Feed Sacks: A History Of Creative Reuse In Thrifty Times

Feed Sacks: A History Of Creative Reuse In Thrifty Times

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Cambria Bold
May 12, 2011

Burlap decor, grain sack style, and coffee bag buckets are definitely an eco trend now, but at the turn of the century—a time when many rural families had limited resources and fabric was expensive—these bags were considered nearly as valuable as the items they contained. While they may have started out as containers for sugar or animal feed, they ended up as coverlets, quilts, aprons, diapers, and dresses, many of which are prized now by collectors for their nostalgic prints, hues, and unique history.

The Etsy blog recently wrote a fascinating article on the history of feed sacks:

In the mid-1920s, 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. During the wartime era of the 1940s, feed sack sewing was deemed patriotic and prints with "V" for victory and Morse code appeared. Many "exotic" Mexican and tropical themed fabrics got their start as feed sacks and Mickey Mouse was popular in the 1950s. Plaids and stripes saw a more limited run and solid colors were available during the Depression.

These sacks are a reminder, as the writer points out, that recycling and creative reuse isn't new or trendy; rather, it's the way countless generations survived and thrived.

Read It: Feed Sacks: A Sustainable Fabric History | The Etsy Blog

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