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Feed Sacks: A Sustainable Fabric History

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Last week I took advantage of spring’s bounty and picked daffodils for a friend. For transport, I grabbed a tomato can from my recycling bin — the red orbs on its label provided a nice contrast to the yellow and orange blooms. I felt a certain smug satisfaction at my eco-chic styling. But a trip to Ainsworth, Iowa, served as a reminder that my weekly sorting of paper and plastic pales in contrast to a time when recycling was a way of life and a matter of necessity.

The reminder came at Ainsworth’s Community Center, a former opera house built in 1893. On the last weekend of each April, history teacher and collector Michael Zahs festoons the center’s stage and walls with nearly a thousand feed sacks and examples of the quilts and clothing made from them. Plenty of quilters have an obsession with these sacks and quilts, and their nostalgic prints and hues are reproduced in new fabrics. But Zahs told me the reality was that in many homes every bit of fabric — every coverlet, apron, diaper, and bonnet — was first a container for sugar, animal feed, or agricultural seed.

feedsack_zahs.jpg

Micahel Zahs in front of a feed sack quilt in the Grandmother’s Flower Garden pattern.

For centuries, countless items were transported in bulky, wooden barrels and boxes, awkward and heavy to carry and store. Beginning in the mid-1850s, a plethora of cotton made bags cheap to produce and improvements in sewing machine design enabled bags to be stitched tightly shut. Barrels fell by the wayside as goods were shipped in bags, including flour, sugar, seed, animal feed, fertilizer, hams and sausages, and even ballots.

feedsacks_2.jpg

Left: Two women in feed sack dresses, National Geographic, 1947. Right: Instructions from a chicken feed sack.

At a time when many rural families had limited resources, these bags were considered nearly as valuable as the items they contained. Feed and flour company logos were printed with water-soluble inks and removed by an arduous combination of washing and soaking in concoctions that included lye, lard, Fels-Naptha soap and bleach. Thrifty women used the whitened textiles to stitch clothing, curtains, sheets, and towels. Getting the fabric to a pristine state was no easy task and there are stories of the wife who didn’t bother to remove the “self-rising” label from the flour sack she used to make her husband’s underwear, or the young girl who tripped and fell, revealing “Southern Best” stamped on her derriere.

Over time, manufacturers realized increasing the value of the bags could improve profits and started including instructions for removing labels right on the bags. Bags were stamped with stitching lines for reuse as roller towels and with embroidery patterns like the classic “Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Bake on Wednesday” series. Manufacturers hoped ambitious women would convince their husbands to buy additional feed in order to complete the entire set.

feedsacks_1.jpg

Left: Chicken feed sack. Right: Feed sack quilt.

In the mid-1920s, mills started producing sacks in printed fabrics. More than 40 mills made fabric for bags in thousands of different patterns. Instead of printing directly on the sack, factories affixed their logos to easily removable paper labels. A typical women’s dress took three feed sacks; bragging that you were a two-feed sack girl was the equivalent of mentioning today that you wear size 2. Wives and daughters instructed husbands and fathers to buy feed in sacks with particular patterns so they could complete dresses. In addition to overall florals, patterns included border prints (perfect for pillowcases and curtains) and children’s favorites, like cowboys and animals. If the pattern sold well, it might be reproduced as yardage. During the wartime era of the 1940s, feed sack sewing was deemed patriotic and prints with “V” for victory and Morse code appeared. Many “exotic” Mexican and tropical themed fabrics got their start as feed sacks and Mickey Mouse was popular in the 1950s. Plaids and stripes saw a more limited run and solid colors were available during the Depression.

Technological advances during World War II, however, meant that by 1948 more than half the items previously in cloth bags were sold in paper or plastic (cheaper to produce and considered more sanitary and rodent-proof). Cloth bags disappeared over the next 10 to 15 years, though some are still made made for Amish and Mennonite communities, small mills, and the tourist industry.

feedsacks_exhibitioin.jpg

Portion of Zahs’s feed sack display in Ainsworth, Iowa.

In his annual displays, Zahs incorporates household articles made from feed sacks — tablecloths, rugs, men’s shirts, baby clothes, nightgowns, and more. As a child, Zahs wore feed sack clothing and both his grandmothers and mother quilted. Between scouting shops and people bringing sacks to him, Zahs adds to his collection regularly. He proudly showed me the five-pound laxative bags and 31 new feed sacks he’d scored the week before. He says the only way to verify the authenticity of feed sacks is to find the line of holes along a fabric’s border, evidence of the stitching that once held fast its contents.

feedsacks_3.jpg

Left: Feed sack with printed embroidery pattern. Right: Table full of Zahs’s feed sack collection.

In this era of so much choice, of so many options, feed sacks are instructive. From tiny scraps, seamstresses stitched quilts with movement and charm. New materials are a delight, but the challenge of making something new from old, of using up every last bit, is a creative exercise in itself. And a reminder that recycling, far from new or trendy, is the way countless generations survived and thrived.

