vintage feedsack love

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I've been at it again- bidding for stuff on Ebay with reckless abandon. I'm accumulating a nice little collection of vintage feedsacks. It's hard to believe today, with our disposable mindset, that things like flour, sugar, salt, and chicken feed used to come in soft cotton bags with the loveliest prints. The label for the contents was a paper band around the sack, but the sack itself was fully reuseable. The most common bag size worked out to be about a yard of fabric. You can make a lot with a yard of fabric.
My mother grew up on a farm in Idaho and remembers making things like cafe curtains, pj's, aprons, and little tops and shorts sets out of feed sacks.
That's her at the very top of the photo. Her cousin, to the immediate right, is wearing the type of shorts set they could get out of a feedsack. I guess midriff exposure was OK in the early '50's! I'm still having her dig for  a photo showing an actual feedsack outfit.
The earliest bags were made starting in the 1840's and were very utilitarian-looking with the label printed on and no florals. The pretty patterns came into being starting in the 1920's when manufacturers became aware that housewives were reusing them for quilts and such. Having the prettiest printed bags gave the feed/flour/sugar manufacturer a competitive edge. Both types of bag are highly collectible today. The bags stopped being produced in the 1960's.
Very few bags survived the Great Depression era when anything that could be reused was, over and over again, until it fell apart. Most bags that you see for sale now were made after the Depression. A bag dating from that time- I'm not an expert, so I wouldn't be able to tell- would be worth considerably more.
Intact bags- bags with the side and bottom still sewn shut- are also worth more. The blue one, above, is intact. I don't know if I can bear to cut it up, even though they were made to be reused and that was my original intent when buying them. Maybe I'll use the ones that have already been cut into for some patchwork skirts for chirp & bloom.
Many old patterns are being reproduced today by quilt fabric manufacturers, but there's just something more cool to me about the originals that I can't quite put my finger on. The texture maybe? It's soft and a looser weave than today's quilting cotton. Or maybe it's just the idea of their former life on the farm. Love!

1 comment:

fancypants said...

My grandmother made pillow cases from floursacks- they were so pretty! I had several- somehow they did not make it to this century. I wish I had preserved one or two- but I loved to use them- they were so soft and pretty! Now I need to look on Ebay. I have been blissfully unaware of the goings on since I moved overseas... :-)

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