Vintage Feed Sacks

I am always on the lookout for old feed sacks on my garage sale and flea market days. I don’t find them very often. I have made only two projects so far from them, the hat and skirt I showed last week. Feed sacks are an important part of textile history and were produced in Europe as well as the US. I almost feel bad cutting one up to make something from it but that is what our grandmothers would have done, right ? Waste not, want not ! This article is focusing on the American style feed sack. Don’t get me wrong, I love the European style as well. However, the striped European grain sacks that are so popular with collectors are too thick to be made into clothing items. To read about the striped grain sacks read this article I wrote a while back.

Here is a brief history of the feed sack from Amy Barrickman. This is an excerpt from an article on Burdastyle.
“In the early 1800s, due to an advancement in the quality of the materials and their construction, the manufacturers of staples such as grain, flour, sugar and animal feed transitioned from shipping in boxes and tins to, instead, cotton canvas bags. With the introduction of this new cloth into the home, thrifty women everywhere began to reuse the cloth for a variety of home uses – dish towels, diapers, and more. The bags began to become popular for clothing items as well. Realizing this recycling trend was here to stay, the manufacturers began to print their cloth bags – or feedsacks – in a variety of patterns and colors, assuming that they could sell more feed and seed if their feedsacks were desired by more women than their competitor’s.”

In the 1920’s 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.&nbsp During World War 2, feed sack sewing was considered patriotic and sewing itself was enjoying a resurgence as well.
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 for Amish and Mennonite communities, small mills, and the tourist industry.
Over time, the popularity of the feedsack as clothing fabric increased beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, fueled by both ingenuity and scarcity. By the time WWII dominated the lives of Americans, and cloth for fabric was in short supply due to its use in the construction of uniforms, it was estimated that over three and a half million women and children were wearing garments created from Feedsacks.”
Above  is a feed sack quilt cover I found at a garage sale this past weekend. On the right is a chenille bedspread also bought at the yard sale. Grand total for both : $ 8.00.
My outfit made from feed sacks.
Have any of you ever made anything out of a feed sack?
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  1. Blooms And Bugs says

    Love that skirt. And I’ll definitely link up to you on Saturday. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Vintage Girl says

    that’s wonderful. I guess I have never seen them large enough to make a skirt out of. Maybe I haven’t found the right size one. I really like the skirt. I sent a message back to you about my blog, hubby is looking into it. Sorry for that! You look wonderful!

  3. Rebecca says

    The prints found on feedsacks are so cute! I haven’t run across too many either, and have never bought one. Usually if I find any at estate sales they’re the size of scraps. I did come across 6 or 7 entire boxes of them at an estate auction once, but they sold for $100 a box! Some older man became angry that others were bidding against him and screamed out $100 when the current bid was at a reasonable $30 or so, won the bid, and bought all of them for a few hundred dollars.

  4. Mary says

    I love feedsack fashion, though have not used them in my own sewing. Nice blog-I’ll be back.

  5. Sew Country Chick says

    Rebecca, That’s a funny story. Sounds like that old guy ruined the fun for everyone!I was luckky to find that quilt top.

  6. yarndiva says

    Hi I came over from Patternreview and am enjoying reading your posts. Nicely done.

  7. says

    how surprised I was to see the picture of the 2 ladies in the feed sack dresses…The one on the left was my mother, Her name was Forest McMahan and the other was Alice Gerfers..Both from San Antonio,Texas..I have a copy of the National Geografic that it appeared in…She and my sister and I all wore feedsack dresses..You made my day..

  8. Jessica says

    Very cute skirt! I am preparing to make myself a dress in the next few days. My grandma gave me a box of older flour sacks that she had saved (score!), and there were 3 big green gingham ones, just perfect for a dress. My mom also saves them for me. They have an historic flour mill that still uses cotton sacks. They make the cutest little girls’ dresses, don’t they?

  9. says

    I am helping my mother sell some of my grandmother’s things since she passed a couple years ago. My grandmother has hundreds of old grain/flour sacks. Some have logo’s on them, some have designs/prints, and others are just plain white. Any guidance on where I can sell these?

  10. says

    Selling grandparent’s estate. Have hundreds of vintage sacks, some plain white, some with nice print designs, others with logo’s. Any guidance on where the best place to sell these are? And how much they are worth?

  11. vernell says

    I have about a dozen old feed sacks that belonged to my mother. They are the heavier off white with brand names on them. I am looking for a project to use them if you know of anything. Thanks for your help.