Thursday 17 September 2015

American feedsack quilts and fabrics.....

The imagination of stitcher's never ceases to amaze me.  The history of hundreds of years ago
with the making quilts to keep them warm and cosy and clothes and toys for children.  Thanks to those pioneers of the day we get to have wonderful quilts and things we love and value still ! Samplers to learn ABC's all these utility items to them are of great wonder and decorative value to us.  I wonder sometimes how they would feel if they could see what we all cherish and collect today. How much a quilt can cost now that to them was made with scraps and for survival of the cold.

Have many of you heard of these? feedsack quilts, clothes and rag dolls......

The feedsack  history in farming and later stitching, started 1800's, when dry goods such as food staples, grain, seed, and animal feed were packed for transportation and storage in tins, boxes, and
wooden barrels. This was not an a great method of storage as tin would rust and the hand made boxes and barrels leaked and were damaged easily. They were large, heavy and difficult to transport. Manufacturers had  to find another method, but didn’t consider the cloth bags of homespun linen used by the farmer to store goods for use in the home because the hand sewn seams would not hold in heavy use.

 This changed in 1846 with the invention of the sewing machine, which made it possible to sew double locking seams strong enough to hold the contents of a bag.
Feedsacks were initially made of heavy canvas, and were used to obtain flour, sugar, meal, grain, salt and feed from the mills. They were reusable, with the farmer bringing an empty sack stamped with his mark or brand to the mill to be filled. That did not last long because of the farmers wives who discovered other uses for them.

The clever and inventive farmers wife quickly discovered that this cotton bag was a great source of utilitarian fabric to be used for dish cloths, baby nappies, nightgowns and other household uses including quilts and dresses and clothes for children. Manufacturers decided to take advantage of this and started offering sacks in various prints and solid colour.  It took two or three sacks to make a dress for example and of course the farmers wives would make sure the farmer bought the same ones so that they could make such garments.  It worked well for the manufactures and of course for the stitching ladies too.

Magazines and pattern companies of the day started to see the feedsack popularity and took advantage of the prints on them to produce patterns for people to follow.  In addition there were ideas and instructions for using the strings from the sacks for knitting and crochet.  Interestingly by 1942 figures showed that three million women ad children were wearing a feedbag garment or children were still playing with rag dolls from them as well.  The popularity continued into the 1960's where it seems to have died out.

The manufactures of the sack started to compete with each other for business by printed more and more beautiful patterns on them including Disney prints as well such as Alice in Wonderland and Mickey Mouse for children.

Quilt making with them also became popular as well.  The Amish are now the only people who seem to use feedsacks for dry goods still today but I feel it is a real shame.

This is a fascinating history for me and I hope you have enjoyed your read today.  I would love to hear what any of you think about this and if indeed you have heard of this piece of history before.

I have enjoyed looking into the history, I love learning and getting knowledge of stitchery in any form.  Well I am off to my stitchery now.  I have to take some photos of my vintage goodies later today to do the show and tell tomorrow.  Have a great day and Happy Stitching!


  1. These are great, wonderful post. You have a lovely blog. :)

  2. Thank you Linda! It is lovely when someone tells you that what you are writing is interesting.. Thank you for such a great compliment.