Feedsacks (grain sacks, flour sacks, sugar sacks) were, and in some cases still are, used for towels, dresses, curtains, diapers, toys and, yes, underwear! My favorite story about that goes as follows, “One young girl was walking out with her beau when she tripped and fell. Oh, how embarrassed she was when her betrothed noticed her underdrawers imprinted with ‘southern best’ !” Just too funny. This history of these valuable and collectible sacks may not be as funny, but it is interesting.
Farmers have used cloth bags for grain, seed and feed since cloth was available. Early on homespun linen was hand sewn into bags for the grain that was kept for use in the home and for the next year’s planting. These sacks were valuable personal property and often were stitched with the name or initials of the owner.
After the sewing machine was invented in the 19th century, feedsacks were easy to produce and began to be mass produced by the late 1800’s. As the economy became more industrialized, these sacks were used to ship and store grain, feed and flour products. When it became easier for the miller to prefill instead of reuse the sacks, the empty sacks found other uses in the home.
In the 1920’s an innovative manufacturer of cloth bags figured he could sell more sacks if they were decorated to be more desirable for the farmer’s wife. Thus the printed feedsack came into being. Paper labels were applied so that all the fabric could be used.
During the war years, feedsacks allowed women to create things that they could not otherwise afford to buy. This was recycling at it’s best with farmers’ wives fighting over the prettiest patterns. But by the end of the 1950’s,though, manufacturers began to use heavy paper and other material for feedsacks. Patterned ones found today are almost all remnants of the 35 years of production, carefully washed, folded and stored away for use by thrifty farmwives.
You can find feedsacks themselves for sale on eBay and Esty as well as items made from them. They have a big range of prices. I saw a lot of 45 smaller feedsacks on eBay recently selling for around $8. If you want to get really fancy, there are imported French feedsacks that go for well over $100 each. I’ve seen them lately in some decorating magazines made up into beautiful pillows. Trends – another example of recycling. This time it’s ideas. Sometimes fabric companies will reproduce these feedsack prints in yard goods. I have seen some 1930’s feedsack repro fabric from Windham Fabrics recently. Keep your eye out for them.
I found info on this subject at the following sites:
Be sure to visit these sites if you are at all interested in using feedsacks. You will find lots of good advice on identifying authentic feedsack fabric, proper cleaning and storing and a ton of interesting projects.
All the comments we received last week about "Going Green” in crafting were so great that we just couldn’t pick a “best”. So I put the names in a hat and drew one out. The winner is Sandy T.Westernventures. Congrats Sandy!! Your vintage fabric fat quarter will go out to you this week!!