Knit Nostalgia with Laura Ingalls's Petticoat Lace

Looking back to when PieceWork and Little House on the Prairie met and gave us a nostalgic moment.

Piecework Editorial Staff Oct 11, 2021 - 4 min read

Knit Nostalgia with Laura Ingalls's Petticoat Lace Primary Image

Delicate shell-motif lace from the New-York Tribune weekly edition, November 11, 1879, chosen by Mary Lycan for the lace that Laura knitted for Mary's petticoat in The Long Winter. Photo by Joe Coca.

Editor's Note: One of PieceWork's past team members, marketing manager Caitlin Polasek, spent a few moments sharing her experience and thoughts on the May/June 2013 lace issue.

I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books and was captivated by the cozy pioneer life Laura brings to life in her stories. My mom taught me to sew when I was young, and when I worked on one small project or another, I identified with Laura carefully crafting a secret present for one of her sisters before Christmas. The pancakes my dad made on special weekends reminded me of the winter Almanzo and his brother spent eating pancakes every day when snow stopped incoming trains and supplies were short in town. The cornfields behind my childhood home made me feel like Laura’s prairie was just past the backyard, and I would spend full summer days playing outside with nothing more than my surroundings and my imagination.

Because of these warm childhood memories, Little House on the Prairie holds a special place in my heart. So, when I opened the cover of the May/June 2103 issue of PieceWork and scanned the table of contents, Mary Lycan’s Laura Ingalls’s Knitted Petticoat Lace immediately caught my eye and I turned straight to it.

Delicate shell-motif lace shown in Piecework May/June 2013

Mary explores the knitted lace edging Laura painstakingly makes during the winter of 1880, and the historical context surrounding it. From reading the books, I knew knitting, crochet, and needlework filled much of the Ingalls girls’ time, especially during the fall and winter when weather kept them cooped up indoors. I was intrigued to learn about the trends of the late 1870s, a time when knitted-lace edgings came back into vogue and gained popularity with Laura and her peers. Mary Lycan’s description of how painstaking and time-consuming knitted lace could be impressed on me the Ingalls girls’ dedication to their needlework. She says: “I used to think that the lace was a metaphor for the blizzards of that Hard Winter—it was white, and it was endless. Now I see its gift as a symbol of hope for Mary’s education and of Laura’s commitment, at age thirteen, to help provide it for her.”

If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can create your own knitted-lace edging with the Shell Lace to Knit. Mary Lycan charted this garter-lace edging from the pattern that appeared in the November 12, 1879, weekly edition of the New-York Tribune.

In addition to your own Ingalls-inspired lace edging, you’ll find a Shetland lace shawl to knit, a lace medallion to tat, an Orenburg warm shawl to knit, a lace-edged endowing purse to make, and more—each accompanied with stories of the rich histories surrounding the pieces—in this special Lace issue of PieceWork.

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