About the author: A lifelong sewer/knitter and former weaver/spinner, Linzee Kull McCray, a.k.a. lkmccray, is a writer and editor living in Iowa. She feels fortunate to meet and write about people, from scientists to stitchers, who are passionate about their work. Her freelance writing appears in Quilts and MoreStitchFiberartsAmerican Patchwork and Quilting and more. For more textile musings, visit her blog.

More Features From Linzee

  • TwinkleStarCrafts

    TwinkleStarCrafts says:

    Wonderful!

    2 years ago

  • bootmeister

    bootmeister says:

    I love feedsacks! Thanks for the great article!

    2 years ago

  • HoneysuckleLane

    HoneysuckleLane says:

    Feedsack quilts are so cozy and charming! I am thankful to have a few quilts passed down from the women in my family that are made from feedsacks. Thanks for this interesting article! :)

    2 years ago

  • prettydreamer

    prettydreamer says:

    love this post ...thank you!

    2 years ago

  • lorwich Admin

    lorwich says:

    Such a fascinating history. Thank you for this enlightening post!

    2 years ago

  • folkspirit

    folkspirit says:

    Really interesting, I love history in the article.

    2 years ago

  • DecoFamara

    DecoFamara says:

    Amazing. Interesting information.

    2 years ago

  • holstein2011

    holstein2011 says:

    We saved all of our Mother's feed sacks. She had saved them, ironed them, and stored them because we wouldn't let her throw them away. They are over 60 years old. I have made stuffed kitties from some. We have thought maybe we'd make some into aprons. It's the memory that is so precious of that time period and our Mom.

    2 years ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie says:

    Such a great post! Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • hattieshouse

    hattieshouse says:

    Being a collector of feedsacks myself, I know the allure of this fabric and what stories lie beneath each thread. Thank you so much for your article, it resonates with my vintage heart and home!!!

    2 years ago

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    TheLittleRagamuffin says:

    I feel blessed to be the caretaker of some feedsack quilts made by my great-great grandmother and great-grandmother. These works of art help me to feel closer these ancestors I never met. Thanks for this beautiful story.

    2 years ago

  • ThoseThreeWords

    ThoseThreeWords says:

    I loved reading this fascinating history of feed sacks--wonderful article, and lovely photos. Thanks for posting!

    2 years ago

  • SunnyDayVintage

    SunnyDayVintage says:

    I love to see history honored in this way. How poignant that so many commonplace items have disappeared from our daily lives.

    2 years ago

  • sockmonster

    sockmonster says:

    This is wonderful! I craft almost exclusively with recycled materials so this story is close to my heart ♥ People tend to forget that recycling is not just a nice thing to do for the environment but something people have done to survive and flourish for a long time. ~Rose

    2 years ago

  • hankietankie

    hankietankie says:

    great article, there is nothing as inspiring as vintage recycled fabrics! xo

    2 years ago

  • modelarose

    modelarose says:

    Good article. Would like to see more like it.

    2 years ago

  • BagNoir

    BagNoir says:

    Wonderful article! Every time before I cut one of my grain sacks to turn them into a bag a spend few min. admiring it!

    2 years ago

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose says:

    Love this! I have about 500 feed sacks. The ones that were made into dresses, aprons...quilts. I can't bring myself to cut them even though I know they make the nicest/softest quilts. I have one that is a prize....it's Alice in Wonderland and it makes me wonder how whomever printed those were able to get permission to print that design.

    2 years ago

  • GardenApothecary

    GardenApothecary says:

    Great story... I love these feed or flour sacks.

    2 years ago

  • inspiredhats

    inspiredhats says:

    My sister and I loved wearing clothes Mother made from feed sacks that my grandmother had. The fabric was so soft and was comfortable to wear in the years before air-conditioning. Eventually there were 4 female cousins and the competition for the bags became intense.

    2 years ago

  • tangente

    tangente says:

    Wow, I had no idea of the history of feed sacks

    2 years ago

  • adrianaallenllc

    adrianaallenllc says:

    Thank you, Ms. McCray! It's always a good day when we learn something new.

    2 years ago

  • frommylifetoyours

    frommylifetoyours says:

    Love history story. This was so great to read. Thank you

    2 years ago

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace says:

    yep I just made a bedspread out of my grain sack collection see it here http://mittensathome.blogspot.com/

    2 years ago

  • ElvenWreathsJewelry

    ElvenWreathsJewelry says:

    I love this article and I love the variety of these feed sacks!

    2 years ago

  • blueflowervintage

    blueflowervintage says:

    Thank you so much for this little article. As an avid collector and seller of vintage fabric, with a special regard for the lovely homely cottons, nothing makes my heart leap in my chest like finding a feed sack or 2 tucked into a small pile. I would love to make it to Ainsworth, Iowa one April. I love the gorgeous photos too!

    2 years ago

  • SoliDeoGloriaSDG

    SoliDeoGloriaSDG says:

    How different and quite exceptional!

    2 years ago

  • theevasivetwat

    theevasivetwat says:

    This was an awesome article. I had no idea about this (it was never popular in Greece- I don't think they had this kind of material). I wish I had an item made like this!

