FLOUR SACKS AND FEED SACKS
by Sherry Perkins
My grandmothers didn't have the luxury
of buying fabric from a store back in the 1920's to
1950' s. Trips to town were few and money was scarce.
They were like so many other farm wives of the day,
who found their needed material from flour sacks and
feed sacks. The women of that era bought flour in
50-pound sacks and emptied it into the flour bin of
the oak kitchen cabinet. There were 25- pound sacks
of flour also in printed fabrics. The larger sacks
were white cotton with the logo of the flour company
imprinted on the material. Grandma would save these
cloth sacks and give them a good washing in bleach
water to dim the imprint. Then she opened the seams
and ironed them flat. These sacks were then used to
set colorful quilt blocks together, to make pillowcases,
petticoats, and even diapers on occasion. When she
cut them for dresser scarves, she hemmed them and
embroidered around the edges.
The most desired sacks came from feed--chicken
feed, hog feed, and feed for cows. Grandpa bought
it from the local Feed Store to supplement the grain
he grew. As with the flour sacks, the feed sacks were
cotton, but they came in colorful, print designs.
If one could get several of the same design, you could
make a dress, an apron, dish towels, sunbonnets, or
pieces for a quilt top. Sometimes the print sacks
would be cut into long strips and made into a rag
The feed sacks which Grandma used were
the 25-pound size as she could lift and handle these
better than the larger ones. It was a special event
to buy the feed as she needed to select prints that
she didn't have or find more of a certain print so
she would have four or five sacks alike to make a
house dress or maybe pajamas. The ladies of that time
period also exchanged print sacks with one another.
My grandma made aprons because a farm wife wore an
apron every day over her dress to keep it clean. She
might change aprons several times a day depending
on what chores she was doing.
As I remember it, these sacks had a
paper label on them that needed to pull off or soak
off before they could be used. Some women would save
the cotton thread that was used to hold the sack together.
After unraveling the thread from the top of the sacks,
they would roll it into a ball and then use it for
These sacks made it possible for the
women to have fabric available to them at a time when
money was not plentiful. Having different prints on
these sacks sold lots more bags of feed and flour
for the companies who promoted the concept.
There are still some of these sacks
available out there in the antique malls and in private
collections. Our Fremont County historical museum
has several treasured ones in their collection.
That which was considered "free"
in the old days, now can sell for $15 to $20 each.
Seeing the designs and colors they used, makes us
appreciate the many choices we have today. An item
made of feed sacks is considered valuable today as
it portrays a day in the life of these strong, resourceful
women of rural America.