Friday, August 5, 2011

Tying on the Feed Bag

I have a confession to make. I have an obsession with feedsack.

That may sound a bit strange, but I can assure you that I am not talking about the stuff the local farm gets their chicken feed in--well, not anymore at least. In the late 1800s through the early to mid 1900s however, that's exactly what it was. Cotton became cheap and plentiful and feed companies, as well as those selling flour, sugar, beans, etc. realized that it was more economical for them to ship their products in cotton sacks than the barrels they had been using. Initially, plain white cotton was imprinted with logos and the resourceful women of America began using this cloth to make quilts and clothing (try doing that with a barrel!). When manufacturers eventually caught on to how popular this "free" fabric was they started dying and eventually putting prints on the sacks. Trips to the feed & general store became almost competitive as women vied for their favorite prints. Feedsack frenzy reached it's zenith in the 1930s-40s during the Great Depression and tapered off as synthetic fabrics became more popular.

Now that you know what feedsack is, let me tell you a little about why I love it so much. Have you ever looked at something and felt transported--not just in space, but in time as well? That's what these fun, happy prints do for me. It's as if I'm suddenly in my grandmother's kitchen (the one who always had a bag of tootsie roll pops in the bottom drawer and ginger ale in the fridge). I get that feeling of being loved, treasured and spoiled right down to my toes. I also am filled with a sense of the peace that came with a simpler time in my life, which is how childhood usually seems in retrospect. But the time travel goes beyond that to a sense that I've been jettisoned into a whole other era and am suddenly planted firmly in the pre-WWII US. I know I'm idealizing an era, but these are the feelings that this practical textile evoke for me.

A sampling of my collection of reproduction feedsack...

One of my favorite pieces: vintage feedsack that my
grandmother used to make the kitchen curtains for the farmhouse
my mom lived in as a child. It now lines one of my favorite tote bags :)

Much to my delight I recently discovered that there are bunches of handpieced feedsack quilt tops out there just waiting for me to complete. Stop by later and see my first collaboration with a quilter I've never met who lived before I was born! I will be listing a reworked feedsack quilt top in my etsy shop at and blogging about my hand in it's completion.

Don't be a stranger!

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