One of the greatest things about reading the Little House books with children is introducing topics such as resourcefulness and conservation. Items like pens and blank paper were luxuries not readily available to the Ingalls family.
Homemade Ink & Envelopes
Often, pioneers had to make their own ink and letter envelopes and you can too by following this easy tutorial! Instructions for this fun pioneer-era DIY came from the book A Pioneer Sampler by Barbara Greenwood.
Materials for Homemade Ink:
Instructions to Make Your Own Ink and Envelope:
1. Crush a heaping handful of walnut shells (my boys just used a nutcracker) and add them to a pot of boiling water. Boil until water has darkened to a suitable color. You’ll want it to be dark enough to contrast well with your paper. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt to stabilize the dye.
2. Let the ink cool off while you get your paper ready. We used a paper grocery bag, but any recycled paper will give an old-fashioned feeling. Clear a surface for writing, as it may be a bit messier than usual. This is a great opportunity to discuss how important it was to conserve valuable resources in the Little House on the Prairie era, just as it is today.
3. After the ink has cooled, use a feather or thin stick to write your message on your paper. Use a dash of sand to dry the ink. Historically, people would sprinkle the sand to absorb any excess liquid and help prevent smearing the ink.
4. Once the ink has dried, blow the sand away and make your envelope. Fold the two sides of the paper inward to meet in the middle, then fold the bottom and top until overlapping. Drop a bit of candle wax to seal the envelope shut.
As you can see from this tutorial, a separate piece of paper and an envelope would have been excessive during pioneer days, so they wrote directly on the envelope and delivered their messages all on one page. How wonderfully resourceful and smart! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and have fun sharing it with kids. They’re going to love the idea of making homemade ink and envelopes just like pioneers did during the Little House on the Prairie era!
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