    2 years ago

  • VanillaGrass

    VanillaGrass says:

    Thank you very much Lynzee for this well writen and informative article.Making something new from old is indeed chalenging but very rewarding :)

    2 years ago

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign says:

    “Southern Best” stamped on a derriere today would be a fashion statement and not hidden under a dress. I love the challenge of creating from repurposed fabric. The blessing today is there are great fabrics that don't scratch. Thank you for sharing this history with me.

    2 years ago

  • Barbarashandcrafts

    Barbarashandcrafts says:

    This is wonderful article! I would love to be able to feel these!

    2 years ago

  • Barbarashandcrafts

    Barbarashandcrafts says:

    This is wonderful article! I would love to be able to feel these!

    2 years ago

  • frenchandgodbold

    frenchandgodbold says:

    We used to make hand sewn dolls out of the flour bags my mum got for her bread making in Australia in the 1970s. This article makes me wish I had photographed them, they were simple but lovely and covered in random elements of labeling.

    2 years ago

  • Peppersplacedesigns

    Peppersplacedesigns says:

    I love feed sacks! Thanks for a great article.

    2 years ago

  • theroyal

    theroyal says:

    love it

    2 years ago

  • pixestreasurechest

    pixestreasurechest says:

    Great read! i believe my mother still has some tea towels made of old flour sacks, possibly made by my grandmother!

    2 years ago

  • ThePolkadotMagpie

    ThePolkadotMagpie says:

    Wonderfully clever blog today. My husband lived in Guatemala for 20 years and has photos of all the "sack clothes" that were made by natives worn with pride. I bought him a coffee sack pillow from an Etsy seller that makes items out of burlap coffee bags.

    2 years ago

  • redhardwick

    redhardwick says:

    Interesting story, thanks for sharing! :)

    2 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Great article, recycling at it's best! I'd never heard of this before but its perhaps something we can think about for our own shops adding value for the sales experience.

    2 years ago

  • Mclovebuddy

    Mclovebuddy says:

    love this!

    2 years ago

  • aquarius247

    aquarius247 says:

    There were five girls in our northern Iowa family during the 1940s and our mother made many of our dresses and underwear using feed sacks. The prints were very pretty and she was able to design our dresses just by looking at those seen in the Montgomery Ward catalog. We never knew we were poor.

    2 years ago

  • onequest

    onequest says:

    I had no idea about the feed sacks. Thanks for sharing this fantastic blog.

    2 years ago

  • nudeedudee

    nudeedudee says:

    Wonderful post on one of America's staples, keeping us clothed for many decades. I make custom vintage inspired clothing from feedsacks for my customers, they really appreciate the history and of course the fantastic designs of these rare items, it's a fun way to make a living!

    2 years ago

  • warmnfuzzies

    warmnfuzzies says:

    Awesome article! I love to purchase the reproduction feedsack prints and make quilt with them. My favorite vintage quilts are those made from feedsacks.

    2 years ago

  • rivahside

    rivahside says:

    I have some treasured feed sack doll clothes my great grandma made my mother in the 1940's. The prints are so charming! Thank you for this fun and informative article!

    2 years ago

  • BingoBox

    BingoBox says:

    Great story Linzee !

    2 years ago

  • mjclowdus

    mjclowdus says:

    What a great way to keep history alive. I love it!

    2 years ago

  • marysworkshop

    marysworkshop says:

    Interesting topic and great article!

    2 years ago

  • SoapForYourSoul

    SoapForYourSoul says:

    great story. Love the recycling and vintage aspects of the whole idea behind his work.

    2 years ago

  • MagpieQuilts

    MagpieQuilts says:

    Great article. I have a quilt made by my husband's grandmother that was made from feedsacks - such a great piece of history.

    2 years ago

  • JuniperHome

    JuniperHome says:

    This is a fab post Linzee! I really wish they'd bring the concept behind feed sacks back - it would be so much more eco-friendly, and it would provide more opportunities for farmers!

    2 years ago

  • polkadotsandblooms

    polkadotsandblooms says:

    Since selling on Etsy I've come across the term feedsack so often and had an idea what it meant but did not knwo the exact story - so thank you - I finally know and what a great piece of history!

    2 years ago

  • chewytulip

    chewytulip says:

    I love that feed sacks were a marketing and popularity "testing ground" to decide on the printing of yardage of textile prints. I bet those companies loved it, too!

    2 years ago

  • QueenofCuffs

    QueenofCuffs says:

    What a wonderful article - it sings to me. To be born a sack and become a dress - or I'm of course thinking - cuffs !!

    2 years ago

  • MouseTrapVintage

    MouseTrapVintage says:

    Loving this! I am having a Depression Era hobo wedding and have been collecting feed sack dresses & quilts for over a year for decor. So nice to see them featured here! Hooray!

    2 years ago

  • QuiltingCabin

    QuiltingCabin says:

    Though I am not so old (yet) I was one of those children growing up in the fifties who wore dresses and shorts etc made from flour and feed sacks. My mother could sew almost anything, so the scraps from our shirts and dresses were used for quilts. thanks for the great nostalgic article!!

    2 years ago

  • MockaMooseMarket

    MockaMooseMarket says:

    This was a fantastic post! I loved seeing and learning the history of the much beloved feed sacks. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with the Etsy community.

