IOWA’S FARMER’S DOTTER
It’s Iowa. Iowa is full of farmer’s daughters. But there’s only one Farmer’s Dotter.
No. It’s not a typo. And you won’t find any farmer’s daughters jokes here.
Brenda Weed, proprietor of Farmer’s Dotter, is the daughter of an Iowa farmer. But her business is nothing to joke about.
Two miles west of Bedford, sits a ten acre farm surrounded by corn fields, gardens and lush greenery. In the midst of this patch of nature, Brenda’s home is filled to the brim with quilts of all manners. Completed quilts, new quilts, vintage quilts, feed sack quilts, and supplies that could have a person quilting until infinity it seems.
With room available in her home, and the quilting knowledge acquired over 35 years, Brenda opened Farmer’s Dotter, as a quilting retreat about five or six years ago. A large sewing room provides plenty of working space and two guest rooms filled with an abundance of quilts, has sleeping space for up to nine women. Two days and nights filled with stitching, comradery and good food in an atmosphere dedicated to quilts.
When women aren’t coming to Bedford to spend a weekend with their quilting friends, Brenda travels to them. Five different trunk shows showcase the treasures she’s accumulated over the years, as she shares her quilting knowledge with the crowd. She speaks on: Feed Sacks & Recycling, May the Peace (Piece) of Christ be With You, Antique Quilts, Decorating Seasonally, and Baby – Baby (doll size, baby and table toppers).
Brenda’s favorite quilts are those that are vintage quilts and those that look old fashioned. She loves to hand quilt in an orange peel pattern. Feed sacks that she’s gathered, from estate sales and auctions at home and in her travels, fill every nook and cranny not filled with quilts.
There are feed sacks like this California girl has never seen in her life! When I had the pleasure of staying at Farmer’s Dotter for three nights, I purchased two of her feed sack kits to bring home and savor. Meant to create a small wall-hanging with the vintage squares of feed sack, I’ve used mine for several other smaller craft projects. The other squares, I just pull out and spread out on my desk, enjoying the colors and prints of these fabrics from so long ago.
Goods such as food staples, grain, seed and animal feed were packed in fabric bags since the mid 1800’s. They were initially made of canvas, then as mills began weaving inexpensive cotton, suppliers began using it.
Recycling is not new. Thrifty women, in a time where nothing was wasted, began using these cotton sacks for other uses. Dishcloths, clothing – including underwear, nightgowns and diapers are just a few of the items created from this available fabric.
Around 1925, sacks started to be made from gingham fabric. By around 1930, manufacturers were using a wide variety of prints in their feed sacks. Competition got tougher as companies discovered that women were influencing which products were purchased based on the fabrics the bags were made of. It took three sacks of the same print to make one dress. After many years of the sack sizes being of varied sizes, in 1937, President Roosevelt standardized the size of feed sacks. A 50 pound feed sack was 34 x 38 inches. A 100 pound feed sack was 39 x 46 inches.
New technologies available in the mid 1940’s provided a means to package commodities in sanitary paper packaging for only a third of the cost of the cotton feed sack bags. Feed sacks became scarcer and was rarely used as we entered the 1950’s. An era had come to an end.
Until now, for those of us that enjoy and appreciate the nostalgic ‘good ‘ole days’. We relish these pieces from the past, the colors, the patterns, the pieces of history we hold in our hands.
And then, there’s the Farmer’s Dotter, where these sacks from so long ago are reinvented into beautiful objects to treasure and enjoy.
Do you have any stories about ‘the good ole days’ that you’d like to share? Contact Trisha Faye at firstname.lastname@example.org