Share-Post: Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Stories to Life in Quilts

If you aren’t already following the sitesandstories blog, I’m going to need you to click on the below link and get lost in Kathleen Ernst’s amazing writing. You can thank me (or hate me) in the comments sections when an hour or two of your day has suddenly disappeared.

Kathleen has two posts which feature Linda Halpin’s amazing Little House quilts. Linda wrote in 1991 the book  Quilting with Laura:  Patterns Inspired by the “Little House On The Prairie” . Which most fans of Laura are familiar with when they began that slow descent into purchasing EVERY book surrounding Laura.Or maybe that was just me? A bottle of wine and Amazon has never been great for my wallet.

Reading these posts coincided with me recently making my own resolution to progress my quilt skills and begin to work on more complex pieces. Tomorrow I head out to purchase the Andover’s “Little House” fabrics, I already have the book, and set aside time each week to meticulously work out these blocks. Enjoy the the posts on the sitesandstories blog!

I’m delighted to welcome my talented friend Linda Halpin to the blog! Linda is a quilt instructor and historian—and a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. * * * Like many, my adventure with Laura started in grade school when I was captivated by her stories. This was long before television brought her to life. She lived […]

via Bringing Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Stories to Life in Quilts – Part 1 —

DIY for Book Lovers

tinybookBuzzfeed is killing me on the DIY tiny book necklace!!  All the supplies are on Amazon but you could also  hunt them down across your local toy/miniature/jewelry  stores.  You’re going to need a tiny book (think dollhouse), a spacer bar and mod podge. The hardest part will be sizing down a book cover down to your dollhouse book dimensions.  Check out the link below for full instructions.


necklaceIn case DIY scares you but you NEED a book necklace in your life defiantly start checking around Etsy because there are some amazing artists.  I found the shop Tiddy Bits that will be receiving my next paycheck.



paperbooksIf you’re not into DIY jewelry have you thought about making your own book collection?  Ever After Miniatures shop on Etsy has these amazing paper books available via pdf download. You would put together the books and the case!  These pieces would also look amazing in shadow boxes or paired within a larger art exhibit.


bookplateIf you want to create something directly for your book though look no further then to Martha Stewart’s amazing tutorials! (When I have a bad day at work it’s her site I go to unwind and rediscover the happy)  She had some book plate templates that are necessary to my library. These would also make an amazing birthday/shower/Christmas presents.  She provides some beautiful downloadable templates and you can experiment with different papers colors. Just remember to use acid free glue when placing them in your books.

Of course the best part of crafting is experimenting and making it all your own! Don’t be scared and push yourself each time you create!  Contact me via Twitter or Instagram with your results!  @decidedlyread

Laura’s Gingerbread Recipe

gingerbread-recipe I treated myself to the book The World of Little House a few months back while going through another nostalgia Amazon spree and  this ended up in my cart. More juvenile then I originally intended but my thoughts were a bit impaired with wine that night…anyways… I thought I would try to recreate Laura’s recipe tonight.  The biggest debate being adding the chocolate frosting or not she so loved!  “Chocolate frosting adds to the goodness.” -LIW Comment with your results or Tweet/Instagram photos of the gingerbread on your Christmas tables!

1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon each: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
shortening to grease a 9×9 baking pan

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease the baking pan.
  2. Blend the sugar and shortening in the small bowl. Mix the molasses.
  3. Measure out a cup of boiling water in the 2-cup measuring cup and add the baking soda. Mix well.
  4. In the large bowl, sift together the flour and the spices. Add all other ingredients, mix well and pour into the greased pan.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes or until knife/cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Serve this warm or at room temperature.

Collins, Carolyn Strom., Christina Wyss. Eriksson, Deborah Maze, and Garth Williams. The World of Little House. New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1996. 131

Rye n Injun Bread

230b5511e169e93a647d9c31173ade32“Ma was busy all day long [..] she baked salt rising bread and rye’n’Injun bread”-pg 62 Little House in the Big Woods

If anyone is a returning reader they understand my love of carbs based off my salt rising bread post. I decided to celebrate my upcoming birthday with making Rye n Injun bread! Check out my Instagram feed for my results.  As I’m writing this before I take the photos you could see me crying on the floor or stuffing my face.  Birthday gamble if you will. The recipe below comes out of the Little House Cookbook.  The word ‘injun’ I don’t approve of in any way in 2017 which caused me to do a little surface research. Apparently injun bread was originally made with equal parts rye flour, corn meal and wheat flours.  The injun in the title refers to corn meal as Puritans would have needed to get out of their European sole dependency for wheat flours in the New World. Boston Brown Bread is said to have evolved from this earlier version. The Ingalls family origins in New England may have brought the recipe to the Big Woods. The long steaming time would have allowed Ma to bake this bread slowly on the Sabbath as she could do all the prep work the day before allowed to steam/bake during the day. Pair this with some salt pork beans and you have dinner!

