Feed Sack Cloth Swatches
Feed sacks bring to mind poverty of the Great Depression but at the same time there is a romance to the idea that women could make something beautiful from something so mundane.
In truth feed sacks were used for sewing well before the depressions and for several years after. The evolution of the feed sack is a story of ingenuity and clever marketing.
Between 1840 and 1890 cotton sacks gradually replaced barrels as food containers. In 1846 the invention of the “stitching machine” made it possible to sew double locking seams strong enough to hold the contents of a bag.
Feed sacks were initially made of heavy canvas, and were used to obtain flour, sugar, meal, grain, salt and feed from the mills. They were reusable, with the farmer bringing an empty sack stamped with his mark or brand to the mill to be filled. Women quickly discovered that these bags could be used as fabric for quilts and other needs.
It took a while for feed and flour sack manufacturers to realize how popular these sacks had become with women. Eventually the saw a great opportunity for promoting the use of feed sacks.
First feed sacks began to be sold in colors then, around 1925, colorful prints for making dresses, aprons, shirts and children’s clothing began to appear in stores.
By the late 1930s there was heated competition to produce the most attractive and desirable prints. Artists were hired to design these prints. This turned out to be a great marketing ploy as women picked out flour, sugar, beans, rice, cornmeal and even the feed and fertilizer for the family farm based on which fabrics they desired.
We usually think of feed sacks being a way women provided clothing and bed coverings during the economic hard times of the boll weevil depression in the south in the 1920s and the Great Depression that followed. But actually printed feed sacks were used for sewing from before these depressions to well after World War II. Even though the economy improved during the 1940s it was necessary to conserve because of the need for war supplies. Using feed sacks for sewing was considered patriotic and women still enjoyed finding attractive prints on feed sacks .One feed sack could have easily made a child’s dress or shirt, and three identical sacks to make a woman’s dress.
Today, Feed Sack Cloth is increasingly rare, and difficult to source.
Choosing Feed Sack Cloth to finish a Needlepoint Project is a wonderful way to preserve American History!
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