Thursday, December 9, 2010

little house christmas stockings

There are many books I re-read every year during the holiday season, but none that embodies the spirit of Christmas to me more than the Little House series. I mention Laura Ingalls Wilder all the time here on the blog, but if only you knew how often I think of her...especially during the cold winter months! I learned so much from Laura as a child, and I feel I learn from her still.

This is my favorite Christmas passage, from On the Banks of Plum Creek:

(Then) Ma told them something else about Santa Claus. He was everywhere, and besides that, he was all the time. Whenever anyone was unselfish, that was Santa Claus.

Christmas Eve was the time when everyone was unselfish. On that one night, Santa Claus was everywhere, because everybody, all together, stopped being selfish and wanted other people to be happy. And in the morning, you saw what that had done.

"If everybody wanted everybody else to be happy, all the time, then would it be Christmas all the time?" Laura asked, and Ma said, "Yes, Laura."

Isn't that just the loveliest way of thinking about the holiday season? It makes my little heart grow three sizes bigger whenever I read it, I swear it does.
As such, the Little House Christmas swap I hosted recently meant a great deal to me. It was a chance to put together some of the things I see in everyday life that remind me of Laura and of the true spirit of Christmas and to share it with a partner, and I've been so happy to work on it these past few months. I actually had two partners for this swap, one that was randomly assigned and one with my friend Naomi for obvious reasons.

Every month this fall, we've gone back to various flea markets and antique malls, and I've been especially vigilant because I was searching for Little House items. I was thrilled to find vintage cross-stitched gingham aprons, vintage handkerchiefs (which were of course tucked into the apron pockets), a small heart-shaped tin pan along with a card with Ma's heart-shaped cakes recipe, and even an old crock of bear grease! Just what Pa used to use to slick down his hair when he was courting Ma. I love the old paper label on that container, which is mercifully empty now, but would still be very nice for holding little bits and bobs.

Naomi is a teacher, so I thought she'd appreciate a copy of McGuffey's First Reader, which Laura might've used as a teacher--this volume was originally published in 1867, and this particular copy is dated 1920, as well as an old autograph album. The album is dated 1952, but it's filled with great handwritten messages, and is especially appropriate because the owner was a girl named...Mary!

I also made a few things that were Laura-related, including small gift tags collaged with quotes from the books (stamped with Christmas horses, little houses, and a bright-burning candle), Little House postcards, fashionable calling cards that could double as swap cards, and small paper and tin ornaments (made with vintage book pages, a miniature sleigh bell, vintage lace and buttons, a flat peppermint candy, and striped bakers twine).

No Christmas is complete without Christmas candy, of course, so there was also a big peppermint candy cane, thin striped ribbon candy (I was *so* pleased with myself for finding those!), little "Victorian" chocolates, and old-fashioned caramels. Plus a shiny penny in the toe, just because the Ingalls always seemed to manage that somehow. I wrapped everything up in red and white striped tissue paper (like the kind Ma used so her packages would look extra festive) and plain brown waxy tissue with colored string (just how the presents were wrapped when the Boasts paid them a surprise Christmas Eve visit) and packaged them in embroidered stockings I made from wool-blend felt and vintage lace, one of which is adorned with a heart and the other with a little house in the big woods.

For this swap, it was important to keep true to the spirit of the Ingalls family, so all of the items had to be handmade or relatively inexpensive, but this turned out to be a very easy to do. The stockings were so fun to put together, because it was not only the perfect mix of vintage shopping and hand-crafting, but because it was also hugely sentimental undertaking as well. Naomi in particular is so well-versed in children's literature, and I just knew that every single thing I made or chose was something she would understand the reason behind and appreciate. I really think I got just as much joy out of making this as I hope she did in receiving it.


  1. I am in love with your tin ornaments and would like to know what book that you took the illustrations from. These are particularly sweet.

  2. Hi Carol,

    Thanks so much for your kind words! The illustrations are all Garth Williams' work from the Little House books, and this post features drawings from Farmer Boy and Little House in the Big Woods. I often find damaged copies of these books in thrift stores and library sales, so I like to snap them up to use for crafting.

    Hope that helps! Cheers,


  3. Thank you so much...they are wonderful....went to Michael's today, the search is now on for this book!

  4. I would love to make the ornaments with my third graders. Can you tell me what the base is? Did you use stain glass copper foil to make the edge? Any help would be appreciated.
    Thank you,


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