Nancy Ray is a quilt maker and a quilt collector. Soon after she started quilting more than 30 ago, she saw a string quilt in an antique shop and her interest in this fascinating technique began. She collects old string quilts, and she makes string quilts. So sparse is the documentation about string piecing techniques, and string quilts in general, that she learned about these fascinating quilts largely by collecting and studying the quilts themselves. Portions of her string quilt collection were exhibited at the Vermont Quilt Festival, 2005, and the West Virginia Quilt Festival, 2012.
Raised in East Tennessee, she taught English and home economics before she joined the Army in 1974. She is a retired Army colonel, and served as an Army public affairs officer for 25 years. She is past president of West Virginia Quilters, the state quilt guild of West Virginia, and the past president and a founding member of the Black Forest Quilt Guild in Stuttgart, Germany, which today has a combined membership of 100 German and American quilters.
Nancy Ray has a BS degree from the University of Tennessee in Home Economics and English Education. She is a graduate of the United States Army Command and General Staff College, located at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. She is a member of AQS, The American Quilt Study Group, the Austin, TX, Quilt Guild, and the Wimberley Quilt Guild. She lives with her husband, and several cats and dogs in Hays County, TX, just outside Dripping Springs. She rides a cutting horse for fun.
Feedsacks: A Plain and Colorful History
Feed sacks are beloved by many for their cheery imagery and appealing graphic quality. But the story of feed sacks goes beyond that surface appeal to reveal insights into mid-century rural America, manufacturing, marketing, and the resourcefulness of women.
Feed sacks, also known as cotton commodity bags, chicken linen, and textile bags, morphed from plain white containers to printed sacks over a period of 80-plus years. Once manufacturers realized women were reusing these textiles, they worked tirelessly to create loyalty to the humble cotton sack, emblazoning it with embroidery patterns, hosting feed sack sewing contests with prizes that included automobiles and appliances, and printing them with more than 18,000 different fabric designs.
Author Linzee Kull McCray first heard the story of feed sacks in 2010 and did what any fascinated journalist does—she started reading and writing on the topic. In 2016, working with UPPERCASE, a small publisher in Calgary, Canada, she wrote Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric. Linzee will share the history of feed sacks, along with the story of creating the book with publisher Janine VanGool, and will display myriad examples of feed sacks.
Linzee Kull McCray is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on textiles, crafts, and art. A former writer and editor for the University of Iowa, contributing editor at Stitch, columnist for the French magazine Quilt Country, and regular contributor to the Etsy blog, she continues to write profiles and features for American Patchwork and Quilting, American Quilt Retailer, Quilt Sampler, UPPPERCASE, and Moda’s Cutting Table blog. Her work has appeared in Modern Patchwork, O: The Oprah Magazine, Parents, and Mary Jane’s Farm, and she is the author of the book Art Quilts of the Midwest, which serves as the basis of a June 29 to October 1, 2017, exhibition at the Texas Quilt Museum.
Please bring examples of feed sack quilts and other feed sack items to share.