Since I first heard the term Feed Sack fabric, I was intrigued. As I child I helped out on a farm and feed sacks to me meant rough and ready hessian sacks that I could never imagine using to make an item of clothing or a quilt. Then I discovered the gorgeous cotton prints of 1930s American feed sacks and things fell into place.
I read up on the history and found that out of necessity every scrap of fabric that could be repurposed was used. From the 1840s grains, animal feed, sugar, flour, beans and seeds etc were all packaged in cotton bags. Once emptied the bags were washed and used to make all manner of clothes and household items like aprons and quilts. In the 1920s, the cotton bags were made from softer fabric and manufacturers started to print water soluble labels and sewing patterns on their sacks to encourage the practice and make life easier for the home sewer.
During the Great Depression of 1929-1939, the repurposing of feed sacks became even more prolific. Many people were living hand to mouth and the only way of clothing themselves or keeping warm was to make clothes and quilts from the free fabric that came in the shape of the bag. A 100lb feed sack could be opened to create a yard of 44″ fabric–enough for a child’s dress, and about 3 pieces made an adult size garment.
In the 30s competition became more fierce as manufacturers vied to produce the most attractive prints to entice women to choose their product. The 40s were the heyday of feed sack sewing due to the shortages of WW2. There were competitions to encourage the use of every tiny scrap of fabric and so we see lots of scrappy quilts made at this time and the popularity of the postage stamp quilt made from inch squares of fabrics.
When we think of feed sacks we cannot imagine how colourful some of them were but looking at photos we can see that the vibrant feedsack inspired fabrics of today are true to the originals.
There is plenty of information available online on this fascinating subject, some of which can be found HERE and HERE
We were thrilled to spend two wonderful days with Gail Pan. She spent a lot of time teaching and demonstrating techniques for hand stitching, applique and offered handy hints for finishing her bags, pouches and quilts. It was wonderful to see so many women gathered together sewing and chatting and laughing and eating! We look forward to welcoming Gail back with us in the future.
We have a large stock of new and old patterns from Gail and they are available HERE.
If you are able to visit we recommend popping in to see Gail’s own samples but here are a few to tempt you if you are unable to come to the shop.
Thread to match the panels (off white or beige) plus thread to match the bunting tape.
Sewing machine and general sewing notions, scissors, pins etc
Press all your fabric before starting. This ensures accurate cutting and piecing.
Cut all pieces of fabric into 8″ squares to match the size of the images.
Arrange the flags that will face forward in an order that you like and take a photo for reference. I alternated an image with a patterned fabric piece. You will have 9 flag fronts.
Next arrange the fabrics for the back of the flags to also make a pleasing display that spreads the colours and patterns evenly.
Pair up each front and back with right sides together and pin or clip to hold in place. Make sure any directional designs are facing the right way up.
Sew down the right hand side, across the bottom and up the other side on each flag. DO NOT sew across the top.
Trim a small triangle off the bottom two corners making sure not to cut through the seams. This makes the turning out easier.
Turn the flags the right way out, easing out the corners to make neat squares.
Making sure the flags and seams are straight, press each flag neatly. At this stage you can top stitch the three sewn sides if desired but it is not essential.
Lay the bunting tape down and finger press in half as you lay each flag into the fold, face up in the desired order, use your photo for reference. Remember to leave a tail each end of the bunting tape approximately 45cm/18″ long for ease of hanging later. Place each flag about 2″ or 5cm apart. Pin or clip the flags in place.
Tucking in the end of the tape, start sewing all the way along the tape anchoring down both sides of the tape and the flag as you go. Sew as close to the lower edge of the tape as possible but check that you are catching both sides. You can use a straight running stitch or a zig zag or decorative stitch if you prefer. Sew all the way along. Check for any stray threads and hang with pride and a little smile.
We will update this page regularly to add more photos so don’t forget to come back to check it out for inspiration. If you would like to share your creations pop in so we can photograph it or email us a clear picture and we will let the world see how fabulous you are.
Alicia has been super productive and has made three versions of Life’s a Journey for gifts.
Which is your favourite colour way? We think it is hard to choose as they all look beautiful.
Siobhan put her own twist on the lovely Garden Gathering Bag by Gail Pan. She used a variegated thread in place of redwork to create a superb result.
Trish has made this festive table runner using the Blizzard range of fabrics.
She made a pieced back too, lovely.