1 1/2 c. corn meal
1 1/2 c. rye flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 stp salt
2 eggs
3/4 c. molasses
1 c. buttermilk

In a large bowl, mix flours, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, molasses and buttermilk. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Do not beat. Grease a 9×13″ pan. Put mixture in pan. Fill another 9×13″ pan with water and put on bottom rack of oven. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Bake at 200 degrees for 3-4 hours. Cut into 16 pieces. Serve hot or cold. Great with butter and/or honey. Makes 16 servings.

New Book from the South Dakota Historical Society Press

pioneer-girlJust as you are snuggled up into the couch reading all your new Laura books you received for Christmas…a new book is about to haunt you.  If you are like me, the possibility of new book regarding Laura makes your heart race as fast as watching Antique Roadshow.

With the success of Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography in 2014 (it’s on it’s 9th printing) the South Dakota Historical Society Press announced a new book!!!

“The new book, Pioneer Girl Perspectives: Exploring Laura Ingalls Wilder, edited by Nancy Tystad Koupal, will bring together writers from across the continent to explore the impact that Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography made on our understanding of one of America’s most iconic authors.”

Get ready for spring 2017! Show your love by pre-ordering the book and tweet me your thoughts after you finish reading it for the first time!

Quilting in the Big Woods

untitled4” On Sundays Mary and Laura must not run or shout or be noisy in their play. Mary could not sew on her nine-patch quilt, and Laura could not knit on the tiny mittens she was making for Baby Carrie.” pg. 84

I loved the idea of making a quilt by hand. I think there was something nostalgic about sitting down with needle & thread creating a blanket to be wrapped in during a raining day. There was classmate in elementary school that spent her recess silently sewing in the corner and agreed to teach me.  I think I lasted about three days before the call of kickball sang like the competitive siren she is.  It was 20 years later that I attempted to  quilt again. The blanket was simple squares patched together using a handheld sewing machine. The kind of sewer sold late night on TV. The patches were all Hogwarts fabric as my youngest brother was making his through the Harry Potter series  for the first time and the idea of him reading the book late at night in bed wrapped in a Hogwarts blanket made my heart sing. My siblings are all pretty competitive regarding getting the BEST Christmas present for one another. I was going to “win” this year!  He still has the blanket to this day and it’s my favorite still. I’ve made a few baby blankets, simple lap blankets and wedding gifts since then but the first always sticks out in your mind. The joy of completing that project was a fabric high that has led to an addiction to purchasing cute/awesome/hip/soul inspiring fabrics to this day. So many projects await on the horizon…

While I will drink sugar free Red Bull till my eyes bulge and try to complete a project within a few days, the Ingles would quietly work in their quilts at night when all the chores were done. To have something like a blanket be utilitarian first and decorative second is a different mind sight to the craft. That blanket isn’t tying the room décor together it’s providing warmth during the Wisconsin winter. The books constantly refer to Ma’s scrap bag. Every piece of fabric was recycled. A dress could be reimagined into a blanket or apron. Nothing was left to waste.  The more I dig into the household history of the series the more I start looking around my house and realize how thin pantries would be if I had to complete by hand.

Instead of my simple ramblings regarding past quilts and work ethic i’ll leave you with an essay on the basic history of the quilt. Julie Johnson wrote a fantastic article outlining the history of quilting through the Emporia State University’s Great Plain’s Studies page.

“Random House Dictionary defines a quilt as “a coverlet for a bed, made of two layers of fabric with some soft substance, as wool or down, between them and stitched in patterns or tufted through all thicknesses in order to prevent the filling from shifting.”

The word quilt comes from the Latin culcita meaning a stuffed sack, but it came into the English language from the French word cuilte.

The origins of quilting remain unknown, but historians do know that quilting, piecing, and applique were used for clothing and furnishings in diverse parts of the world in early times. The earliest known quilted garment is on the carved ivory figure of a Pharaoh of the Egyptian First Dynasty about 3400 B.C. In 1924 archaeologists discovered a quilted floor covering in Mongolia. They estimated that it dates from somewhere between the first century B.C. to the second century A.D. There are also numerous references to quilts in literature and also inventories of estates.

Crusaders brought quilting to Europe from the Middle East in the late 11th century. Quilted garments were popular in the Middle Ages. Knights wore them under their armor for comfort. They also used quilted garments to protect the metal armor from the elements (rain, snow, sun).

The earliest known surviving bed quilt is one from Sicily from the end of the fourteenth century. It is made of linen and padded with wool. The blocks across the center are scenes from the legend of Tristan. The quilt is 122″ by 106″ and is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

When settlers arrived in the new world, they of course brought with them much of the cultural heritage from Europe. Although it is not known if they brought quilts with them, it is assumed that they brought the art of quilting with them. The first reference to quilts in America is at the end of the seventeenth century in the listing of a household inventory of a Salem, Massachusetts sea captain. None of the early colonial quilts survive. This makes sense when you consider that for the most part in the early colonial days, quilts were made from fabric that was salvaged from its previous use. The earliest surviving American pieced quilt is the Saltonstall quilt from 1704. Historians were able to date the Saltonstall quilt in an unusual way. At one time a common technique for quilting was to cut the quilt pieces out of paper and piece them together before starting in on the fabric. This was done in the Saltonstall quilt and the paper pieced quilt was used as an inner lining for the quilt. As the outer fabric wore out, the date on a newspaper came into view, thus giving historians an accurate idea of when the quilt was done.

