Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Identifying a feesack..

Today I want to talk about how to identify a feedsack.  There are many conditions you can find a feedsack in.  Some might be cut up into smaller pieces, some might be sewn together to make tablecloths or utility throws.  Some might have the stitching removed and some might be completely in tact, just like they day they were first emptied of the grains or sugar they contained.

The above is one of the completely intact feedsacks I own.  It is a pillowcase shape.  You can't tell much by the hand of the fabric.  Some sacks contained chickenfeed and could be a looser weave.  Some that carried flour would need a tighter weave to hold the small flour particles.  The thickest bags I have once contained fertilizer.  The one thing that will remain constant is that they will be made of cotton.  Most people who have been quilting a while can easily tell the difference in cotton and a blend by touching the fabric, but there are more scientifc tests if you aren't sure.  Unfortunately those can be damaging the the very fabric you want to test.
In an intact feedsack, you will have one corner that is slightly curved.  This is the edge where the stitching is.  The other edge is just the natural fold of the fabric so that if you remove the chain stitching you will have 1 large continuous piece of fabric.
Here is the top of the bag.  You can see the thick white string that is keeping the bag together.  That is the chain stitching. 
Here is the inside of the bag where the stitching is visible. 

Here are my 4 intact feedsacks.  I have laid them with the left edge matching up and as you can see, there is a huge difference in size.  This is due to the different materials they contained.   Most of my full feedsacks are about a yard worth of fabric. Size isn't a great indicator of whether or not something is a feedsack, but it can definitely rule out something that is one continuous piece of fabric that is many yards long.    The most accurate indicator is the stitching.  Since most sacks will not be intact like the ones above, let's look at the holes left by the stitching.
Along the edges (except the top) you can see a line of holes where the stitching once was.  At the bottom corners you can see the holes follow a curve instead of a ninety degree angle  Each hole looks like you poked through the fabric with something about the width of a thumbtack.   

Feedsacks were not made with near the quality of today's quilting cottons.  If you pick up a feedsack or feedsack pieces that have the same silky quality as a current quilt shop cotton, you're being sold a reproduction.  These fabrics are widely reproduced even though it isn't always advertised as such.  Many of the Flea Market Fancy prints are 100% feedsack reproductions.  Many other designers use feedsacks as a jumping off point or they just copy outright- Denyse Schmidt, Amy Butler, Glenna Hailey, Judy Rothermel, Sandy Klop, and many many more popular designers.  This isn't considered unethical in the fabric industry, but what IS wrong is when a reseller takes those reproductions and tries to pass them off as originals.  Arm yourself with knowledge so you can enjoy either the originals or the designs they inspired without getting taken advantage of.   

Next your feedsack finds!

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