Feed Sacks Binding Project

"This project began with a very generous gift from Janine Vangool, the publisher and designer of Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric written by Linzee Kull McCray. Ms. Vangool shared fifteen unbound copies of the book in with different binders who were tasked with creating unique covers based on the contents. The results are a variety of bindings using various covering materials, bookbinding structures and ornamentation techniques." — TODD PATTISON



The culture around feed sack fabrics really inspired me to create something that would highlight the various levels of design and craft that emerged from this commodity. Many of these fabrics were reused by women as a means to create garments for themselves and their families. With so many families reclaiming these fabrics, companies caught on and began to dye the fabrics and print beautiful patterns. Some fabrics were even printed with embroidery guides for objects likes dolls.


In addition to this element of renewal and craft, I was also struck by the language and graphic design used on the feed sack labels. For the design on my binding, I chose to recreate a paper label through hand embroidery. This label is wrapped around an authentic feed sack fabric.


Bound as a 3-Part Bradel binding. The spine is covered in handmade Katie MacGregor paper in purple. Boards are covered in vintage fabric with a hand embroidered Japanese tissue wrapper. Embroidered with cotton floss. Red leather wrapped endbands. Endpapers are handmade Katie MacGregor paper in aqua and Hook Pottery paper in pale pink.


WENDY WITHROW Feed Sacks special binding 1.jpg


Woven through the history of the feed sack are ideas that are often of less value or prevalence in the 21st century… frugality, resourcefulness, conservancy, economy, and preservation. Feed sacks served a function, while also bringing beauty and design into the home. In designing my cover for Feed Sacks, I wanted to give a nod to the many ways in which these lovely, practical materials were used and reused and used again. Once emptied of their original contents, feed sacks were sewn into aprons or dresses. Scraps were used to make curtains or quilts. Even thread was recycled and reused to sew new household items.


In my binding, I repurposed a scrap of a feed sack to make the endsheets, endbands, and the apron that weaves through the cover. The quilt in the background is pieced together using a cotton broadcloth and pieces of feed sack cloth from a sausage manufacturer, Delicious Brand. For the title, I cut a linoleum block and printed it in black ink on broadcloth, which I then sewed onto the cover using reclaimed red thread from the Delicious Brand feed sack.


See more on the Feed Sacks Bindings project website.


UPPERCASE Feed Sacks Encyclopedia of Inspiration.JPG

The specially bound Feed Sacks books will be on display at the Iowa Quilt Museum next year as part of a Feed Sacks exhibition curated by Linzee Kull McCray. 

The Feed Sacks book can be purchased from my webshop and I have a few limited edition books packaged in a contemporary dress-print sack. Perhaps you'll be inspired to sew your own special fabric cover for the book!

Feed Sacks dress print sack UPPERCASE.jpg

True Blue by Linzee Kull McCray

Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric  is available in the  shop  as part of the Encyclopedia of Inspiration set or as an individual book.

Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric is available in the shop as part of the Encyclopedia of Inspiration set or as an individual book.

Readers will know Linzee Kull McCray's writing from UPPERCASE magazine where she has been a regular contributor for many years. She is also the author of the first book in the Encyclopedia of Inspiration, Volume F: Feed Sacks. Recently, Linzee has experienced what it's like to be on the other side—not as researcher, writer or reporter of the fabric and craft industry, but as curator and designer of a product. Her new collection of blue-hued feed sack reproductions was debuted at the recent Quilt Market and will be in stores next April. Let's find out how her fabric came to be!

This photo shows the original feed sack swatches (two of which didn't make it into the final line). It gives you an idea of how close the Moda fabrics come to the originals.

This photo shows the original feed sack swatches (two of which didn't make it into the final line). It gives you an idea of how close the Moda fabrics come to the originals.

"Last winter the folks at Moda called me and asked if I'd be interested in designing a line of feed sack fabric. I've written for Moda for several years, but was surprised (and delighted) by the suggestion. Moda's design director Cheryl Freydberg simply said to choose fabrics I loved—no easy task, given the thousands of feed sack prints! I decided to focus the line on a single colour in homage to the feed sack swatches I studied while doing research for our book at the Briscoe Center of American History at the University of Texas. I'd fan page after page of the glorious swatches, all carefully preserved in colour order, on the desk in front of me. It was heavenly!

All but one of the feed sacks I used as the basis of the line are part of my personal collection—one was from Moda's substantial collection. The print with squarish flowers was my first choice—it reminded me of my 1960s childhood in southern California (hence that print's name—Flower Power). Next I chose the graphic Starburst pattern, then a plaid because it makes great garments and quilt binding, and then fabrics of a smaller scale and several that included accent colors. At the last minute I found the big red rose pattern—I love its drama. I sent the folks at Moda my swatches and full feed sacks and they reduced the scale of a few of the patterns to make them more "quilt-appropriate" and some colours were lightened or darkened to make three colourways. 


In the tradition of feed sacks, I've stitched everything from embellished dish towels and pot holders to baby bloomers and adult skirts to quilts with Feed Sacks: True Blue. It will be available in stores in April.


