The later half of the 1800’s saw the introduction of farm and food products being shipped in cotton sacks. Usually made from 100% cotton plain weaves, varying in thickness, depending on the contents weight.Â The ones I’ve collected here are all from farm products, in a standardized 100 lb. capacity size.
I found these at the Rose Bowl flea market in Pasadena, CA. and was drawn to them by their amazing graphics. Really strong and bold, with all that beautiful natural weathering (staining, really). Seeing me ogling the art, the flea market vendor was happy to shed some light on the really interesting story behind these pieces (you may already know this, so I hope I don’t bore you).
These particular feed sacks were produced during the Depression era -late 1930’s -40’s. With money very tight and clothing often too expensive for most of middle America, creative mothers resorted to using the feed sack’s versatile fabric to make clothing for their families. Looking at these heavily adorned sacks, one notices the first obstacle in readying it for clothing though- getting rid of the ink so as to end up with nice solid fabric. Wanting to make loyal customers, feed manufacturing companies quickly got on the bandwagon and made the inks all water soluble. They even put ink removal instructions on the sacks.
In the case of many flour and chicken feed manufacturers, the sacks were printed with floral patterns to make them more appealing to girls for dresses. Check out the above 1937 school class picture. Note all the “Feed Sack Dresses”- printed and solid.
So, there you are, a little trivia.
Personally, I love the graphics, faded colors, and all the mending stitches (looks like Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie may have taken a few notes from these!).
If you happen to be out at any flea markets and see some of these vintage feed sacks, please snap a picture or two to send to me- I’d love to see them.