    2 years ago

  • FranceGallery

    FranceGallery says:

    Really interesting information on feed sack history!

    2 years ago

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss says:

    Somehow this seems like a perfect symbiotic relationship. I wish we still had fabric packaging to repurpose today.

    2 years ago

  • adelinesattic

    adelinesattic says:

    great history! Of course, as movies like "Kit Kitson" demonstrate, feedsack dresses were not always a source of pride for some in the 1930s, as it suggested poverty and some wearers of feedsack clothing found themselves bullied or looked down upon in some pre-war contexts. What I LOVE is that we now have recuperated the humble feedsack (and garments made with it) as something to be cherished and enjoyed, both from historical and ecological standpoints, but aesthetic ones as well. Last note: I recall that in the 1980s, "sweet sack" shorts were a trend. You could get floursack like fabric from the shop with labels (flour, BEER, etc) overtly printed on it. My grandmother, who was a seamstress who grew up in the 30s wearing feedsacks and drying dishes with saved floursack calico, used to shake her head and laugh when her grandchildren begged her to make bermuda shorts out of the very fabric that, in her day, was a sign of financial restrictions. Funny how it became a fashion statement!

    2 years ago

  • DaHukaHouse

    DaHukaHouse says:

    Nice feature, Linzee. Thanks for all the history. I really love vintage label art.

    2 years ago

  • MarthyMay

    MarthyMay says:

    Loved this article! Growing up in the fifties in a small southern Indiana town, my sister and I loved getting new dresses made from the prettiest of feedsacks donated by our aunt who owned a farm. She had no children of her own and would save the soft floral pieces for my mother to sew simple little dresses for us. What a wonderful memory!

    2 years ago

  • meowadays

    meowadays says:

    amazing article!

    2 years ago

  • trinityrocks

    trinityrocks says:

    Wicked!

    2 years ago

  • lapetiteposy

    lapetiteposy says:

    great article, thanks for sharing!!

    2 years ago

  • MyraMelinda

    MyraMelinda says:

    how fun to recycle!! thanks for reminding us of how times were and how fortunate we are to have these pieces of history...

    2 years ago

  • ValKross

    ValKross says:

    What a great story!!

    2 years ago

  • LeatherheadOriginals

    LeatherheadOriginals says:

    I love learning history like this!

    2 years ago

  • SquidWhaleDesigns

    SquidWhaleDesigns says:

    Very interesting and awesome read! This reminds me of a recent EarthBeat podcast, where they talk about being green in the fashion industry: http://www.rnw.nl/english/radioshow/eco-chic-0 Clothing today is made to fall apart to increase sales and the waste involved in producing a single garment should put us all to shame. Our great-grandmothers really knew how to make something out of nothing. This article also reminds me of the quilts of Gee's Bend: http://www.quiltsofgeesbend.com/ These women made quilts out of anything that came their way out of need, but ended up making some of the most incredible abstract art I've ever seen.

    2 years ago

  • SoundOfHome

    SoundOfHome says:

    What a wonderful history! I love this National Geographic photo. It's really nice.

    2 years ago

  • auntsuesoldnewlovely

    auntsuesoldnewlovely says:

    Fab article about feedsack. I knew little about it before and this was very informative.

    2 years ago

  • HibouCards

    HibouCards says:

    Such a great article, thanks for sharing! that chicken feed sack is so amazing! I also discovered a new term in 40s/50s dresses... the morning glory dress! What a fantastic name :)

    2 years ago

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree says:

    Lovely article, beautiful material and so inventive - great idea! All the best!

    2 years ago

  • orientaltribe11

    orientaltribe11 says:

    great story. Thank you !!

    2 years ago

  • sweetakins

    sweetakins says:

    My grandparents owned a flour mill in a small southwest Ohio town during the Depression. Closed in the early 50's, there were still flour sacks about the place when I was a child. My mom would make play clothes for me from them. Many good memories.

    2 years ago

  • sweetakins

    sweetakins says:

    My grandparents owned a flour mill in a small southwest Ohio town during the Depression. Closed in the early 50's, there were still flour sacks about the place when I was a child. My mom would make play clothes for me from them. Many good memories.

    2 years ago

  • chocolatedogstudio

    chocolatedogstudio says:

    Lovely article! Thank you so much for instructing us!

    2 years ago

  • graphixoutpost

    graphixoutpost says:

    Quite informative, Thank you. My grandparents had many feedsacks from keeping a few horses, cows, goats, chickens in south Louisiana - mostly small floral prints. I'm so happy to still have some of them.

    2 years ago

  • TangoPony

    TangoPony says:

    Great article! I have always heard of feed sack clothing, but had no idea there were so many different fabrics. Thanks for all the information.

    2 years ago

  • FromOldStuff

    FromOldStuff says:

    Enjoyed this article very much......as a rural Iowan, I read with great interest and wished I could have been in Ainsworth. I certainly have a greater understanding of why Grandma Viola treasured the fabric so much!

    2 years ago

  • jnorvelle

    jnorvelle says:

    Wow very interesting - thanks! My daughter is a staff photographer for Food for the Hungry and travels all overthe world. She has photos of women in rural villages in Rwanda that still use grain sacks for clothing.

