Monday, September 9, 2013

Feed Sack Challenge

 I love feed sacks!  I've been collecting vintage feed sacks for at least 25 years.  The first ones I bought were in a cardboard box in an antique store in Waynesville, Ohio.  They cost 50 cents each.  Seriously.  And for some reason I didn't buy all of them.
At first, I wasn't sure how to work them into my quilts.  Lots of the patterns and prints were not what I would call pretty.  So for a long time I just saved them.
When I started finishing old quilt blocks into quilts, the feed sacks came in handy to make extra blocks.  I also used them for sashing, borders, and backing.  They fit in perfectly with 1930s and 1940s quilts.
 I started buying more of them, at flea markets and antique stores.  Some of them actually were pretty.  Others had fun novelty prints, like animals, children, fruits, trees, etc.  And, to be honest, some of them were actually ugly.  But in a sort of interesting way.
Before long I had 4 big bins full of feed sacks. I loved to get them out and look at them.  But they weren't very handy, especially for making scrap quilts, which of course are my favorites.
So I started selling them.  I sold a few whole sacks on Ebay, and then I started cutting up the sacks and selling pieces, like 6 in. or 8 in. squares.  At first I only cut up the sacks that were torn or stained.  I would rotary cut strips for the squares, and then cut a few strips in other sizes for me, for piecing.
Having these strips already cut has made it so much easier to use the feed sacks.  It's a lot like the system I use for my other scraps, which I adapted from Bonnie Hunter (see
The small bin in the picture above has my collection of feed sack strips, in sizes from 2 in. to 4.5 in.  These change with time, depending on what I'm working on.

For my current project, I'm challenging myself to use only feed sacks for the whole quilt--top, border, backing, binding.  In the past I've added solid cottons, but not this time.  The background is white sacking, mostly from flour or sugar sacks.
As a further challenge, I decided to use a newspaper pattern from the era when feed sacks were at their height in American quilts, the 1930s and 1940s.
I got the pattern from this great old scrap book.

The original owner of the scrap book pasted the newspaper patterns into the book.  The one I'm using is called Flying Squares.  It's a traditional pattern, first published in the Ladies Art Company catalog no later than 1928.
I'm piecing the blocks on my faithful White Domestic treadle sewing machine.  All I need is a housedress and Glenn Miller on the radio.
Here's what it looks like made up in my feed sacks:

Because this is a traditional pattern, I can give you the directions for it without violating anybody's copyright.  You can make it in feed sacks, of course, or in your favorite scraps.

Flying Squares: (makes a 10 in. block)
Cut 8 squares 2.5 x 2.5 of feed sack material (or any other scraps).  All 8 should be different.
Cut 5 squares 2.5 x 2.5 of white flour sack material (or any other background).
Cut 4 rectangles 2.5 x 6.5 of white flour sack material (or any other background).
Make a 9 patch block with 4 of the printed squares and 5 of the background squares, as shown below.  Press toward the printed squares.  Press the long seams toward the center of the block.

 Add the remaining 4 print squares to the ends of the background rectangles, as shown below.  Press toward the print squares.
 Arrange the block as shown below.  This block requires a partial seam.  I sew the top section to the nine patch first, with a very short partial seam, usually only an inch or so.  Then I add the section to the right of the nine patch, and proceed around the square.  When all the other seams are sewn, I finish the partial seam, which finishes the block.  Press these seams toward the outside of the block.
 Careful sewing and pressing makes the back nice and neat and makes the block lie flat.
As of today, I have 24 of these made.  I think I need 42 for a good sized quilt.  Sew back to work!

May all your days be pieceful.


  1. Glad to see you blogging and sewing again Sylvia,
    Nancy P from down the block.

  2. Hi, Nancy! Hope the start of school is going well for you.

  3. Love your Flying squares...I am just about finished one of my own using jadite green as my strips where used used white. Then to hand quilt...that will take a while as I made mine queen sized. I was wondering if you would share the Churn Dash quilt pattern you have shown here?


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