My favourite comment so far has been "It doesn't look like a line of fabric. It just looks like someone collected beautiful feed sacks." I love that, because that's exactly what it is!"


Congratulations, Linzee!

Feed Sacks book exhibition

Thank you to everyone who came to the studio on Sunday, November 27 to celebrate the arrival of Feed Sacks: the Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric written by Linzee Kull McCray. All pre-ordered books have been sent out now—it is exciting to see them starting to arrive around the world! (If you didn't pre-order, the book is shipping from our fulfillment warehouses, but without the limited edition cloth sacks packaging.)

Feed Sacks: Afternoon Tea and Book Party

This Sunday, November 27, the UPPERCASE studio will be transformed into an exhibition of gorgeous vintage feed sacks. Join us for tea and some sewing with feed sacks in celebration of the release of the Feed Sacks book. Books purchased in person come packaged in a dress print sack and make a beautiful and unique gift!

UPPERCASE studio, second floor of the Devenish Building
Suite 201b, 908 - 17th Ave SW

Almost there!

Truly incredible, we're almost at my launch goal of $60,000 in pre-orders... fully a month before my timeline of the end of May!

The Early Bird pre-order pricing ends tonight, May 1, at midnight! Save $20 off the 3-volume Encyclopedia set while supporting the project in this pre-order stage. Full details over here.

Here's a gorgeous stash of Feed Sacks on loan from a Calgary quilter. Looking forward to photographing each lovely pattern for the first volume of the Encyclopedia.

Here's a gorgeous stash of Feed Sacks on loan from a Calgary quilter. Looking forward to photographing each lovely pattern for the first volume of the Encyclopedia.

Announcing... a big, beautiful project!

I'm so excited to share with you this new multi-volume book project:

the UPPERCASE Encyclopedia of Inspiration!!!

So you might be asking... "An encyclopedia? What do you mean? Who prints an encyclopedia in this day and age?"

Good questions!

When I'm working on UPPERCASE magazine, there are always topics that I come across that I wish I could dedicate more time and pages to. Ideas that are larger than what a magazine can hold. People and projects that I know UPPERCASE readers would love. Ideas that percolate in my head and grow into something bigger, broader and better... until I can't help but admit that I've got another book idea on my hands! The Encyclopedia concept is a framework for unifying seemingly unrelated topics into a cohesive editorial vision.

As avid readers of my magazine and previous books will know, I have a soft spot for outdated, analogue artifacts like typewriters and vintage textiles. Good old-fashioned encyclopedias are steeped in a similar nostalgia for me. Can you imagine the fun and excitement of a salesman coming to your home to sell you a set of books? Or of cutting out a coupon in a magazine and sending away via mail order for your first volume?

This project is a new take on the notion of an Encyclopedia. Each volume will be a full creative exploration of a particular topic, released in whimsical order. (You can arrange them alphabetically on your bookshelf if you're so inclined!) They'll be beautifully produced and printed and each book will be designed to fit within the set. I know how much you love collecting UPPERCASE magazines for their beautiful shelf presence and timeless content—the volumes in this Encyclopedia will be similarly covetable. So who commits to printing a multi-volume Encyclopedia these days? UPPERCASE does!

It's also open-ended. There is no shortage of inspiring topics to be explored and I look forward to adding more volumes to the project over the years. For the launch edition, I'm working on three volumes: FEED SACKS, a pattern sourcebook written by Linzee Kull McCray;BOTANICA, a fascination of all things floral through art, craft and lifestyle; and STITCH•ILLO, artists and illustrators telling stories through stitching and textiles. 

"How're you going to fund this? Why not Kickstarter?"

Curating, writing, editing, designing and printing a book is an expensive process. The editorial and production costs will average $35,000 per volume. My goal is to raise $60,000 towards these costs by the end of May.

Although I debated using Kickstarter, I know that you—my dear readers—are the folks who will be excited about this project the most. And we're in this together, it's not all or nothing like Kickstarter. I'm committed to making these books! Plus with all the experience and systems I have in place from my previous book projects, launching this on my own makes it easier in the long run. The enthusiasm of UPPERCASE readers has motivated me for the past seven years and I know you'll continue to do so. Thank you!

So please show your support for the project during this early making phase. Feed Sacks in underway and slated for publication in October. Botanica and Stitch•illo are also in progress and I'll announce their anticipated publication dates soon. Full descriptions are on the project site.

Support the Encyclopedia project by pre-ordering the first 3-volume set at the Early Bird price of $100 ($145 outside North America). The prices include shipping of the three volumes. The price will increase to $120 in North America and $165 outside of North America after May 1. 


"Can I get published in the Encyclopedia?"

Yes! Involving my readers is one of the joys of curating content for my projects. There's no entry fee to submit, please visit the Participate page to find out how you can submit your work for consideration.

So, that's what I've been working towards these past weeks... and some of these book concepts have been years in the making. There's even more detail over on the project launch site. 

It's exhilarating (and scary) to put this out into the world at last.

Thank you for your support!