    2 years ago

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 says:

    Linzee - always interesting articles. This one was fascinating and one I'll share.

    2 years ago

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage says:

    My grand mother made aprons from her grain sacks! Greartarticle!

    2 years ago

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop says:

    Most clothes today really do seem to be temporary and even the fashion magazines not only count on us to discard last years wardrobe but encourage it. Just look at those columns on "What's In and What's Out". This fascinating article pointed out how sack clothing is such a huge part of America's fashion history. Can you imagine us all turning shirt cuffs and collars in this day and age?

    2 years ago

  • sixdegrees

    sixdegrees says:

    My favorite family quits were made from feed sacks and later I played on the feed sacks in my grandfather's store, thought they were not the pretty older ones. Here is my tribute to the feed sack days of old. http://www.etsy.com/listing/60098037/feedflour-sack-dress-for-american-girl

    2 years ago

  • cherryrivers

    cherryrivers says:

    I had always heard growing up about feed sack dresses, but I had no idea that there was so much variety! How innovative and creative of our thrifty ancestors to make such beautiful and treasured items from them. Thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • FreakyPeas

    FreakyPeas says:

    I love this article being a manic recycler myself. My mom tells me stories of her mother saving everything. Even little scraps of string.

    2 years ago

  • backhomeagain

    backhomeagain says:

    The best article I've seen on etsy's blog in a long long time {maybe ever}. what a great article, so informative, so inspiring. Thanks!

    2 years ago

  • notApplicable

    notApplicable says:

    lovely to hear a bit of history ~

    2 years ago

  • calvinandnellie

    calvinandnellie says:

    Another great piece. I think the farm wife purposefully left self-rising on the fabric. I little humor goes a long way and the mister might have found it amusing too.

    2 years ago

  • CottageInTheSun

    CottageInTheSun says:

    Great article! I am fortunate enough to have some of my grandmother's quilts - so many of the feedsack fabrics are just gorgeous! One of them even has a very faded chicken feedsack on the back!

    2 years ago

  • stilettogirl

    stilettogirl says:

    Thanks for sharing this article. The photographs are just amazing and beautiful. I come across feedsacks occasionally but you'll never find any in my shop cause I hoarde them for myself! ; )

    2 years ago

  • battysbath

    battysbath says:

    Thank you fir this wonderful article! My mother grew up in a household where every bit of fabric was reused, valued, and not one scrap went to waste. She's taught us those lessons that were a necessity for her growing up (lessons that have even worked their way into some of my packaging). She'll be delighted with this article when I share it with her tomorrow :). Thanks again! This article feels like a mothers day gift for sure!

    2 years ago

  • mystudio

    mystudio says:

    Lovely article.

    2 years ago

  • go2girl

    go2girl says:

    This was really interesting, enjoyable to learn about this. Thank you.

    2 years ago

  • SugarCubeVintage

    SugarCubeVintage says:

    luv this post!

    2 years ago

  • Iammie

    Iammie says:

    Cool patterns. Love them all.

    2 years ago

  • abizzyb

    abizzyb says:

    This is a new world to me. I grew up in an industrial town in the north of England and haven't any knowledge of these sacks. To read about the history of them is fascinating.....I know all about the history of the area of the Potteries in Stoke-on-Trent where I was born but nothing about feed sacks. Thank you for the article

    2 years ago

  • NakedRatDestash

    NakedRatDestash says:

    Love this article!

    2 years ago

  • blessedvintage

    blessedvintage says:

    love that quilt! And the self rising underware,lol!

    2 years ago

  • orientalbeauty

    orientalbeauty says:

    I like the colors of the filaments, and how amazing the big and huge patchwork.. :) very rich on visual..

    2 years ago

  • beckygarratt

    beckygarratt says:

    This is amazing, I figured stuff like this would have been used again after it's initial use like so much was but I had no idea they printed patterns and such like on them for the purpose of being used again. Brilliant post.

    2 years ago

  • jungledread

    jungledread says:

    wow, I had no idea! Makes me think of the random packaging I've got in a whole new way...

    2 years ago

  • thehappycouple

    thehappycouple says:

    I've made some items out of reproduction feedsack prints that I'm selling in my shop. I'd love to use actual feedsacks but at least the fun patterns are still alive and well.

    2 years ago

  • ikabags

    ikabags says:

    This is amazing !

    2 years ago

  • catnapcottage

    catnapcottage says:

    when my mom was growing up on the farm, lots of the items were indeed made with feedsacks, floursacks and other grainsacks - i guess that is one reason i have a thing for them today - i love collecting them and making lots of them into pillows - piles and piles of them await me in my studio - i love the history of them! thanks for this wonderful post - it is right up my alley!!

    2 years ago

  • SweetOliveSupplies

    SweetOliveSupplies says:

    Great article! I love all the patterns on the printed fabrics!

    2 years ago

  • FreshlySkweezed

    FreshlySkweezed says:

    You learn something new every day! And this article was such an excellent lesson in recycling at it's best! Thanks, Linzee. You're a very talented writer and I truly enjoyed this post!

