice the knitting and other handwork.

SusanS@76 wrote
on Oct 9, 2011 9:31 AM

I think my favorite was the LHOP.  I still long for buffalo grass taller than me to walk through.  And that was the book where Ma switched their hairbands by mistake, which the girls loved!

There is yet another book in the series, which details Laura and Almonzo's life after marriage.  It's not written for a youth audience, it's a mature book that has some real tragedies in it.  It was a little jolting to read it after the whole children's series, but it's taken directly from Laura's diaries and manuscripts so it's her authentic voice.  All in all, a wonderful series giving a window into times past.  

Celeste@12 wrote
on Oct 8, 2011 1:53 PM

My original knitting inspiration!  My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was small.  But it was reading the LHP books, and especially The Long Winter - which is the one I think talks about the girls knitting lace edgings - that made me desperate to learn to knit.  I had no one to teach me, so as a teenager I bought a book to teach myself.  Now I cant stop knitting!  I always wanted to knit _exactly_ what Laura knit, so it's really nice now to learn where to find these patterns.  Thank you!

Anneknits wrote
on Oct 7, 2011 4:38 PM

My favorite is Little House in The Big Woods. I have always love it, it's way of inviting you into the lives of the Ingalls and the way life makes it necessary for them to move to the prairie. It is my all time favorite.

BrendaP@2 wrote
on Oct 6, 2011 8:40 PM

I don't remember which book it was in, but when Laura's sister went blind, she still knitted.  I was always amazed how she was able to knit blind.  

After my kids grew up, I was selling the set in a garage sale and ended up giving the set to a little girl who wasn't able to afford them.  I hope she enjoyed them as much as I did.

sandyvern wrote
on Oct 6, 2011 4:55 PM

I have been reading your posts for awhile now but this is the first time I felt the need to comment.  

My sister and I grew up reading and re-reading this series over and over againg.  We wore out 2 different boxed sets!  I loved them all and not sure I can pick a favorite...I loved reading about when the girls were little,;and loved all the Christmas' with the Ingalls; the romance between Laura and Almonzo.  Each book has so many favorites stories!  And my love of knitting and needlework was inspired by those books!  We grew up on a little farm and so whenever I was doing my chores I always thought of Laura and the chores they had to do.

I just recently bought the series in hardback and started reading them again as a 41 year old!  I always hoped to have a daughter, that I could name Laura, and to pass on the love of those books too!

Thank you for this post and reminding me of my love for Little House in the Prairie.  And I hope to one day accomplish making this socks!

Sandy

ldp5030 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 10:44 PM

Oh my, what wonderful memories you've brought back! I loved the series (as I am a Laura,too) my favorites were HGY, and The Long WInter- I was fascinated with the false wall Royal and Alonzo built to hide grain in-and that Pa figured it out and asked for some (truly amazing the hardships they lived through)

While traveling through Missouri several years ago, I made my husband detour to Mansfield, and toured the Wilder house-everything was custom built by Alonzo for Laura's tiny stature , they shared a great love. Now I want to go read all the books again! Thank you for sharing!

crafty@5 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 10:26 PM

I live about 45 miles from Walnut Grove, Mn. They have a pagent there the first 2 week ends in July about Laura's life.   It is put on by the local people and is done very well.   There are many things right around there that are open to tour all year long.  If any one has a chance to go there it is a day very well spent.

Dlove2knit wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 7:35 PM

Dear Kathleen,

First of all I'd like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to post something to you. And also thanks for sharing and brought up this Little House topic.

I'm from Malaysia. I've never seen or read the books of Little House. But Little House had been in my childhood because I watched the TV series. That was really a long time ago. Back then there was no TV in our house. My elder sister and me went to our next-door neighbor's house to watch them. It was still a black and white TV..... I still remember it was shown on every Monday night from 7-8pm. I can't remember most of the stories, but this one I remember:

Something happened to one of the younger daughter, she became unable to talk. Her voice just couldn't come out from her mouth. The whole family became so worried. Then there was a huge bear went near to their house. While everyone was running into the house for safety, this little girl was too slow, and she was still quite a distance away from the house. The bear was about to attack her when suddenly she was screaming out loudly, and the father managed to shoot the bear in a split second...... After this she gained her voice back.....

I remember very well the face of the father, the mother and the eldest daughter, but the rest I can't.

I think I will go to the book store and start  looking for this book series (so I can read about the interesting needlework scenes), and introduce them to my daughter who is 8 years old now, same age while I was sitting on the floor of my neighbor's house watching the balck and white TV series.....

Thank you again Kathleen. Have a wonderful day!!

