Even though I have a fabric store and love all the new patterns and colors of new fabrics, I also love the original feedsack fabrics. The feedsack story began in the early 1800's.
Supplies of grain, seed, flour, and sugar originally stored and shipped in tin boxes, and wooden boxes and barrels. But handmade wooden boxes and barrels leaked, and tin rusted damaging the product. They were also bulky and heavy to transport.
Manufacturers began to ship grains, sugar, and flour in cloth bags of homespun linen that was considered junk fabric. Most of the first original feedsacks were made of a reusable heavy canvas fabric. Farmers would bring the empty sack to the mill for refilling. The sack had to be stamped with the mill brand in order to use for refilling at that particular mill.
North East mills began to weave inexpensive cotton threads or plain white cotton cloth with a mill brand on it that would wash out when laundered. Farm wives began to use the clean, washed, cotton bags to make diapers, dish cloths, nightgowns, and other household uses.
When manufacturers found out how women were reusing the bags, they began to print sacks in various small prints and solid colors to be used by farmers' wives in clothing. The flour industry consumed the largest share of the feedsack market, followed next by the sugar industry, followed by feed, seeds, rice, and fertilizer.
Feedsacks were used to make clothes, dolls, underwear, pillowcases, diapers, curtains, tablecloths, towels, and dishcloths. At the beginning of World War II, cotton rationing began in order to make uniforms for soldiers and people were more than willing to give up their cotton in support of the war effort.
Manufacturers began to package products in heavy paper bags which proved to be cheaper than cotton. During war time, quilters began to cut up old clothing made from feedsacks to use in quilt making.
I love to flea market and I am always looking for original feedsack fabrics. The most collectible sacks are Disney themes such as Davy Crockett, Cinderella, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy; movie themes such as Gone With The Wind and Buck Rogers; and nursery rhyme themes such as BoPeep, and Humpty Dumpty. So watch for those fabrics when you flea market. They are a hard to find but a valuable commodity.
I found this Dresden Plate quilt top in a flea market for $25. The plates are made from original feedsack fabrics and sewn onto 12.5" cuts of white feedsack from Godchaux Sugar Company sacks. Godchaux stopped packing sugar in cotton bags in 1939. I brought it home and quilted it and it is one of my most prized quilts.
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