    2 years ago

  • thevelvetheart

    thevelvetheart says:

    Oh, I loved looking at this article. I've heard stories of my Grandmother making clothes for their family of 9 from feedsacks but it was so nice to see examples! Thanks so much for sharing this!

    2 years ago

  • WeeBeePhotoProps

    WeeBeePhotoProps says:

    I cherish the feedsack quilt my grandmother made!

    2 years ago

  • punkynmunky

    punkynmunky says:

    Nice article! I have a quilt my grandmother made from these fabrics.

    2 years ago

  • hennyseashell

    hennyseashell says:

    wow..amazing story!

    2 years ago

  • jnapper

    jnapper says:

    Thank you so much for this article!!!

    2 years ago

  • ccantiquemall

    ccantiquemall says:

    I fell in love with feedsacks when I was in TN and then again in TX. They can dress up or dress down a room

    2 years ago

  • pinksnakejewelry

    pinksnakejewelry says:

    Amazing article!!! Learned something new!! Wonderful Creations!

    2 years ago

  • TheWildRoses

    TheWildRoses says:

    This is a wonderful post - what our grandmothers and great grandmothers did by necessity, we now are re-learning! Thank you for the informative article!

    2 years ago

  • ginnymae

    ginnymae says:

    Nice article. As someone who has collected and made purses from feed sacks for years now, I am always amazed when I come across one I've never seen before. The detail and colors on some are really remarkable, and the fabric is STURDY. They're a great piece of Americana. Thanks for telling this story!

    2 years ago

  • eringopaint

    eringopaint says:

    Wonderful article - and Fascinating history!

    2 years ago

  • pasturerose

    pasturerose says:

    The history of feedsacks thrills me! If I could find them in my locale, I would collect a whole closet full. The variety of the prints is really astonishing. There is nothing I like better than a vintage feedsack quilt. Great article!

    2 years ago

  • weatheredsilo

    weatheredsilo says:

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful part of history. Some of my upcoming paintings include this topic. Cheers, Mandy

    2 years ago

  • JoSchmoStuff

    JoSchmoStuff says:

    Great article on feed sacks, thanks for sharing! My grandma always had towels that were actually old flour sacks! Loved them, and wish I had gotten some.

    2 years ago

  • MaineCoastEngraving

    MaineCoastEngraving says:

    love this! thanks for sharing!

    2 years ago

  • PiecesOfOlde

    PiecesOfOlde says:

    Linzee, I want to thank you for me being a part of this blog. I had no idea! I've been collecting these textiles for years and making things out of them. Some of them are the best fabric ever made! I will continue to recycle and create usable items from them. They are already here and should be used up 'til they're all gone! Thanks again! Love the National Geographic pic! Great article!

    2 years ago

  • ScrappyTudeStudios

    ScrappyTudeStudios says:

    I absolutely LOVE feedsack! They make me feel happy just looking at them, and using them to create connects me to the resourceful women of our nation's past. I just bought two hand-pieced feedsack quilt tops and am so excited to hand quilt them and keep the "handmade movement" going!

    2 years ago

  • designintime

    designintime says:

    My mother and I have collected feedsacks through the years from Virginia auctions, and we encorporate them in our quilt projects, and I add them to my pincushions. This article was so informative, thank you!

    2 years ago

  • shecological

    shecological says:

    I love the make due and mend mentality! I wish we still had fabric sacks and that more people could actually know what to do with them! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    2 years ago

  • Paper2Roses

    Paper2Roses says:

    Love this article! so interesting!

    2 years ago

  • winkinpossum

    winkinpossum says:

    Wonderful article. Thanks so much for sharing the delightful history of these household workhorses.

    2 years ago

  • debo13

    debo13 says:

    Thank you for the wonderful article!

    2 years ago

  • emwi

    emwi says:

    This is really interesting. I had never heard of feedsack clothes. What a great example of reusing and recycling old material. I love to do that with my own sewing projects today, but often it's from old vintage clothes or table clothes, not something with a completely opposite purpose. I wonder what is produced today that could reused in this same way. I have knitted with plastic bag strips before...

    2 years ago

  • Saxiib

    Saxiib says:

    Wow-I LOVE THIS ARTICLE. I wish I had a feed sack fabric collection. Great information and inspiration!

    2 years ago

  • RoselynnDesigns

    RoselynnDesigns says:

    Love the history behind this. Thanks for sharing.

    2 years ago

  • shop1848

    shop1848 says:

    Love this article! So much rich history with this fabric!

    2 years ago

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez says:

    Very informative article, thank u so much for sharing! What a great way to reuse and such an interesting history of simplicity and thriftness!

    2 years ago

  • EllaBands

    EllaBands says:

    Very interesting. Feed sacks feel so historical and are cool to see!

    2 years ago

  • QueenMumsLace

    QueenMumsLace says:

    Memories! My grandmother's flower garden quilt also contained tobacco pouch material. No doubt the colored bits were from feedsacks as well.

    2 years ago

  • seaoatsdesigns

    seaoatsdesigns says:

    just thinking about the Mothers of the past and how they had to be innovative with whatever was on hand...Salute to our ancesteral Moms!

