Four Generations of Button Savers

On the Banks of Plum Creek
Chapter 13

Our assignment in the Prairie Primer was to make a button string.

 

“That afternoon, when Carrie was asleep, Ma beckoned Mary and Laura.  Her face was shining with a secret.  They put their heads close to hers, and she told them, They could make a button-string for Carrie’s Christmas! (p.90)

 

Beka and I decided to make the button string for the Carrie doll in our Ingalls family dollhouse. We had to pick out the tiniest buttons from my collection.

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It’s way more enticing to sort my family’s buttons on a Jadeite Jane Ray desert plate. I have some from my Grandma Geneva, from my Mom and I’ve been adding to the collection for years. Rebekah has started collecting buttons, so we have four generations of button saving in our sewing cabinet. Like the women before me, I never cut a shirt into rags before cutting off all the buttons. I used to shove shirts in the “All You Can Fit in a Bag for $1 Sale” at the thrift store just for the buttons. 

Beka and I love fingering through the buttons, sorting and imagining. We can feel the history and the thrill of creation that has passed through the generations.

 

Ma had saved buttons since she was smaller than Laura, and she had buttons her mother had saved when her mother was a little girl. (p. 90)

Mary had one end of the string and Laura had the other.  They picked out the buttons they wanted and strung them on the string.  They held the string out and looked at it, and took off some buttons and put on others.

One day Ma told them that this was the day before Christmas.  They must finish the button-string that day.” (p.91)

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Then quickly, quickly, Laura and Mary finished the button-string. Ma tied the ends together for them. It was a beautiful button-string. (p. 92)

 

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Carrie’s eyes and her mouth were perfectly round when she saw it.  Then she squealed, and grabbed it and squealed again.  She sat on Pa’s knee, looking at her candy and her button-string and wriggling and laughing with joy. (p. 94)

 

For the fire in our fireplace we use a battery operated tea light.  We cut all the extra plastic off and stacked pieces of wood around it.  It keeps the dolls warm on a winter day.  Even though the Ingalls family didn’t have one, we added a small Nativity scene to the mantle to celebrate Christmas.

We love reliving the stories of Laura Ingalls through our dolls. It’s been an amazing way to add the thrill of discovery and creation to our homeschool life. When Beka has a hard time knowing what’s school and what’s play, I know something is going right in our home…..or would that be school?

Picture Perfect Laura

 

Laura Ingalls digs up her own dirt.

She  never portrayed herself as perfect, like some biographers. Those ugly moments of jealousy, hatred and anger were never glazed over, although sometimes justified.

She slapped, sulked, disobeyed and coveted her way through childhood, just like kids from all generations.

Her relationship with her Pa was interesting. She records a lot of disobedience, but not a lot of spanking, although that was the  threat she felt lurking over her head. Ma and Pa kept the kids in line and kept them alive, despite the dangers and temptations in all the various places they lived. Too bad Ma and Pa didn’t write a parenting book!

As a child I related to Laura and never considered her as a naughty child.  Reading through as a mother, I’ve marveled at Ma and Pa’s patience. I’ve wondered if they ever despaired about how she would turn out.   She was the clichéd handful!

We wanted to make Laura picture perfect for our Little House Dollhouse.

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The miniatures that are just plain, paintable metal are much cheaper. (from the Dollhouse Cottage.)

 

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Two coats of gold paint with craft paint we had on hand.

 

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A postcard of the Ingalls family I bought somewhere along the line for educational purposes. Don’t ya’ have a stash of stuff ya’ just KNOW you’ll use someday?  We’ve had this on display all year with other vintage postcards.

 

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Beka photocopied the postcard,  traced around the frame, then cut the picture to fit in the frame, making sure it didn’t go all the way to edge, just to the middle of the frame.

I wanted a pic of Pa and Ma, but Pa and Laura were closest together, so that’s what we used.  The more I thought about it, the more appropriate this was.  I think Pa had a great part in helping the rambunctious Laura grow into the woman we’ve known and loved most of our lives.  He kept her from being a monster child, but never quenched her spirit.

 

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A piece was cut to perfect fit over the picture, to make it look like it was framed in glass.  I love laminating sheets!  They can be expensive, but I used to buy them at Wal-Mart for a reasonable price.  It is clearer than clear Contact paper, but easier than running to an office supply store to have something laminated.

Another piece the size of the whole frame was cut to stick the picture to the frame on the back.  That was Beka’s clever idea!  I love giving kids the freedom to do things their own way, sometimes their way is BETTER than our way. I hadn’t even thought about how we would actually stick the picture to the frame.

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Laura Ingalls –  the Picture Perfect version.

A Trip to the General Store

It’s hard to fathom not shopping at Target once a week. 

