Laura Ingalls Wilder and Knitting

Gee, I had never heard of her until just now. Sorry, no patterns, but I Googled her and she seems to have lived a very interesting (and difficult) life. I will look for stories about her now…her life makes mine seem like a piece of cake!

and just when I was feeling a bit sorry for myself, having to face shovelling all this snow…my front entrance this morning:

There are lots of places online where you can find information about historical knitting (this site, for example, provides patterns that were used during different historical periods - including the late 19th and early 20th centuries). :thumbsup:

Keep in mind that the terminology used historically is not the same as we use today … for example, needles are often referred to as “knitting pins”, and the number scale that they used to identify different needles sizes is not the same as what is currently used. Descriptions of the weight of yarn to be used also seem very vague (at least to me) by our standards, but people at the time knew what was meant because that was what was available and commonly used.

Also, I could be mistaken, but I do believe that they did have a version of DPNs at the time … but this is just based on my interpretation of descriptions I’ve read of what knitting needles during this period looked like. :knitting:

:noway: You never watched Little House on the Prairie?? I’ve read the series of her books several times now.

Seriously??? You’ve never heard of her??? You’ve got to read the books!!! They’re the best! I’ve read the books several times myself now.

Double points would definately be around. Steel most likely though they may have used wood for the larger gauges.

Glad others like her too! Yeah she sure did live a tough life in a way, but also she was close with her family.

I knit continental (hold yarn in left hand). I wonder what way Laura Ingalls Wilder knitted?

Thanks for that site about old patterns, I will have to check it out!

As a fulltime Laura Ingalls Wilder researcher (and knitter), I can tell you that she did use double pointed needles. Laura’s daughter Rose published THE WOMAN’S DAY BOOK OF AMERICAN NEEDLEWORK and it contains needlework by Rose, Laura, and Caroline. Some of the needlework is on display at the LIW Museum in Mansfield, Missouri, as well as knitting pins, thread, needles and other items used by Laura and Rose. I remember seeing metal knitting needles; don’t remember wooden. I’ve seen at least one knitting pattern book of the family’s on display at the LIW Memorial Society in De Smet.
Laura did have arthritis later in life, and in letters she lamented the fact that she had to give up handwork.


Neat!! Oh I know your site!! I love your website! I’ve spent hours just reading through all your blog posts about all things LIW! :slight_smile: :slight_smile: I have it bookmarked! Your blog post about Carrie “Clap your hands and bang your spoon!” cracks me up!

Interesting, so they did have DPNs back then! Man that would be something, to see her actual work she made. I bet she was a pro at it!

Laura Ingalls Wilder is a favorite of mine! Interesting thing about the books, they are published as fiction because they wouldn’t believe she could remember things as vividly as she did. It is interesting to think about how they knitted and the tools they used. I agree, she was probably very good at it!

Tradition says that the cloth the Jesus wore on his way to his crucifixion was made all in one piece and was such a beautiful piece of work that the guards cast lots to see who would get it instead of dividing it up. I’ve seen artwork showing Mary knitting in the round with lots of double pointed needles making clothing for Jesus. Don’t know how accurate that is, but I would guess that double pointed needles and knitting in the round have been around for a very long time!

Love love love LIW and all things Little House on the Prairie! Everyone should read those books!


Wow really? That is neat, the idea that Mary (Jesus’ mother) even knit in the round!

“I wonder if Laura or her mother, or if women in general back then got carpel tunnel/arthritis from all the handi-work things they did (knitting/crocheting/sewing/embroidery, etc…) I know after even a few hours of knitting my wrists start hurting!”

Of course the women back then got all kinds of joint injuries. Remember, they had no running water, electricity or heat. They hauled water and firewood, for heat and cooking, every day from childhood on. Handiwork was a rest for them.

There wasn’t much old age arthritis, rheumatism, and such because most didn’t live past 40. Divorce wasn’t prevalent either . . . for the same reasons.

LIW was, of course, born mid 19th century and lived till the mid 20th. Those before her going back to the early pioneers didn’t survive that long.

I don’t know about all of you, but I may have been a real wuss in those days.

Your home is beautiful… love the snow and the building very much!

TEMA’s right. Beautiful. Good for you!

I would think anyone back then with enough money could get a master woodcrafter to make any size and shape knitting needles for them. As for metal ones, that would be difficult pre-industrial revolution. Possible but difficult, for sure. Maybe iron… cast iron. I haven’t done a lot of reading on this yet, so don’t quote me on it.

Actually, thinking of making metal needles is reminding me of the coat hooks I made just before Christmas. Really, to make something like that, they would either have to heat up and draw the metal through a round hole in another object that’s harder than the toughness of the heated metal or they’d have to heat it and hit it with a hammer, turn, hit, etc. until it was the correct shape and thickness. If they used the second way of doing this, the created item would end up lumpy or square… even if just a little bit so.

Laura came from strong pioneer stock. Not me. We must also consider their food was organic. No hormones or chemicals in their meat. They had that wonderful clean air when she was growing up. They were more physically active than we are. Their lives weren’t carefree, but they didn’t have the stresses we have with our new, improved modern lives. When I think how the era she grew up in was in so many ways better than ours, I just wish they could have had our health care.

I’m an in-home caregiver for a 94 year old, born & raised in the country. She grew up harder, but still better for it. No wuss in her.

I’ve read nonfiction books about LIW. Interesting.

If you haven’t read LIW’s books, you should. Even as an adult, they make a great read on these cold dreary winter days. My sisters and I wore out 2 sets of the the LIW books and now I have my own. Maybe I need to dig them out as a cure against the Februaries.

For centuries people have knitted socks. I think they would have figured out a long time ago how to knit them in the round with DPNs (wood or metal, depending on what was available).

And I, for one, am very glad to live in times that include indoor plumbing.

I agree whole-heartedly here… especially about having certain aspects of medicines and health knowledge. I wouldn’t say all of it, though… I know I’d tough it out and would fit well!

I would love to have lived in that time period. It has fasinated me…well, since I first read the LIW books as a little girl. I remember we had read Little House in the Big Woods, and I had read waaaaaaaaaaay ahead of everyone else, so I could move onto the next book lol. Needless to say, I ended up finishing before my class. :mrgreen:

I read or heard that centuries ago knitting was deemed too important to trust to a mere woman. Mariners would knit their own socks.

As for indoor plumbing, no argument here!! I also like my clothes & dish washers, central heating, central air conditioning, electric lighting, cell phones… :thumbsup:

This book looks interesting
No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting

Everyone stay warm in insulated, central heated homes.