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Thread: feed sacks

  1. #1
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    feed sacks

    I wonder how the printed feed sack fabrics (used for feed sacks) would compare to the fabrics available now?

    They seemed to hold up well to wear and washing.

    I also wonder if the wealthier people thought that feed sack fabrics were "unsuitable" for them to use.

  2. #2
    Senior Member QuiltingHaven's Avatar
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    I have one grandmother's quilt from the coal mines of West Virginia and one great-grandmother's feed sack quilt created in the 1930's-1940's from the family cotton farm in North Carolina. Both are quilted with string from the grocery packages that were wrapped on their purchases at the farm/coal store. They are well loved. The one from the cotton farm has cotton balls right from the field as the batting. Told never to wash it. So it has been laid out on the lawn in the sun but still have never been used in my home, just on display. Not sure of the batting of the one from the grandmother whose husband worked in the coal mine. They are worn but treasured.
    Busy in Ohio

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    Power Poster ManiacQuilter2's Avatar
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    I have never had or sewn any fabric from feed sacks. I know that EB has used some in her quilts that she has made. It probably doesn't have the chemicals that are used to produce fabric and it has to be well made to contain whatever was placed inside.
    A Good Friend, like an old quilt, is both a Treasure and a Comfort

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    I have a trunk full of feed sacks . I love them I get out and play with them.I have had fun collecting them I taught my granddaughter to spot them and I am going to start a grandmother flowergarden quilt. They have courser weave than todays fabric.I wore bloomers made out white ones dresses out of colored solid and prints. I started school 1940 wearing them but by 1945 we bought ready made.

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    A lot of us raised on the farm would have had an even sparser wardrobe had it not been for feed sacks.

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    I'll bet there wasn't enough wealthy people to make a guess. We used feed sacks for dish towels, underwear, mens shirts, and we made mattress covers with them.LOL DH Mother made a gown that we have. Lasted many, many years. I wish I had a ton of them.

  7. #7
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    I love feedsacks! I've been collecting some lately. I'd like to use them in a Letha’s Electric Fan quilt or even a regular fan quilt or wedding ring design with an all white backdrop.

    The image below (via Imgur) has a quote attached "When they realized women were using their sacks to make clothes for their children, the mills started using flowered fabric for their sacks. The labels were designed to wash out."

    I'm sure nowadays they'd just raise the price...
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    My Machines: Singer Featherweight 221 (c. 1940), Kenmore 158.1430, c. 1926 Free, Singer 66-8 Redeye 1921
    Coveted: Singer Rocketeer, Elna Supermatic (green)

  8. #8
    Super Member NikkiLu's Avatar
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    I just talked to my DH who was the youngest of 10 children - he was born in 1940 and the oldest was born in 1920 - his Mom had a baby every 2 years for 20 years!!!!! Most were born/raised during the depression and they lived on a farm just a few miles out of town in the middle of Missouri. He said that they raised cows, sheep, pigs and chickens and that every Sat. his dad would go to the feed store and bring home sacks of feed for the animals. They had 100 pound sacks - however, in the picture above, it looks like 50 pound sacks. His Mom made sheets and pillowcases out of the white ones. The girls (5 girls and 5 boys) would fight over who got to go to town with Dad and help pick out the sacks as that meant a new dress for a lucky girl. Grandma was a quilter also. I have several of her old quilts that were made out of feedsacks and I believe all of the white used in the tops were feedsacks, as well as the backing. They seems to have held up fairly well, but they are of a very coarse fabric. Can't say the same thing about the bindings though - they are very worn and frayed. Grandma bought denim and made the boys overalls - they did not wear blue jeans he says. He doesn't know if she made the girls "bloomers" and slips or not. But, he said that she definitely did not make the boys their underwear - it was store bought. He said that she made all of the boys shirts out of "manly" prints. He doesn't know if the girls handmade, feedsack dresses were looked down upon by the "city girls".

    Then, after he and I married we had chickens and had to buy feed in feedsacks for them. Now it was in paper sacks. But, about 20 years ago, they came out with printed fabric feedsacks and he bought as many bags that he could. I opened up the sacks, took out the stitching, shook out the corn/feed (outside) and washed them. The fabric is coarse and I still have not used them - they are in a big stack in my closet. They are back to paper now.
    Last edited by NikkiLu; 05-16-2015 at 10:48 AM.
    Nikki in MO

  9. #9
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    Neat feed sack picture.

