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.