    2 years ago

  • ChrissiesRibbons

    ChrissiesRibbons says:

    Wow- I knew nothing about this. What a fantastic article and an incredibly innovative idea from a bygone era. I wish there was some sort of equivalent today... fabric seems to be rising in price so quickly!

    2 years ago

  • Steampunkitis

    Steampunkitis says:

    Great story. Love the quilts.

    2 years ago

  • TheFabricVineyard

    TheFabricVineyard says:

    Love this story, and feedsacks, too.

    2 years ago

  • sammysgrammy

    sammysgrammy says:

    Wonderful article. I own a couple very precious (to me) feed sack nighties. The housewives of yore would crochet a bodice from cotton thread, then sew the bleached feed sack onto the bottom edge of the bodice. They never discarded the bodices. When the feed sack bottom got thread bare, it morphed into something else (diapers, dustrags, even sanitary napkins). The bodice was used again and again.

    2 years ago

  • BambuEarth

    BambuEarth says:

    Love the history in this article ! Great photos too !

    2 years ago

  • ZipTieART

    ZipTieART says:

    I loved this article. It reminded me of growing up and saving every little thing - still do save many things. The string from the feed sacks were crocheted into potholders, the feed sacks made into clothes, cup-towels, etc., the food scraps went to the chickens, the egg shells into the flower beds and gardens, the baling wire would repair the garden fence. I think my love for the inventive reuse of materials started back when my brother and I tied wooden spools onto lizards so we could have chariot races!

    2 years ago

  • ohbuckets

    ohbuckets says:

    loved reading this article! a few of my favorite tablecloths were made by my great great grandma - she used flour sacks!

    2 years ago

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna says:

    This is one of my favorite Storque posts ever! Such a great history of the industry and social portrait of a time not so far away. I love the patterns and wish that we could still find lots of feedsack cloth, I just adore that style of dresses. Thanks for the piece!

    2 years ago

  • vantiani

    vantiani says:

    Oh I love this article! Will share it with my mom who quilts now.

    2 years ago

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood says:

    How timely, my young son was reading about the Depression last night and brought forth a tidbit about clothing being made from lovely flour sacks. I will be sure to share this with him tonight.

    2 years ago

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject says:

    What a great article!! Thanks for sharing a little piece of history!

    2 years ago

  • Free2BeMeJewelry

    Free2BeMeJewelry says:

    I will never look at a sack in the same way....thank you for this wonderful article!

    2 years ago

  • picturesofsilver

    picturesofsilver says:

    oh I loved this article; as a teen I used to go through moma's fabric chester drawers, and taught myself to sew during the day while she was at work. I made many an article from feed sack fabric I found in those drawers on my grandmother's pedal Singer sewing machine. I passed happy summers away never realizing the history behind the fabric! thanks

    2 years ago

  • EvesLittleEarthlings

    EvesLittleEarthlings says:

    We had many burlap feed sacks stored in our garage on our family farm. I used to love looking at the pictures printed on them, secretly stashing away the prettiest ones. I completely forgot about this until I read this blog post. We used the bags for lugging around cucumbers, a memory I wish I could forget lol.

    2 years ago

  • collectiblesatoz

    collectiblesatoz says:

    Great story. Vintage is the only way!

    2 years ago

  • HanaMauiCreations

    HanaMauiCreations says:

    Great article reminding us to be thrifty!

    2 years ago

  • WhiteEarthStudio

    WhiteEarthStudio says:

    How lovely. I remember my Grandmother talking about wearing feedsack dresses!

    2 years ago

  • readyruthieoriginals

    readyruthieoriginals says:

    My mother had a log cabin quilt made with feedsack scraps and I have many fond memories of laying on it admiring all of the different patterns. Feedsack prints are hands down my favorite prints of all.

    2 years ago

  • readyruthieoriginals

    readyruthieoriginals says:

    Also I do wish things today were packaged with materials you'd actually want to reuse, and that were biodegradable. E.g. feedsacks, wood crates, etc.

    2 years ago

  • anotherghostquilts

    anotherghostquilts says:

    Linzee - Terrific, as always!

    2 years ago

  • laTeefahDoLLs1898

    laTeefahDoLLs1898 says:

    the plastic bAg killed the feedsack dress! :( i ♥ my feedsax!!!

    2 years ago

  • gretazreta

    gretazreta says:

    How fascinating! I love the idea that recycling is not trendy or crazy, but simply a return to the wisdom of the past. And those fabrics were beautiful!

    2 years ago

  • gilstrapdesigns

    gilstrapdesigns says:

    This is a really great article and I just love feed sack.

    2 years ago

  • theoldewoodstove

    theoldewoodstove says:

    Great story! Really interesting,,,

    2 years ago

  • remixedbyjacki

    remixedbyjacki says:

    Wonderful article!

    2 years ago

  • mirabellamorello

    mirabellamorello says:

    My mother was a child from a large family in the Depression. My grandmother made her own dresses and those of my mother and her sisters from feedsacks. At first, I was so sad, picturing my mother wearing a dress that said "Sugar" or "Flour" on it, but then she explained that my grandmother would only buy the sacks that had floral designs on them so it wasn't quite so obvious (even though most people in their town had to wear the same thing!).