Denise

on Oct 5, 2011 5:21 PM

I remember that scene. I remember almost every word of those books. I started reading them when I was 7 years old and read and reread them over and over again over the past 20 years. The only reason I haven't read them lately is because I don't have have my childhood copies anymore. Now that my own children are getting old enough to enjoy them we'll have to find the series for them again.

Bevknits wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 5:09 PM

This is a great post! I am also a lifelong fan of the Little House books and have read them all more than once. My big road trip fantasy is to travel to all the places Laura lived and described in her books. Not sure if I can pick a favorite book, however, These Happy Golden Years ranks up there, but Little House in the Big Woods ranks pretty high also.

Bevknits wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 5:09 PM

This is a great post! I am also a lifelong fan of the Little House books and have read them all more than once. My big road trip fantasy is to travel to all the places Laura lived and described in her books. Not sure if I can pick a favorite book, however, These Happy Golden Years ranks up there, but Little House in the Big Woods ranks pretty high also.

kerjo wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 4:19 PM

I love all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books but the favourite has to be The Long Winter.  I re-read it every December (along with other specially loved favourites like The Children of Green Knowe, A Christmas Carol, and others).  But all the Wilder books are so evocative - her careful descriptions of how Pa made a chimney, a bolt for the door, new bullets for his gun;  how Ma polished and cleaned and kept their little house neat;  and yes, of course, the Christmases - the one when two little girls got their tin cups, and the one when Almanzo came like a knight in shining armour to rescue Laura from her unhappy schooling job and bring her home to her family.  

I'm so pleased you highlighted these lovely stockings.  Making them will somehow bring Laura and her lifetime closer.

lomelindi wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 3:48 PM

My favorite was "The Long Winter". I loved reading about how the family pulled together to survive blizzard after blizzard. One of the most meaningful days of my life was when I got to go to DeSmet, South Dakota and see the surveyors house where the Ingalls lived during the book "On the Shores of Silver Lake"

.

EddieCG wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 3:04 PM

I, too, have read all the Little House books - but never in English!  My husband and I used to drive from our house in the UK down through France to our customer in Germany, and I bought the books from a supermarket in France, so first of all read them in French.  That improved my French no end.  Then I bought them in German, and once again enjoyed the stories, while improving my German!

john1840 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 2:13 PM

Loved all the Little House books since childhood and have read them all several times.  Since I'm also a "Laura", I felt a special bond with Laura.  Hard to pick the favorite book - my favorite passage is when Almanzo comes to pick up Laura when she is away from home teaching.  The weather is very cold and she is afraid she won't get to see her family.  But there he comes!  

on Oct 5, 2011 2:11 PM

When my 23 year old son was a boy, the favorite was Farmer Boy.  He was very young when I first read it out loud.  He read it to himself so many times thereafter that the cover was in tatters.  When we ended up with two bull calves, late in his teen years, he named them Bright and Star.  The boy can grow up but the Farmer remains!

ConnieM@2 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 12:45 PM

I love the books too and enjoyed reading them to my three daughters many years ago.  We still have apples and onions with our Pork Chops from Farmer Boy.  And sometimes I add parsnips.

TerryNugent wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 12:09 PM

Totally off topic, but I Love Yarn Day is October 14th.   Here is the site.  www.craftyarncouncil.com/i-love-yarn

on Oct 5, 2011 9:49 AM

I loved all the series but especially Farmer Boy due to his mother weaving on her loom and making Almanzo's warm clothes.  I think he had it much better than most folks during his childhood.

I have to say I am 41 years old and just now got through the Little House series.  My daughter is 6 years old and my son is 4.  We like to read chapter books as a night time story as well as listen to them on audio book when we are going some place (this was a highlight on a 12-hour car ride we took when we went on vacation!).  I thought this would be a good story to introduce them to.  We were all hooked!  Even my husband really enjoyed the series, especially when Laura described the way things were made or how they had to accomplish their work.

What an eye opener this series is and how it made us appreciate what we have.  I could never imagine waking up in the winter time to find my blanket frozen and frost on the nails inside the house!

My daughter is beginning to become interested in needlearts and she really loved the books would reference all the needlework the women would do.

Thank you for the inspired pattern!

Elisa5 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 8:13 AM

Little House in the Big Woods was the first "chapter book" I ever read as a child and I was hooked!  As a teacher, I encourage children to discover this wonderful series every chance I get!