In the nineteenth century quilt-making flourished especially in the period between 1825 and 1875. As the original colonists had brought quilting from the old world, the settlers who began moving west in the nineteenth century brought quilting with them. Eventually quilting came to the Great Plains. Quilting was a craft that adapted well to the Great Plains and quilts became an important asset to settlers on the plains. Not only could they be used on beds, they were also useful as covers for doors and windows and as floor mats for the children to play on. In many cases they were also used as currency to pay bills. Although some women continued to use remnants from clothes to piece their quilts, most learned to take advantage of the wide variety of colorful calicos to create works of art.

The wide open spaces and relative isolation of the Great Plains also made the idea of the “quilting bee” attractive. At a quilting bee women from the area would bring quilt tops that were already pieced and work together to quilt the top. The quilting bee afforded plains women a chance to socialize. Often a quilting bee would be a full day affair with lunch served to the women who came to help and dinner for all the families. Sometimes there would be a dance in the evening. One of the happier functions of the quilting bee was to help provide young women with quilts for their hope chests.

Because quilts provide protection from the elements, quilt-making is an art or skill that has never ceased to exist. As a work of art, they are easy to move around and many people can find satisfaction in the use of different colors and different fabrics. The usefulness of quilts has also contributed to their continued existence. Their advantages include increased warmth, greater strength, and the recycling of existing materials.

We are currently in a period of renewed interest in quilts and quilt-making. In many cases quilts have become objects on display in museums. The Spencer Art Museum on the campus of the University of Kansas has an impressive collection of quilts and in the summer of 1997 the University of Nebraska at Lincoln received a donation of 950 quilts from Ardis and Robert James. The quilts date from 1750 to 1990. The spring 1990 issue of Kansas History includes four articles on quilts and quilt-making.”

  • Cooper, Patricia and Bufer, Norma Bradley. THE QUILTERS: WOMEN AND DOMESTIC ART–AN ORAL HISTORY, Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1978.
  • Hall, Carrie A. and Kretsinger, Rose. THE ROMANCE OF THE PATCHWORK QUILT. Caldwell, Idaho: Bonanza Books, 1935.
  • Khin, Yvonne,
  • THE COLLECTORS DICTIONARY OF QUILT NAMES & PATTERNS. Washington, D.C., Acropolis Books Ltd, 1988.
  • Orlofsky, Patsy and Myron. QUILTS IN AMERICA. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.
  • Rogers, Josephine. THE 7-DAY QUILT. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1979.
  • Sommer, Elyse. A PATCHWORK, APPLIQUE, AND QUILTING PRIMER. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company, 1975.
  • Wilson, Erica. QUILTS OF AMERICA. New York: Oxmoor House, Inc., 1979.

Salt Rising Bread

fresh-bread-day-is-the“Ma was busy all day long, cooking good things for Christmas. She baked salt rising bread…” pg. 62

There is no quicker way into my heart then fresh baked bread. My husband used to make me dinner when we were courting and while it was typical University fare it was his fresh baked bread that won me over each time. Crunch to the crust and a soft interior…throw a sunbeam in there,  rereading the Big Woods and I’m set.  Years later this love turned into buying two loaves; one for dinner and one to eat on the back porch slowly while reading in said sunbeam with a glass of white wine.

For someone that finds proofing detailed I can’t imagine not having access to yeast for our dinner loaves. Since not having bread at the dinner table isn’t an option, clearly my ancestors, baking pioneers emerged using natural fermentation. Heat and time sufficed for the general store assistance.  Instead they used long term warmth and natural bacteria.

Salt rising bread has maintained popularity in the Appalachian states to this day. A modern generation of bakers are continuing this tradition. Susan Ray Brown at Rising Creek Bakery in Pennsylvania specializes in salt rising bread.  Her website is a fantastic source of history and recipes. I’ve been combing through her pages reading the  stories she’s compiled as well as recipe variations. I’ll be trying a recipe this weekend while I’m pre-purchasing her book off Amazon.  She shared the below recipe on her website that comes from a baker in Pennsylvania that has been baking salt rising bread for over 80 years.  Look for her book this June at your local bookstore.

“3 tsp. cornmeal, 1 tsp flour, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1/2 cup scalded milk

Pour milk onto dry ingredients and stir. Keep warm overnight until foamy. After “raisin” has foamed and has a “rotten cheese” smell, in a medium sized bowl, add 2 cups of warm water to mixture, then enough flour (about 1 ½ cup) to make like a thin pancake batter.  Stir and let rise again until becomes foamy.  This usually takes about 2 hours. Next, add one cup of warm water for each loaf of bread you want to make, up to 6 loaves (e.g. six cups of water makes six loaves of bread).   Add enough flour (20 cups for 6 loaves, or about one 5 pound bag of flour + 1/3 bag).  Form into loaves; grease tops of loaves.   Let rise in greased pans for several hours, maybe 2-6 hours. Bake at 300 F for 30 to 45 minutes,  or until loaves sound hollow when tapped.”