That which flags or hangs down loosely; an ensign or colors; a banner by which one party or company are distinguished; a standard on which are certain emblems indicative of nationality, party, or opinion. — Webster, 1882
The Children’s Day exercises at the Congregational church last Sunday evening were very largely attended… The church was beautifully decorated with flowers, flags and bunting. – Kingsbury County Independent, 1894
When I think about flags in the Little House books, the first thing that comes to my mind are the flowers called blue flags growing at Plum Creek. I’ve written about those elsewhere. Laura Ingalls Wilder often mentions the American flag as well. When a crafty friend sent me instructions for making prayer flags (which I have in my garden) and told me about the 2012 Prayer Flag Project, I knew I had to make some.
If you don’t know about prayer flags, I encourage you to investigate. In a nutshell, prayer flags are banners of blue, white, red, green, and yellow, symbolizing sky/space, wind/air, fire, water, and earth. The flags promote wisdom, peace, compassion, and strength; as they blow in the wind, good will and compassion are spread to all.
For a while now, I’ve had it in my mind to make some prayer flags inspired by my love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are countless mentions of sky, wind, fire, water, and earth in both Laura’s Missouri Ruralist articles and in the Little House books. Who wouldn’t want to spread the love, peace, joy and wisdom from the“Little House books? Although I culled pages of examples from the books, here are just a few:
1. The night seemed very large and still, and the stars sparkled like frost in the black sky. –Farmer Boy
2. “Even when it’s settled up. No matter how thick and close the neighbors get, this country’ll never feel crowded. Look at that sky!” Laura knew what he meant. She liked this place, too. She liked the enormous sky and the winds, and the land that you couldn’t see to the end of. Everything was so free and big and splendid. –Little House on the Prairie
3. Laura was very happy. The wind sang a low, rustling song in the grass. -Little House on the Prairie
Then the fire was shining on the hearth, the cold and the dark and the wild beasts were all shut out, and Jack the brindle bulldog and Black Susan the cat lay blinking at the flames in the fireplace . –Little House in the Big Woods
4. “The sun has gone through the white clouds. It is a huge, pulsing ball of liquid fire. The clouds above it are scarlet and crimson and gold and purple, and the great sweeps of cloud over the whole sky are burning flames.” –Little Town on the Prairie
5. Nothing ever smelled so good as the rain on clover. Nothing ever felt so good as raindrops on Almanzo’s face, and the wet grass swishing around his legs. Nothing ever sounded so pleasant as the drops pattering on the bushes along Trout River, and the rush of the water over the rocks. –Farmer Boy
6. The wind, which all day long had blown strongly, dropped low with the sun and went whispering among the tall grasses. The earth seemed to lie breathing softly under the summer night. Pa drove on and on beneath the low stars. –By the Shores of Silver Lake
7. “Throw back your arms and breathe deep, deep!” Laura cried. She knew that cold is not so cold if you are not afraid of it. They threw back their arms and breathed the cold in, and through their cringing noses it rushed deep into their chests and warmed them all over. Even Mary laughed aloud. –The Long Winter
I decided to make my flags out of patterned fabric. I printed quotations and illustrations onto muslin (instructions all over the internet; do a search) and sewed them in place with the sewing machine using colored thread. Then I added bits of sparkle and buttons and beads. I put metal grommets in all four corners because I had in mind to add dangly bits from the bottom of the flags as well. Everything was strung on jute cord with wooden beads and torn muslin ribbons between each flag; I like the way that moves in the wind. I’ll probably add bits of lace and other goodies. The possibilities are endless.
A word of caution, however. Both Little House text by Laura Ingalls Wilder and illustrations by Garth Williams, Helen Sewell, and Mildred Boyle are under copyright. You cannot use these in any commercial venture without permission. The flags shown above were made for my own personal use. Btw, my flags were photographed hanging in my cottonwood tree rooted from a piece ofa tree on the Ingallses’ homestead. (I didn’t root it, and I guess I need to discourage people from breaking off branches of Pa’s trees for themselves, although I think they ought to be propagated on a regular basis from cuttings.)
It would be fun – and perfectly legal – to make paper flags, from collages made with actual Little House book page text and illustrations. Look for library discards and thrift store copies to use in art projects. Quotations from Laura’s Ruralist articles are in the public domain, so they can be used freely. Your own photographs and purchased postcards are perfectly legal to use, of course, and you can always print your own site photographs onto fabric. How about the beautiful sky over the Masters Hotel? Wind blowing your braids at the Independence site? Your campfire at Ingalls Homestead? Bubbling Trout River or whispering Plum Creek? The dugout site or the garden at Rocky Ridge Farm?
flag (banner) (FB 16; LHP 26; BPC 26; LTP 8; THGY 13, 28; PG)
American (FB 16, 21; LTP 8; THGY; PG), see also Stars and Stripes
flagpole (FB 16; LTP 8)