Deep-dive into a beloved fabric from the past: Feed Sacks is here! (+ giveaway)

Feed sacks are the perfect example of a utilitarian product turned into something beautiful. Author Linzee Kull McCray explores the history of the humble fabric in her beautiful book Feed Sacks. This is a reprint of a previously out-of-print book from our friends at UPPERCASE—now back in print by popular demand!

Feed sacks range from plain cotton sacks to exuberantly patterned and colorful bags that were repurposed into frocks, aprons, and quilts by thrifty housewives in the first half of the twentieth century.

In this softcover volume, extensive imagery and at-scale reproductions of these fabrics create an inspiring sourcebook of pattern and color—544 pages of images and information offer a welcome visit to the days of yesteryear. Take a look at the table of contents to see what’s in store!

    

Patterns not included.

We’re thrilled to introduce Linzee as our guest writer today:

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Linzee McCray here. I’m a writer, quilter, and fabric designer. I first learned about feed sacks 10 years ago, and not long after I wrote a blog post for Etsy, where I was a regular contributor. The post got more than 200 comments, and I realized that I wasn’t the only one interested in feed sacks.

I did what writers do when they’re fascinated by a topic: I kept researching and writing about it for various publications, including UPPERCASE magazine. A few years later, UPPERCASE publisher Janine Vangool and I decided to collaborate on a book. (Janine is in Calgary, Canada, which accounts for the spelling of “colourful” in the book’s subtitle.)

I interviewed people who had sewn with and worn feed sacks in decades past, and Janine and I identified vintage photos, newspapers, and advertisements for use in the book. We also worked with collectors and museums to gather images of items made with feed sacks and took photos of our own growing feed-sack collections, as well as those of other collectors. And then Janine worked her design magic: we had so much to share that the book wound up at 544 pages!

Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric covers topics from picking cotton to the patriotism of sewing with sacks during World War II to feed-sack sewing competitions in the 1950s. Throughout, there are interviews with people who remember feed sacks as a part of everyday life. Talking with them was my favorite part of writing this book, and I love the stories, quilts, and items of clothing that people still share with me. One friend told me about her 90-year-old grandmother poring over the pages, looking for fabric prints she remembered from childhood. (That takes awhile, as there are more than 850 images in the book!)

I am delighted that Martingale is reprinting this book—it’s been out of print for more than a year. If you missed it the first time, I hope you’ll ask your local quilt shop or bookstore to order you a copy. And if you have stories to share, I always love hearing them!

Here’s what quilters like you are saying about Feed Sacks:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐“I love this book. It has a good history of the feed sack. There are pages and pages of them and also many photos of women and children wearing their feed-sack clothing. I make 1930s reproduction quilts as a hobby and this book makes me want all the fabric!”

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “This lovely book was so fun to read (and to look at). If you love coffee-table books or cultural history books, you’ll enjoy this sweet one. There are 850 different fabric patterns printed in the book, and I could just imagine all the clothes made by mothers in the 1930s and 1940s and beyond. There is information about all the companies that produced feed sacks—to hold grain and corn to voting ballots. Crazy to think that these were used ubiquitously in our past. I also loved all the advertisements printed throughout the book, which would highlight the products being sent out in the bags. There’s a lot to learn from this book, so pick it up and start reading!”

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “I’ve been a fabric person all my life. But I knew very little about the history of printed fabric used to package goods before reading this wonderful book, which is a compendium of feed sacks as a reflection of the culture of rural America in the first half of the 20th century. The book has dozens of clippings from newspapers, industry magazines, advertisements, and clothing patterns, which are fascinating windows into another time. The book is full of photos throughout, and the last section has hundreds of pictures of different fabrics. So this is a coffee-table book for those among us who cannot resist fabric. Do not miss this!”

We have a copy of Feed Sacks to give away to one winner today! To enter your name in the random drawing, tell us in the comments, below:

What’s your favorite reproduction fabric: feed sacks, Civil War, 1930s, something else?

We’ll choose a winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win. Good luck! And if you can’t wait for this deep-dive into a frugal fabric, you can purchase the book at our website

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The winner is Helen, who says: "I find all reproduction fabrics interesting, but I think the history surrounding the use of feed sack fabrics is particularly fascinating. The variety of fabric patterns is incredible."

We’ll email you about your prize, Helen—congratulations!


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