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    Junior Member ShelleyCS's Avatar
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    I have nothing to add except that it is so interesting hearing those stories. Thank you NikkiLu and Skylark53, and Quiltinghaven and Bignan!

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    My mother would send me to go with my father when he went to buy the feed for the chickens, and I would choose the bags. I would get 3 or 4 the same so that there would be enough for a dress. Later the flour sack would also be in print and because we made a lot of tortillas my dad would buy 100lb sacks. About 10 years ago I donated about 25 sacks that I still had.

  12. #12
    Power Poster earthwalker's Avatar
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    Well, I'm guessing the fabric would be pretty hard wearing....couldn't imagine today's fabric holding up under the stress of containing animal feed, being loaded and unloaded umpteen times and tossed around. Interesting thread.

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    Senior Member Reba'squilts's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for the interesting information about feed sacks. I have a handmade quilt made by my husbands dgm, circa 1920. They always told me it was made from flour sacks. I was a city girl, but poor...lived in the projects after ww2. So we never saw anything like sacks for feed or flour. If someone came to school or church wearing sacks, I sure wouldn't know! I learn so much on quiltingboard.

  14. #14
    Super Member WMUTeach's Avatar
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    It is early Sunday morning and I getting such a sweet history lesson on what REAL life was like in the 30-40's. I know that my grandmother saved feed sacks because in the mid-fifties she made me a dress that I still long to have back. Simple little girl dress, cream, likely muslin, bodice with a little round collar and a full skirt of yellow printed feed sack. I keep looking in the "re-production print" sections of any store I stop at in hopes of finding this fabric. No luck yet but it holds a deep memory for me of my grandmother and her efforts to bless me with a charming little garment for school.

    Thank you everyone for your feed sack stories. I am richer because of your family tales.

  15. #15
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    Don't be afraid to use feedsacks. They wear like iron. We had quilts, sheets, underwear, dresses, tea towels, pillowcases, etc, etc made from feedsacks. They were the basic fabric at our house and my mom could get a near pinafore out of only two feedsacks. I had several.

  16. #16
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    Feed sacks were - for many - the best they could afford - in that time frame!

    I wonder how much the cost of the sacks added to the cost of the feed.
    And how much "better" using paper is now?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by barny View Post
    I'll bet there wasn't enough wealthy people to make a guess. We used feed sacks for dish towels, underwear, mens shirts, and we made mattress covers with them.LOL DH Mother made a gown that we have. Lasted many, many years. I wish I had a ton of them.
    I had similar experiences...my grandmother and mother. I remember going to the grist mill with my grandfather in a horse drawn wagon and picking up the bags of flour and grain and seeing all the bags with cloth designs

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    Thanks Skylark53 for the interesting picture.

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    Senior Member LITTLEOLDME's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bearisgray View Post
    I wonder how the printed feed sack fabrics (used for feed sacks) would compare to the fabrics available now?

    They seemed to hold up well to wear and washing.

    I also wonder if the wealthier people thought that feed sack fabrics were "unsuitable" for them to use.
    I have worn clothes and slept under many quilts made from feed sacks. they lasted for ever. my mom carded the cotton out of the cotton fields for the batting .
    Freedom to speak is a gift ;please don't take it from us..

  20. #20
    Junior Member Madan49's Avatar
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    I grew up wearing dresses and blouses made from printed flour sacks! I was always excited if they let me choose the ones we bought. :-)

  21. #21
    Super Member KalamaQuilts's Avatar
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    I've had a lot of them over the years, both the print and the cream solids.
    The thread per inch is much lower than quilt and fashion fabric, but the thread they were woven from are much bigger, hence the strength and long wearing tradition, and also the itchy results from wearing clothing with coarse thread.

    Win and few lose a few

  22. #22
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    Caption for the photo. "Hey! You like my stash?" lol!

  23. #23
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    Love the picture...never saw a real one. I bet they hold up well!

  24. #24
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    I also grew up with feed sacks for clothing, white for bloomers, and my Mom made all our dresses out of the flowered ones. Years later Mom bought fabric and my sister and I learned to make our own clothes on a treadle machine. Now it costs less to buy ready made. I would rather be quilting any way.

  25. #25
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    This brought back many memories and reminiscences. The speaker at our last quilt guild meeting presented a very interesting program on the history and use of Feed Sacks used for sewing and quilting.

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