My favorite is Farmer Boy.  I was probably in the third grade when I read it for the first time. The women in my family did not knit and I learned to knit and spin at my LYS in adulthood.  When I read the passage about how Almanzo was warm in the snow on his way to school because of the warm wool clothes that his mother had made from their sheep,  something deep in my soul yearned to do the same.  It was that passage that fueled my desire to sign up for my first knitting class!  But I also loved when the whimpy schoolmaster fought the bad boys with Almanzo's father's whip and when the taffy stuck the little pig's mouth shut!

EllenW@13 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 8:07 AM

You know that Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, collected and published the American Needlework Encyclopedia, right?  Many of Laura's knitted lace edgings and other needlework were photographed and pictured there.  I won a copy, plugs the box of patterns that came with it.  Not sure if my mother or grandmother purchased it.....

ninn49 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 7:58 AM

I am an avid knitter, however, I am blind.  I, and my other blind friends, would love to knit some of these lovely lace patterns, but are excluded because the patterns are presented only in chart form.  Would it be possible to get these patterns written out so we could knit them too?

rivermom2 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 7:54 AM

What a way to add a smile to a morning!

No favorite book, but a LHOTP story.  We live in Montana.  My mother lived in Wisconsin.  Many a drive was made across the Dakotas and Minnesota by me and the kids as they grew up.  I was a "mean mom" and did not allow gameboys or any other battery run device in the truck.  Laura was perfect companions for the country we were crossing so each year, as they got old enough, they got to read out loud a different book.  When DD was about 7, we heard of a Laura Ingalls Wilder Pagent in DeSmet, South Dakota, one of her homes.   That year's trip coincided with their weekend.  We redeemed  aluminum cans for the price of admission.  It was a wonderful pagent!  We sat on straw bales on a hill looking down into a green valley with the sets for the story of the year.  It was basically a reading of the story over a loud speaker and actors silently going through the motions as the sun set.  Well, that is my memory at least.  

For the next few years, we continued that practice.  We met other families there, Dad came a time or 2 as a family trip.  

Then suddenly everyone is grown up and gone.  But my story continues.  My kids now live 600 and 950 miles away from me now.  DS called after one drive back to his new home and said "thanks for making us read and look around instead of playing games in the car".  He was traveling with someone who hated the trip instead of, in his words, enjoying the journey.  That from a 23 yo.

http://ingallshomestead.com/  is the website for DeSmet, if you can sneak it into a trip in your life,  I know there was also a reenactment in Walnut Grove, MN too.

MaAilan wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 7:41 AM

Dear Kathleen,

I've read your Knitting Daily for more than a year now. It's the first time I experience the need to express my feeling to you. I was really touched by the fact that you wrote about the Little House books and all the characters related to that story. I'm a French woman living in Paris, when I was a little girl I read all the books of Laura Ingalls, it was a translation in French as I couldn't read English in my childhood. That was 35 years ago, and I remember very clearly to be in empathy with Laura. At that time, I wished I could go back in the past to experience her life. The books are good testimony of the American way of life in the 19th century. But what struck me so much today, is the link between Laura and the needlework. Most of the scenes of the books about female characters doing needlework came to my mind: Caroline, Laura and her sisters. So I must thank you, Kathleen, today you linked my passion of knitting with my memories as a little girl, and you connected me to those women of the past, who were so talented in needlework. I'm aware that at Laura's time it was almost a duty to know how to sew or knit, if you wanted to be dressed properly, as for us, women of the 21st century, it is just a pleasure, no more a duty.

Have a nice day,

Ma

pugaluv wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 7:12 AM

I read the LIttle House series as a teenager and loved it then, but now I have an even deeper love for it.  Over a year ago I started reading the series to my little girl (then 4 years old) and have loved seeing her become passionate about Laura's story.  We were given the cookbook this summer and were able to make some of he things that the Ingall's family ate.  Then I was asked oh so sweetly to make a prairie dress and bonnet.  Having this book series to share with my little one has been such a fun adventure, and something we look forward to every night!

naturemama wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:54 AM

What perfect timing. I can't tell you my favorite, because we are just starting to read the series as a family. My 8-yr-old daughter has read the first herself in one day and is hooked. As a homeschooling family just building our homested on a 140 acre farm, these books are going to be near and dear to us as we look back on what it would have been like to move onto our property without electricity or the help of family that lives hours of car travel away. It is quite the teaching experience for us all. As are so many of the e-books that I have uploaded from your wonderful sites. Teaching all of my children hand work is incredibly important to me. Thank you for being a rich teaching resource.

on Oct 5, 2011 6:50 AM

I have always like the less than nice parts of the story.

How Almonzo's dad taught the new school teacher how to use a whip and he whipped the tar out of those disrespectful older boys that showed up at school just to cause trouble.

Like the CRAZY lady Laura haad to live with when she was first teaching.