    2 years ago

  • ambersheartart

    ambersheartart says:

    Nice bit of history, I had no idea that people would make clothing out of feedsacks :)

    2 years ago

  • cattuslavandula

    cattuslavandula says:

    Thank you for such a neat article. My southern grandmother had a nice collection of feedsacks going when I was a kid. She bought them for pennies at yard sales in Arkansas. In my 20s (back in the mid 80s) she made a jumper for me; the entire front panel was a feedsack with a huge ad on it. I loved it and got so many compliments on it. Nowadays, I collect feedsack aprons. Feedsacks are a wonderful bit of Americana.

    2 years ago

  • FabulousDuo

    FabulousDuo says:

    LOVE LOVE this article. Our grandmother in Mexico used to make undergarments out of the muslin used to make the packaging for flour (La Piña, which translates to The Pineapple). Oh how we wish we could be teleported to this time of widespread thrift!

    2 years ago

  • laurelbean

    laurelbean says:

    Those quilts are beautiful!

    2 years ago

  • Archivia

    Archivia says:

    I love this article. Feedsacks are one of my favorite vintage textiles!

    2 years ago

  • dylanadesigns

    dylanadesigns says:

    My Mom made my sister and I overalls from there sacks, they were so colourful. I wished I had this to show my kids now. I was so proud to were mine they were skirts instead of pants. This stuff is so beautiful and so timeless.

    2 years ago

  • fripperie

    fripperie says:

    I have a great early '50s booklet from the National Cotton Council on sewing with cotton bags - what patterns are suitable, how many bags you'll need, how to lay the patterns out. Wish i could get my feed packaged this way now!

    2 years ago

  • volcanogirlcreations

    volcanogirlcreations says:

    Great article! In Hawaii it is rice bags or Kona coffee bags..interesting! Aloha!

    2 years ago

  • flowergirl45

    flowergirl45 says:

    When I tell people I collect feedsacks, they think of the burlap ones. Many people don't know their history or that they come in various prints which are quite pretty. I use mine for various crafts. This is a great article and very informative.

    2 years ago

  • rebeccasaix

    rebeccasaix says:

    What an interesting article. I love learning some crafty history.

    2 years ago

  • AtticArtisan

    AtticArtisan says:

    Great history, thanks for the article!

    2 years ago

  • kateblossom

    kateblossom says:

    delightful article- I think my mom made me some feedsack clothes when I was young :> wish I still had them!

    2 years ago

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies says:

    Beautiful!

    2 years ago

  • Surfgirl57

    Surfgirl57 says:

    A wonderfully written, delightful romp through history. How one simple item- a flour sack-- morphed its way into fashionable clothing, bed linen, baby diapers and even wall art. Even an iPad isn't versatile! Another great article, Linzee!

    2 years ago

  • Britgaldesigns

    Britgaldesigns says:

    lovely article.

    2 years ago

  • NitaSketchnStitch

    NitaSketchnStitch says:

    Enjoyed your article! I was one of those little girls that Mom used her feed sacks for, to make dresses. I even helped to embroidery the feed-sack tea towels. I guess that's why I enjoy cross stitching so much now.

    2 years ago

  • refindliving

    refindliving says:

    Oh my goodness, I found a stash of these in a cedar chest about 25 years ago. They were embroidered in a seven days of the week motif. Such workmanship! And never used. Of course I knew exactly what they were since my grandmother bought her flour in these 50 pound sacks. Just last year I decided what to do with them . I fashioned a child's wardrobe, a different outfit for every day of the week. Check it out at my store under "Just for Children" Thanks for sharing the history.

    2 years ago

  • backyardprims

    backyardprims says:

    Great article. Love the vintage feedsacks. I've made a few yoyo coverlets using some old recycled feedsack fabrics. Loved reading more history on the feed sacks. Thank you for sharing the info.

    2 years ago

  • floorartetc

    floorartetc says:

    What a great article! When I was a little girl in the 1950s I remember my grandma making aprons with wonderful ruffles around the top and also quilts with feed sacks on the farm in eastern Montana. This brought back wonderful memories. Billie

    2 years ago

  • girliepains

    girliepains says:

    weeeee

    2 years ago

  • DamselofDainty

    DamselofDainty says:

    This is such a great story!

    2 years ago

  • ssamuels1960

    ssamuels1960 says:

    Fabulous! First off, I love that it's in an old opera house - even the venue is recycled. Secondly - I had no idea anyone ever sold laxative in five pound bags!. Would that be for those really difficult mornings?

    2 years ago

  • DaisybugLane

    PJ Burns from DaisybugLane says:

    I have several feed sacks that my mom has collected over the years. She grew up in the era of feed sacks and often talked about my grandmothers swapping material so they could get enough of one print to make dresses or quilts.

    2 years ago

  • nefreelandhotmailcom says:

    I know of feed sack prints first hand! We used to go with our father to Giffords Feed Store in Sharpsburg, Ohio to pick out the prints we wanted for our gathered skirts in the fifties! I am fortunate enough to have a quilt my mother made from these skirts and treasure for the wonderful memories of my childhood! Thank you for documenting the feed sack history!!

    48 days ago