Your history lesson for today...
During the years between 1840 and 1890, in the USA, cotton feedsacks started to replace barrels, boxes and tins as food packaging for foodstuffs such as flour, sugar, salt and grain .
In 1846, a Mr Hurd, of New York, invented a stitching machine, that could stitch a really strong seam into sacks.
Thus the sacks were strong enough to take the weight of the food.
At first, feedsacks came in plain unbleached cotton and were printed with the suppliers mill name or logo.
Women of the time repurposed these cotton sacks, for their household needs. Money was little, families had to be clothed and other household items had to be made. The women often soaked the feedsacks in bleach, to get rid of the labels.
By the 1920s, manufacturers realised that women were re-using the feedsacks for their sewing projects and so they started printing patterns on the sacks. They also printed their labels on paper, making them easy for women to remove.
By the 1930s, feedsacks really were 'in'! ;-)
The feedsack manufacturers realised that, in the sacks themselves, they had a wonderful sales tool!
By the late 1930s, there was big competition to produce the most attractive prints.
Designers were hired to design these prints.(What a fabby job!)
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 fancied. Some sacks had lovely border prints for pillowcases . Some manufacturers even made printed patterns for dolls, stuffed animals, appliqué and quilt blocks etc.
Here are some more which have been cut open but not used...
This really was ab fab for these thrifty women, who up until then had not had much access to a variety of pretty fabrics!
And so the sacks now had a dual purpose:
Not only would the sacks transport the goods but they could be put to such good use!
(Recycling at its very best eh?!!)
Feedsacks continued to grab the attention of women during the Depression and World War II.
Indeed it was the Depression which created a real demand for bags, as frugal housewives discovered they could reuse and recycle them. Empty bags were turned into boys underpants, children’s clothing, aprons, dresses and everything else imaginable!!
Women even traded feedsacks with each other in order to get a variety of patterns...so swapping just like us bloggers do at times!
In the 1950s, cheaper paper sacks became available, and thus the gradual decline for these bright, beautiful and functional fabrics began. Shame eh?
BUT HEY... FEED SACKS ARE BACK!!
(Well they have been for a while!)
Patchwork and quilting has taken a new interest in fabrics of the past, and feed sacks are back in fashion.
You can still find original gorgeous prints, in a wealth of colours and designs... and even though the fabrics are often worn and well washed, they are soft to touch, and, if occasionally they are a little worn, shabby and frayed, we do not mind as it only adds to their story...and us vintage lovers adore worn, shabby and frayed , don't we?
(Big cheers now please!)
There are some fabulous designs and if I can use these in my crafting then I am well pleased as that's a little piece of history included in my work.
One can only guess from whence my feedsacks have come and in whose hands they have been before mine...but I know they have travelled a few miles to get to me!