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When I finish a sewing project, the last thing I want to hear is “You look like you’re wearing a bag!” but for many women between 1930 and 1950, that was actually a compliment.

Enter feedsacks. At the turn of the century, the cotton industry was booming and sewing machines were on the rise. The bulky wooden barrels that used to hold stuff like grain, sugar, meal, salt and seed were replaced with fabric bags a.k.a. “feedsacks.” At first, these sacks were sewn out of unprinted, unbleached muslin – really not much to look at. But as the depression took hold, many hard-up housewives started using the fabric from the sacks to make children’s clothing, aprons and other necessities, even if the fabric itself wasn’t very exciting.

Marketers and advertisers took note of this trend in the 1930’s and began making feedsacks out of attractive, colorful calico to get these women to buy their bags, and more of them. Heck, one unfolded bag equaled 1 yard of fabric! Getting the prettiest print – and enough of it to make an adult sized dress – became a cut throat consumer competition. I, for one, like to imagine my grandmother getting in a fist fight over the blue and yellow ribbons and bows print to your right.

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There are a bunch of companies today that make reproduction feedsacks but the thread count is too high to really capture the twinky hand of the real deal. You can find original feedsacks – in all their cheap glory – at estate sales, flea markets and on eBay. I’m thinking a blouse with tons of tiny buttons down the front, a couple of pintucks on either side and a peter pan collar. What would you make with feedsack?

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14 Comments

  • Missing

    Sep 15, 2011, 03.50 PMby meherina

    Back in the 70s y grandmother gave me some feed sacks she had amongst her many stacks of fabric and aged, now vintage, items. I made a couple of skirts, one a tiered gathered skirt, mid-calf, from a wagon wheel quilt print, and it moved very gracefully with the perfect drape. The other skirt was a full design, snug at hips with curving panels cut on the bias, made from two colors of the same flower print. I still have the quilt design skirt, although I’m thinking of making it over into an apron since I’ve – ahem – outgrown it! Hey, that was in the 70s! ;-)

  • Mzl_ljixuoxi_320x480-75_large

    Dec 29, 2010, 02.30 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    I’ve always had in my head to make cute little bolero jackets with feedsack..maybe trimmed with rickram..but it’s cheaper to buy a yard or so of a repro with my discount card at Vogue Fabrics and go to town than to troll eBay paying megabucks for an oversized hankerchief’s worth of fabric….

  • 2316_large

    Dec 22, 2010, 03.24 AMby vwbug74

    I have been obsessed with feedsack repros for years. My favorite maker is Judie Rothermel and her line is Aunt Grace. Also, Darlene Zimmerman for Chanteclaire fabrics and her line is known as the “Granny” line. Just type in feedsack reproduction or 1930’s fabric on Google and you’ll find plenty of sites. I’ve used fabric.com and reproductionfabrics.com. I have quite the stash of repro depression fabrics. I’ve also picked up a few quilts & quilt tops from estate sales that are done with original feedsacks. I just love the colors and prints. My absolute favorite type of fabric to use and play with!

    1 Reply
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      Dec 22, 2010, 07.01 PMby eringilday

      This is awesome. Glad you’ve been having so much fun with feedsack repros! I’d love to see some of your projects + some of those original quilt tops/quilts made from the original feedsacks. How neat is that??

      The only ones I’ve come across so far in my second hand shopping have been damaged ones. I have an “adpot a damaged quilt” problem – they all just sit in my closet – so I’ve been resisting the urge to adopt more. It’s just so sad to see a neglected vintage quilt in need of repair at a second hand shop. Who in their right mind would give such a personal family heirloom away?? Who DOES that?!? Boggles the mind.

  • Sd530486a_large

    Dec 19, 2010, 05.15 PMby chaospanic

    This article so reminded me of the gorgeous prints at Liberty of London – I was there once, and was so overwhelmed, I only bought a spool of thread! It really is worth the visit to their website if you can’t make it in person.

    1 Reply
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      Dec 22, 2010, 06.58 PMby eringilday

      Oh sweet! Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely have to check that out. =)

  • Missing

    Dec 1, 2010, 02.16 AMby tijean54

    If you need plain flour sacks Here is a great site for Flour sack towels americanchairstore.com Linen Napkins,Birdseye fabric (high end diaper fabric) lot better price than store.I bought 20 unbleached irregulars for15$ I washed them and they are just right to back old Quilt blocks I have for Pillows or presents coming up soon. I ‘ll get more of the birdseye towels for my 6 sister’s gift’s.I’ll embroider for kitchen of each can not beat the old time feel of good kitchen towels from feed sacks. I hate the soft fuzzy ones they make now that do not dry glasses or dishes.

    1 Reply
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      Dec 2, 2010, 10.02 PMby eringilday

      thanks for the tip, tijean!

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 6, 2010, 05.08 PMby eringilday

    Thanks for the link, KimberleeJean! Sweet site!

  • Amelia_large

    Nov 5, 2010, 04.42 PMby kimberleejean

    Today, Steven & Chris were talking about how in it is to use burlap feed sacks as a textile. I have to admit, I loved the juxtaposition of the burlap against the swanky chairs.

    I found this site for feedsacks: http://dewittco.com/

    I had to quickly click off to keep from getting sucked into looking at the vintage patterns – I have things to do today!!!

  • 35323_1550195117626_1317563306_1450393_3860676_n_large

    Nov 4, 2010, 03.41 PMby eringilday

    Good question, Wendy! I found some awesome authentic feed sacks for sale here: http://www.rickrack.com/new.html and I know that one of the recreation lines is done by Chloe’s Closet for Moda Fabrics and it’s called 1933. It’s pretty cute. If you search for that in Google, you’ll come up with a lot of different fabric stores carrying the line. (Side note: Apparently, Amazon.com even sells fabric by the yard now?? What??)

    Does anyone else have suggestions on where to find original feed sack fabric or good reproductions online? I think I just barely touched the tip of the ice burg.

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    Nov 4, 2010, 03.28 PMby wendymichelle1015

    I’ve had a really hard time finding original feed sack fabric on ebay or elsewhere (it’s always labeled feed sack and then it ends up being polyester) Does anyone have any tips for finding feed sack fabric (or even recreations in cotton) online?

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    Nov 3, 2010, 11.53 PMby eringilday

    Oooo….Heidlea, with an aqua print and a scalloped neckline, how could you NOT bid fiercely? I love the idea of a feedsack quilt, too! I say there is never such a thing as too traditional!

  • 486043_10200326557759449_664517254_n_large

    Nov 3, 2010, 10.02 PMby heidilea

    I once fiercely bid on a feedsack day dress on ebay from the 30s. It was an aqua print and had a lovely scalloped neckline and sleeve edges and big white buttons down the front. I guess I would make a 1930s or 40s era dress, maybe an apron or two—perhaps even a quilt.

    I guess I’m too traditional.

    • This is a question
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