The Flour Sack Apron

The Gold Medal flour sack that someone sent me.

I’d heard about people making clothes and quilts from flour and feed sacks.  I’d seen some of them in the Gee’s Bend quilts and even had a few that people sent to me.  But the sacks I was aware of all had the logo of the company and what they originally held printed on them.

It wasn’t until someone sent me an apron made with a red and white clover print and told me she had made it in high school with fabric from a flour sack.  She was embarrassed because all the other girls in her class had fabric they bought at a store.  It was the last thing she ever sewed.

Robin bought one of my Kitchenware Potholders that  I made using some of that red and white fabric and left a comment on my blog about her own experience making the same kind of apron.

“I believe this is the potholder I just ordered from you, and knowing the story of its origin brought back my own memories of making that same apron! Mine was gingham and introduced a lifetime of sewing for pleasure!

Then Deena sent me this message:

My mom and grandmother sewed clothing out of flour sacks. My grandmother made all her dresses and aprons from the flour sacks. My mom made all my clothes from the beginning from flour sacks. I had some very pretty dresses that mom made and I had three younger sisters that used them after me. My mom is now 94 and in the nursing home. She still remembers sewing all the things for us.”

After reading these two comments I was intrigued enough to do a little research online.

It seems the first record of a feed sack made into a piece of clothing is from the early 1800s. It was in 1925 that a company called Gingham Girl Flour began making flour sacks using a good quality cotton and having them printed in different colors and patterns knowing that women would buy them to use to make dresses after the flour was used up.

By the 1930s so many companies were making printed four sacks, that women would shop for flour looking for specific patterns.

In the article How Depression-era Woman Made Dresses Out Of Chicken Feed by Rebecca Onion, she quotes a disgruntled shop owner who preferred to sell feed, not fabric.  “Years ago they used to ask for all sorts of feeds,” this salesman grumbled. “Now they come over and ask me if I have an egg mash in a flowered percale. It ain’t natural.”

Flour and feed sack dresses were encouraged by the US Government during  WWII when cotton was rationed.  According to Wikipedia, it was known that a 100lb feed sack was just over a yard of fabric and it took four sacks to make “one adult woman’s dress.”

After the war feed and flours sacks were mostly made of paper.  The few that were still being made with fabric ended in the 1960s.

It was after reading about flour and feed sacks that the four sack with the paper Gold Medal label that someone had sent to me finally made sense. I always wondered about it.  Now I could see it as a cute kid dress or even more simply a pillowcase.

I imagine it’s a commemorative flour sack from 1980 since it boasts “100 Years of Baking Success” and the company was started in 1880.

I’m not sure how I’ll use the flour sack, but however I do, it will be with the awareness of the rich history it’s a part of.

My Teacup Potholder that Robin bought.  The red and white clover fabric was from the old apron made from a flour sack.

4 thoughts on “The Flour Sack Apron

  1. We 4-H kids probably all made aprons, gathered skirts, and who knows what else from feedbags during the late 1940s and early 50s. They were easy to come by and if you “ruined it” you hadn’t paid good money for the fabric. I remember going with my mother to the GLF feed store in Greenwich and checking the stacks of feedbags to see if there was a particular design we wanted. Fortunately, by the time I was in about 6th grade, we had enough money that we could buy “real” fabric for a dress for me, or better yet–maybe actually buy a dress already made! And as we teenagers got better at the sewing machine, we ventured into organdy and dotted swiss and plaids….

    1. Thanks for sharing your story with us Harriet. I love to hear these. Our personal stories are so much more than what the history books tell us.

  2. I so enjoyed this post as both a quilter and am apron collector it hits all the right cords. I have been fortunate enough to buy a few lovely feedsacks at a local quilt show a few years ago, lovely floral prints the colors bright, fabric soft. I haven’t used them yet I suppose just having them is like holding onto a bit of history, but reading this post has me rethinking holding onto to them and may be it’s time to pull out the scissors and patterns.

    1. Deb, I’d love to see what you do if you decide to use them. It is funny how now the flour sacks have a preciousness to them. I think they deserve that.

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