I love working with grain sacks. The fabric is so full of texture and history. My friend Ann works with grain sack fabric all of the time, and I thought it would be wonderful if she shared some of her favorite grain sack projects with us. Ann is a very talented seamstress, although I’m not sure if that is the politically correct term any more. Here she is!!
Hello…I’m Ann from On Sutton Place and I am so happy to be here today at Anita’s farmhouse. I was very pleased and honored when she asked me to guest post. When we were bouncing around what I would write about, she said something that made the decision very easy. She said “my readers love grain sacks.” That’s something we have in common because I do too. So let’s talk…about grain sacks.
When I first began my love affair with antique grain sacks it was as someone who thought they were out of reach. Surely they were too expensive and hard to find. I would see random pictures of grain sack stacks, or a grain sack upholstered chair and just sigh. It took me a while to figure out why I was so drawn to them. Antique grain sacks had a purpose and consequently, have a history all their own.
Just picture a woman, sitting in her farmhouse, stitching her family’s grain sacks by the light of the fire. The sacks were instrumental in getting a family’s grain to the mill and were personalized so they could be easily identified. Each family had their own stripe design, predominately blue or red. Many times the women making the sacks would embroider the family’s initials along the stripe. Here is a little ornament I made where I was able to include part of a monogram.
Antique grain sacks are a popular design trend and are used in all sorts of ways. As upholstery material, for pillow covers, table runners and various other textile furnishings. I think they are perfect in almost any style decor.
When I opened my online shop, I was determined to figure out a way to obtain the antique grain sacks easily and at a decent price. The easiest place to find them is on sites like eBay and Etsy. I have never found any at the antique malls in my area. If you are really lucky, and enjoy the hunt, you might find them at large antique shows or fairs. Grain sacks are out there…you just have to look, use search engines and spend time online to find them.
The average price for a grain sack in good shape is usually between $40 and $50. Bigger sacks and the ones with embroidered initials go for more. Sacks like the one pictured above with hand writing are amazing finds and can sometimes be less expensive. The rare colors, like yellow or green, are very pricey. Occasionally the actual rolls of hemp used to make the grain sacks can be found. Never used, it is very easy to work with. I have only ever purchased one roll of unused hemp. The day it arrived on my doorstep was truly unforgettable. The tote bag below was made from that roll of hemp.
Before I begin sewing, I wash every grain sack with a pod each of detergent and Oxiclean. I add fabric softener to the rinse cycle and then dry them all the way. It softens them a bit and hopefully takes care of any shrinkage. Depending on the width, sometimes I have to pick out the side seams in order to get the most out of the sack. Once in a while when I get to the bottom there are still bits of grain in the corners. It always makes me wonder about the woman who sewed the stitches that I just took out.
Sometimes I feel a bit sad when I cut into a piece of vintage fabric to “repurpose” it. I try to think of it as giving that fabric a second chance. Grain sacks are not being used any more for their original purpose. Instead of sitting in an attic or barn somewhere, I am lovingly bringing them back to life.
My best advice for sewing with grain sacks is to go slowly. Look at each bag for a while and think about the best way to use it. Once you cut, it’s all over. With each sack I sit at my sewing table and measure the length…several times. I decide what to make that will get the most bang for my buck. Although I love to make pillow covers, this ribbon made from the grain sack stripe is quickly becoming a favorite.
I’m certainly not an expert, but if you have a question about sewing with grains sacks I would be happy to try and answer. I currently have a few grain sack items in my shop, Sutton Place Designs. I’d love for you to come and take a look. Also…here is a sneak peek of what I will be listing very soon.
I’ve been sewing these little stockings since August! They may be petite but they are labor intensive. Totally a labor of love.
It’s Friday, so I’m sharing my friends’ blogs with you.