Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Corn Couture

I have to share my latest find and project with you all. This one really excites me!

It's (drumroll)...a feedsack!

I stumbled across this in one of the antique stores Paul and I were in while at the Amanas. I couldn't believe the pristine condition it was in - not faded, not stained - almost perfect. And it was on sale! So my mind immediately began whirling to figure out how to display such a cool remnant from the past.
I ended up buying a dowel rod, having Paul cut it down, and then stained it and glued some finials on either end, strung jute around the ends, and hung it on our back door. I just love it!

It's a nod to Paul's and my farming backgrounds. Although, to be honest, most legal citizens of Iowa don't have to comb through too far back into their family trees to find a farmer. This IS Iowa, after all - land of the tall corn! My Grandma and Grandpa Abben bought a farm in 1952 (Denver, Iowa) when my mom was 4 years old. She still remembers moving out there. That was Grandpa's love. He still had to work a full time job at a concrete company, but he lived to farm. When they eventually sold it in the late sixties/early seventies and moved to town Grandma said he'd come home every night from work and cry in the basement because he missed the farm. So the next year they bought the acreage in Waterloo that they lived on until they died in 2003. My Grandma Abben's father, John Busker, was a farmer after immigrating from Germany around the turn of the century. I think Grandpa's father farmed, too, after also immigrating here. In fact, that's how Grandma and Grandpa met. In his late teens and early twenties he would hire himself out to area farmers and I believe the story is that he was hired to either work for Grandma's father or one of her relatives.

There's a lot of farmers on Paul's side of the family, too. When he was a teenager, his parents bought several acres and they farmed that for awhile. That experience instilled in Paul a deep love for the land and if there was a way to do it now, he'd be a farmer himself. When I met him he wore a huge John Deere belt buckle and favored flannel shirts. He got rid of the buckle (thankfully) but still prefers flannel! I often refer to him as a "thwarted farmer." Those of you that have been to our house can attest to Paul's huge John Deere collection that has somehow made its way into almost every room of our house. That's not all of it. He has tubs more out in the garage and shed that we just don't have room in here for.

So while we don't farm ourselves (it's almost impossible to enter the field of farming - most, if not all, young farmers are in the profession because of inheriting land or working alongside their dads and grandfathers who purchased the land generations ago) our love and appreciation for the practice runs deep.

And I thought having a feed sack hanging on the back door would be a cute way of paying homage to that.

I could write an essay about feed sacks, alone. I showed my mom what I had purchased and she exclaimed, "Oh, my mom used to sew my clothes out of these things!" I didn't remember her ever mentioning that before but I've read plenty of similar accounts. When I was ironing the sack, I, in fact, noticed bleaching instructions printed at the top. According to what was printed there, just washing in hot water will do a lot to fade the print. The feedsack manufacturers deliberately used ink that could be washed out because they knew farmwives turned the sacks into clothing. Now, I have never seen one of these, but I have read accounts of sacks that came printed with designs, specifically for the purpose of re-manufacture into clothing.

You know, I love glitzy and glamorous stuff - sparkly jewelry, nice perfumes, hair dye, and racy undergarments, but deep down - deep down, I suspect I'm just a country girl!

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