July 15, 2012

being domesticated

Learning to tie a quilt LIW style.
The past couple of days have been a whirlwind -- a fun an interesting one, but gone too fast all the same. Now that I am back home in Nebraska, I want to share some more of my mom and I's adventures to Mankato for LauraPalooza 2012.

We began Friday's sessions with hands on activities highlighting food, sewing and music from the Little House books.

Master Quilter Linda Halpin started the day with a discussion about what quilting was like during LIW's time. With pictures and real samples of quilts, she explained how quilting was not only a way for women to create create to keep their families warm (quilts were used as doors, walls and windows in addition to blankets), but a way to express their artistic abilities and connect with others. I learned a little about this in college, when I was part of a team that created a magazine and documentary about quilting's historical, social, cultural and financial impact on the world.

Laura was born in a post-Civil War world. After years of fighting and economic drain, U.S. citizens did not have the supplies they once did. Before the war, women would have bought fabric for quilt making, much like people do, today. However, in LIW's time, women would have saved scraps of fabric to make the beautiful creations.

Here are a few photos:

The Little House sampler quilt features patterns that tell the
story of the books using patterns popular at the time.
I want to make one of these badly.
The Dove in the Window pattern is the one
LIW used to make her wedding quilt.
Beautiful work done by Linda Halpin.

Later in the morning, Mom and I -- and a group of fellow conference attendees -- learned to tie a quilt. I made a T-shirt quilt after high school, and it did not turn out well. Working on this project even for a few stitches renewed my interest in wanting to be good at sewing. I've started many projects through the years, but I ultimately lose patience and the craftsmenship suffers as a result.

I need to develop more patience.

Also during the morning, Mom and I learned to make homemade butter and the bread Laura and her family ate during the Long Winter.

Butter is so easy to make, my friends, and I think I am going to give it a try again in the future. Basically, you fill a glass jar halfway with heavy whipping cream. And then you shake, shake, shake it for several minutes. Midway through the shaking, you will notice the cream turn into whipping cream. That's a good sign, but you have to shake it more. Once you see butter sitting in the buttermilk, you strain it and press out as much of the milk as you can. After this, add salt, press it some more, and you have butter. A fun activity and quite delicious.

Making butter.
Long Winter bread includes ground wheat kernels. Based on how hard it was to grind these in electronic appliances, it is amazing to think about how the Ingalls family did it by hand to eat every day. And while the bread was delicious, especially with the butter, I could definitely feel sorry for the Ingalls family getting to eat one chunk of it every day with nothing on it. While I always felt how serious life was for the family and community during that book, this exercise renewed it.

About to try the Long Winter bread with butter.
We finished off the morning by watching the Amber Wave Band, a family of folk musicians, perform some of the songs featured in the Little House books. Their music, paired with the Pa's Fiddle presentation the day before, alone made this conference worth attending.

The lunch social was a delight. We broke out into groups to discuss various topics with new friends. My table was "Just the Books," meaning we ignored the TV shows and talked about how much we enjoyed the books. At our table was one of the previous day's legacy winners, and her insight was incredible to have.

I will have more posts up today and throughout this week with more of my impressions of LauraPalooza 2012.

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