Recently I had the pleasure of quilting a Vintage Feedsack Quilt. The top was hand-stitched by Saphronia Turner, from Panama City, Florida, in the 1950s . She was an award winning quilter and it shows in her work. Her stitches are beautiful, with seams lined up and the top perfectly square. I was a little nervous about machine quilting this treasure on my home machine because some of the fabric was a little thin, but it held up well due to Saphronia's expert stitching.
The feedsack fabric is varied in thickness or weave with many different patterns and bright colors. I was surprised at how vivid the colors were. It is a good thing the family preserved it well in a cedar chest away from sunlight; most importantly it was not washed, which may have led to the fabric fraying.
In researching Feedsack Quilts I came across an informative article by Kris Driessen. Here are some of the highlights.
Feedsacks started being used to transport and store food staples, grain and seeds in the early 1800s. They were initially made from heavy canvas, but that changed in the late 1800s when textile mills in the Northeast began weaving inexpensive cotton fabric. A wide variety of styles were offered, from small prints to large florals, stripes, polka dots to kitchen and garden themes. Many bags came pre-printed for dolls, aprons, pillows and curtains.
It didn't take long for clever farm wives to begin using this fabric to make dish cloths, diapers, aprons, nightgowns and other items for the home. Soon, magazine and pattern companies got into the act and began to publish patterns.
In 1942 it is estimated that over 3 million women and children of all income levels were wearing print feedbag clothing.
After WWII, it became cost effective to ship grains in heavy paper and plastic containers. Feedsacks unfortunately went out of use except in some Amish and Mennonite communities.
I hope someday we can again manufacture textiles here in America. I know of only one company in the US, American Made Brand, that is producing quilting quality solid colored cotton fabric. I hope we as quilters support them and let our voices be heard, which will lead to more textiles produced here in the US.
Watch for more of my views on bringing textile production back to the US, as I have a bee in my bonnet about this.