Feed Sacks!

As promised last week, my fabric stash!

This summer my mother-in-law gave me some beautiful fabrics.  I was blown away when she told me that they were actually chicken feed sacks!  Her Mom Mom, or grandmother, raised chickens on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and these were the bags that the food came in.  She would empty the bags and then wash and iron them.  My mother-in-law remembers being taught by her mother how to sew a basic hem stitch by making tea towels out of the bags.  Upon finding the box of feed sacks in storage this summer, my mother-in-law remarked that it was like finding a part of her childhood.

FeedStack_All_web

From Feed Sacks: A Sustainable Fabric History | An Etsy Blog

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.

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.

FeedSack_Stack_web

From my research, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if the fabric is actually a feed sack or just vintage fabric.  The best way to tell is to see if there are large holes in the edges of the fabric from the chain stitching.  It get’s even easier to tell if the chain stitching is still in place.  Most of my bags still have the chain stitching like the image below.

FeedSack_Stitching_web

Aside from the feed sacks I have a stash of current fabrics.  What I have is small compared to many, but I have few drawers full of fabric.  Some I have project ideas for and others are waiting for the perfect pattern to come along.  Below is an image of my favorite pieces of my current stash.  Unfortunately, I do not know the names of the patterns and I have picked them up in at least four states so it is hard to pinpoint where they were even purchased!

Stash_web

Tell me, how big is your stash?  Is it housed in just a drawer or two or do you have an entire closet dedicated to your fabric?  Do you have plans for all of it or are you like me and just buy it because it is beautiful?
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13 thoughts on “Feed Sacks!

  1. An Update of Sorts | andpins August 12, 2015 at 7:52 am Reply

    […] which was hosted by the always wonderful Kate Basti. My partner loved vintage so I dug out my feedsacks and went to work on Carolyn Friedlander’s Outhouse […]

  2. MMXV + a Thank YOU giveaway | andpins December 31, 2014 at 4:15 pm Reply

    […] Back: Tan solid Binding: Red and cream feed sack reproduction fabric from my stash (I have an original feed sack in the same print as well!) Quilting: Aurifil 50WT #2310 (cream) Finished […]

  3. Anna Veit December 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm Reply

    YOU made my day! I saw your comment and post about feed sack fabric and couldn’t figure out what in the world you were talking about. After reading your post, I know a little more about a doll sized quilt that I have. My Mother isn’t able to tell me where it came from. My sister and I just assumed it was from dresses we wore back in the 50’s. By looking at the seams, I now know that it was made from feed sacks! That you for explaining a little more about my little quilt!

  4. Round and Round | andpins December 18, 2013 at 9:00 am Reply

    […] up, a Round and Round block made from feed sacks and cream colored cotton. This wall hanging is for my MIL and her husband and most of the feed […]

  5. Tiny Triangles | andpins November 20, 2013 at 8:36 am Reply

    […] to accomplish things. I learned the Missouri Star Method to make these half square triangles out of feed sacks for another work in progress. They are three inches when trimmed. The Missouri Star Method is so […]

  6. Jacqui July 12, 2013 at 6:10 pm Reply

    As an English woman who is just discovering the history of feedsacks, I find this so interesting and moreish! It makes me want to up sticks, leave London and live the simple life! Thanks for your blog – oh, any idea where I could find a basic dress pattern of the era as I would like to make a cool summer frock. Jacqui

    • andpins July 13, 2013 at 5:03 pm Reply

      Jacqui – I don’t know of any basic dress patterns from the era but I am sure that there are some out there! Let me know if you come across any.

      • Jacqui July 14, 2013 at 12:45 pm

        Thanks for your reply, I’ll keep looking! Jacqui

  7. andpins July 10, 2013 at 10:17 am Reply

    Linda – I was told that the feed was a mash so more of a powder. It was like a heavy corn meal. I hope that helps!

  8. Linda Meyer July 8, 2013 at 7:15 pm Reply

    those sacks are beautiful. one thing I am trying to find out is when they ysed these sacks, was the feed foir the chickens pellets or powder? They were haveing a discussion and ask me if I knew.I told my friends to google it and to find out he doesn’t have a pc. thanks for any help on this.

  9. Gift Round Up: Tied Tote Bags « andpins January 16, 2013 at 9:48 am Reply

    […] recycled my vintage, chicken feed sacks into beautiful tote bags! They are perfectly sized for hitting the fabric store or other […]

  10. Magical Effects of Thinking December 5, 2012 at 11:21 am Reply

    What a lovely haul and from someone you know makes it even better. My stash is probably average size. Right now I have it in a old wooden changing table. So there are three shelves and I have it organized by type. then I have a huge Rubbermaid tub filled with scraps. My is not as tidy as your is. I’m trying to be more deliberate when I buy. You know, going in for something specific and then of course leaving with much more. Love it.

    • andpins December 7, 2012 at 10:51 am Reply

      I can never leave a fabric store with just my intended purchase in my hand. Something always turns up that I cannot live without!

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