OK, maybe sometimes we end up going once a day,  but only when I’m trying to plan something and am really scatterbrained. Like when I go to the grocery store to get milk,
come home with a Jeep load of groceries, but end up going BACK for milk.

It is unfathomable to think in Little House in the Big Woods Laura and Mary had never seen a town before.  In Little House on the Prairie, Pa goes into town once.

Once.

The family stays home. I can’t imagine going a whole year without going to a store. I can’t imagine not replenishing your pantry when you need to.

But, my imagination could make a store for the Ingalls family. Just in case Pa forgot something and Ma needed to go, we put it next to their house.The pretend world I’m creating for her is much easier than her real world.

We started this project last year while playing and learning through “The Olden Days”
but couldn’t finish. 
Since we’re using The Prairie Primer this year, fun projects are easier to fit into school.

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Although I didn’t have the Gramma and Grandpa growing up,  they were a fun, inexpensive find on Etsy from the Chicken Coop Stamper. I spent less money to bring age and wisdom to my pretend world  than I would to buy a new Barbie at Target.

They will have dual roles in the Ingalls lives, portraying the grandparents left behind in Wisconsin, and the store owners for whatever town the Ingalls currently live in.

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Sara Jane Benson is trading eggs for yard goods today. She is another doll from the Sunshine Family mold that actually came dressed in prairie attire. She was found in the Etsy shop Days Gone By Treasures.

 The store is actually an old wooden crate I had with a hinged lid that used to hold embalming fluid.  EW gross, I know!  Beka hasn’t noticed the lettering on the side, so I didn’t bring it to her attention.

We had a blast scouring the house for things that would work. I love miniatures, so had some from my childhood and some from a printer’s shelf display. 

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At the thrift store the other day, we found four more dolls from the Sunshine Family, so bought them for extras.  We’ll have an adult Laura and Almonzo. I have NEVER found them at the thrift store, so to finding  many in one day, was better than that dream where you’re picking up money off the street. Oh, you heard me squealing in excitement?  I’ll try to keep it down next time.

We just needed an older gentleman sitting by the fire playing checkers. The game board was copied off from Jim’s Printable Minis, Mod Podged onto cardboard and set on a baby food jar.

Jim offers vintage maps, Christmas cards, important looking documents (we printed one up for Pa for homesteading since he had trouble with the government, we needed to make his next move official), labels for canned food, Confederate and American money, newspapers, and periodicals.  I love that Jim offers a variety of sizes/scales depending on which dolls you’re playing and learning with.

My public library allows me 25 free colored copies a week, so I printed many things on my last trip to the library. It saves money and the quality is better.

We have a pile of little projects to work on now in those free moments when the rains are starting to look dreary.

The shop counter was a wooden box that candy came in years ago, of course I squirreled it away for the right day, and just added a shelf with balsa wood.

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See the little peg shelf?  Beka made it. When she  found these candles in some stash I had, she immediately knew they needed to hang up in the store.

We decided with so many projects to create, we couldn’t wait on the menfolk in the house to come home and drill and cut for us.  My Honey-Do list for the house is long enough without adding a bunch of craft work to it.  I wouldn’t want my husband to come home at the end of the day and hand me a list of things I have to do for him, so I try to keep his list as short as possible. We took out the tools and started experimenting.

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She cut a strip of balsa wood and cut four pegs from a skewer. She was NOT interested in measuring, so I let her eyeball it. I don’t have to cram a math lesson in everywhere, although my logic was saying, “This would be a perfect place to use a ruler and division!”
My heart knew too much “school” would take the fun out of it.

She found the correct size drill bit by trial and error on a scrap piece of wood. After drilling four holes, she put a dab of glue and  a peg in each hole.

At this point she was a little bored, so asked me to stain it while she went to play. We hung it up with poster putty.

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Thin strips of balsa wood were cut with an exacto knife and a metal ruler. I scratched the snot out of my cutting board. Not sure what real crafters do, but I think I need to buy a new one for the kitchen. My favorite vintage color is Minwax gunstock.
Beka cut little strips of calico to wrap around the boards.

When Beka decided we needed to tie up packages with brown paper and string, we found a cap to a hair spray bottle, added a pretty blue button with two holes for the lid, wound some fine string around a piece of dowel to completely cover it, popped in it, and we had string on the counter.

We’re working on a wooden structure to hold a roll of brown paper.

As we add to our General Store, my goal is to teach Rebekah to be creative and use what we have.  If she dreams of something she wants in the store, I want to see if we can make it first.  Some day, we’ll make a trip to Hobby Lobby, but I want to start with homemade.  I want her to have the thrill of learning to use the tools and materials on hand to create something she imagined in her mind.

Even though the world we’re making isn’t big enough to live in, someday she’ll have her own home. I want her to be like the previous generations of American women, including her own ancestors,  who had the needed skills and pioneer spirit  to make wherever she’s living a HOME.