One of the purposes of the Iowa School for the Blind and Sight Saving School was to teach students skills that they could use to make a living. The school was famous for turning out piano tuners. That beadwork Mary talks about isn’t just fancy work for a hobby it was designed to be made to sell (and some of hers was sold both before and after her death, wouldn’t that be amazing to have? as close as I’ve gotten is some made by someone’s great-aunt in the right time period and close geographically so I’m pretty sure it’s a similar style). Basket making and weaving were also well established at the school. Mary also talks about netting hammocks and horsenets. This was a particular style of needlework that was based on the process of making literal nets and it was popular in the late 19th century. I hope everyone could identify a hammock, but I’ve seen some odd references to things as horse nets that clearly aren’t around Laura fandom so I wanted to share.
The purpose of a horse net is to put a network of fibers across and around a horse, the fibers move when the horse does and swishes slightly knocking off whatever flies have landed. If you’ve never been bit by a horsefly I can assure you it isn’t pleasant and while most of the time a gentle swish of the tail will deal with the problem, an ill-timed or ill-placed bite can get a horse kicking or biting to rid itself of a fly, not a great thing if the horse is in a harness, so the nets were designed to help prevent the problem. The nets also served a decorative function, especially if you had a light colored horse or team so the dark horse net (they always seem to be dark) will show up well.
During my last visit to Vinton they had an actual horsenet made by students at the school. It wasn’t dated, but I think it’s safe to assume that the ones Mary learned to make would be very similar to this. So I wanted to share.