And who are some of the greatest "villans" of all time but Nelly Olson and Eliza Jane Wilder. Wouldn't you love to immortalize that mean girl from second grade or your spinster school marm sister-in-law in that way?

knitcindy wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:35 AM

I have loved all the LHOTP books for years and have enjoyed reading them over and over!!  My hands-down favorite has always been Farmer Boy.  I grew up in the city but have been a country girl at heart.  I love the descriptions about Almanzo's family farm.

CarlaAllaire wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:29 AM

Oh, how I loved Laura's books!  And my favorite, as well, was 'These Happy Golden Years'.  I am anxiously awaiting the time when my granddaughters will read them, and I hope they give them a sense of womanhood I got from them.   Our modern society is too busy to appreciate the little things these women cherished.  May these books stir our young ones' hearts to at least attempt the crafts and keep alive our beautiful heritage.

henderslu wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:28 AM

Hello, there is no picture (it won't come up at this point), so I can't visualize the sock pattern.

I have never read the books in their entirety, probably because, as a child, I always made a point of NOT doing what everyone else was! I read horse books instead. As an adult I did watch the TV series because I was in love with Michael Landon from his role in Bonanza.

Now, I have both a horse and a loom, so, it's time to pick up the books!

Wonderful incentive!

KarinV@5 wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:11 AM

How lovely to read about your Little House experiences! We love these books, and I have read and reread them aloud to my three daughters (we are homeschoolers, and all avid knitters) time and again. My husband also loves them. My best part is in the Long Winter, where Almanzo and his friend rescue the village from famine when they fetch food on their horses. The description of their journey through the bitterly cold, frozen snow fields is simply superb.

We read the books in Afrikaans, since we are Afrikaans-speaking, from Pretoria, South Africa. The books were translated into Afrikaans about 40 years ago, and are very much sought after still today.

Looking forward to try knitting Laura's stockings!

klbucci wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 6:06 AM

I have read these books so many times -- even as a teenager, I would read them all over again.  My boxed set I received as a Christmas present so many years ago have now been passed to my daughter and she loves reading them too.  I started reading her Little House in the Big Woods when she was a toddler.  She used to ask me or my husband many nights to read the part about the bad boy (Charlie) who gets stung.  It's not a favorite part, but it's a fun memory from when she was little.  My favorite book is Little Town on the Prairie, when Laura is a teenager and busy with school and helping her family, and of course, a romance that is blossoming with Almanzo.

weaversouth wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 5:46 AM

My 4th grade teacher read them all out loud to us!!!   She would have us put our heads down after lunch and would read to us for a half-hour or more!  I then read them for myself and loved them.  I HATED, LOATHED AND DESPISED the tv series!  ahhhh, finally got THAT off my chest.

Parenthetically, I was so please that I caught up with my teacher recently, now quite elderly, and tell her how much her reading to us meant to me.  She commented that, every time she sees a former pupil, they have something to say about how "you read to us" and how much they loved it!  What a lovely memory to give to so many youngsters!

Nancy Lea

PS  How about "A Girl of the Limberlost?"  Loved that one, too!!!

TerryNugent wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 5:13 AM

My favorite was Farmer Boy.  Remember getting in trouble on Sunday with their new sled and scooping up the pig?  How about eating all the white sugar the first time the kids were left alone?  There wasn't a lot of knitting in that book, but his mother had a huge loom and wove all the families beautiful cloth on it; I remember him saying the slapping sound the loom made was almost hypnotic because she was so fast.

candisrrt wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 4:39 AM

These books were such a big part of my life as a child! I have read them over and over again. I used to pretend that I was laura. I lived on a farm so I would make cornhusk dolls and also blew up a pig bladder as she did when we butchered a pig. My mom made me some of the clothes. I have a 4yo granddaughter and will start reading them to her soon. They are timeless!  

Gosh.....now I want to read them again!!! I have Little house in the Woods lieing right on the shelf over there!!!

Ann Brachman wrote
on Oct 5, 2011 4:32 AM

I never read the books and didn't watch the television show, but they must be something special.  I have a friend who read the entire series to his little girls, and every time I say I did something with A and B and C, he adds "and your dog Jack?"

He read those stories almost 15 years ago and still holds them near to his heart.

Are they on tape?  I recently heard about a woman who knits while listening to books on tape.  Now I can do both!!

on Oct 5, 2011 2:30 AM

I have not read the books, but I would watch the TV series regularly. and I enjoy the young boy who pretended he was blind to become the son of the Engels instead of going with his real father. but I enjoyed them all, as they sure told you what life was like back then and the Amish are still living it.