Alicia has been very busy. These two beautiful quilts brought a smile to our faces.
Sally plucked up the courage, after a little persuasion from us, and made the Tilda Lazy Gardener quilt using a kit from us. She is pleased with it and we think deservedly so.
Claire made up the Cottage Garden Kit from Beaks and Bobbins. She says she has not worked with ribbon and beads before and loved the process of learning and developing new skills while she was recovering from illnesses. We love her work and the way it is displayed.
We love Tilda here at Coast and Country and look at this beautiful example of the Embroidery Flower Quilt. It is a Tilda pattern and uses Tilda Solids to give the impression of an embroidery design.
We like the way the quilting has been done too.
Sylvia dropped by to show us her simply gorgeous Celtic Knot quilt made using Liberty fabric. Such a lot of hard work using hand applique and hand quilting. Utterly beautiful but she says it will end up in her wardrobe. This needs to be displayed for all to see, a proper heirloom.
Look at this joyous photo of little Lane sat on the Seagull Quilt made by his Great Grandma Valerie in Canada using a fabric pack from us. The Seagull Quilt pattern is in the Nautical Quilts Book by Lynette Anderson. We are in love with both Lane and the quilt.
Look at this stunning version of Hatched and Patched BOM The Santa, The Tree, The Turkey and Me. Jacqueline visited us to show us what she’d created using her stash of felt and fabric scraps from our popular scrap bags. We love the original design that uses wool applique, but we adore this version too. Look for the fussy cut images and the clever use of a variegated thread for the meandering hand quilting.
Kim showed us her deliciously colourful quilt made by combining Kaffe Fasset fabrics from a fat 1/4 bundle, with a bright white sashing. Stunning.
Look at Lorraine in her gorgeous patchwork jacket from the Great British Sewing Bee Book. She used a selection of our fabrics plus a quirky birdhouse end of roll bargain for the lining and a bright pop of colour for the binding. She said she went way out of her comfort zone making this but is so happy she did. We love it Lorraine.
Jill says she is a relative newcomer to quilt making but we are thoroughly impressed by her perfectly pieced Spoondrift Quilt by Janet Clare. She has used the To The Sea Fabric kit. Absolutely stunning.
Look at this beautiful lockdown quilt from Sarah, using her stash bought in a hurry before we closed the first time. It is a gorgeous blend of needle turn applique using William Morris fabrics and superbly quilted by Sandy Chandler.
Look at this labour of love from Anne.
She made this Noah’s Ark quilt for her grandson from a Jo Colwill
Strips of fabric for the piecing and a piece for the backing to fit the size you make. Michelle used a fat 1/4 for the back, hanging sleeve, and one of the frames around the embroidery, plus a fat 1/8 for one frame and the binding, then three other strips of fabric for the remaining frames, approximately 1″strip x width of fabric or a fat 1/16 or fat 1/8 will do it
Complete the stitch kit as per the instructions included.
Trim the completed panel to a neat square leaving at least a 1/4″ seam allowance all around. Approximately a 6 1/2″ square.
Cut 2 strips 1″ x 7″ and stitch to the sides of the panel
Cut 2 strips 1″ x 8″ and stitch to the top and bottom of the panel
Press and trim to a square.
Continue to add 1″ strips in this way until you have 5 frames around the panel. Each strip will increase by 1/2″ in length on each round ie frame two strips will be 1″ x 7 1/2″ and 1″ x 8 1/2″.
Layer up the finished top with wadding and the backing. Quilt as desired. Michelle stitched in the ditch between frames one and two, two and three and four and five.
Now add the binding and a hanging sleeve or tabs depending on preference. If adding a hidden hanging sleeve, sew this on before adding the binding. Cut a strip of fabric 11″ long x 2 1/2″ wide. Wrong side up fold over the short ends by 1/2″ and sew down, next fold in half wrong sides together down the length and stitch in place at the top of the back. *You can only use this method if you are using a dowel hanger otherwise you will need to add the wire hanger into your hanging sleeve before stitching the sleeve down. Hand stitch the sleeve down if needed to ensure it is hidden from the front.
Michelle added binding using the mitred corner method. Cut binding strips 2 1/2″ wide joining if needed depending on if you have width of fabric or fat 1/8s to work with. With raw edges matching sew your binding on, mitring the corners as you go. Hand sew the edge down on the back of your quilt.
Slide your dowel through the hanging sleeve and admire your summery creation.
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