Sunday, April 27, 2014


The Artist's Wife Sewing - Hans Heysen

The Flour Sack

author unknown
When I was just a maiden fair,
Mama made our underwear;
With many kids and Dad's poor pay,
We had no fancy lingerie.
Monograms and fancy stitches
Did not adorn our Sunday britches;
Pantywaists that stood the test
Had 'Gold Medal' on my breast.
No lace or ruffles to enhance
Just 'Pride of Bloomington' on my pants.
One pair of panties beat them all,
For it had a scene I still recall-
Harvesters were gleaning wheat
Right across my little seat.
Rougher than a grizzly bear
Was my flour sack underwear.
Plain, not fancy and two feet wide
And tougher than a hippo's hide.
All through Depression each Jill and Jack
Wore the sturdy garb of sack.
Waste not, want not, we soon learned
That a penny saved is a penny earned.
There were curtains and tea towels too,
And that is just to name a few,
But the best beyond compare
Was my flour sack underwear.

Two Women Sewing - Howard Logan Hilldebrandt
Sundays with Larry

Print Feed Sacks

Feed sack cloth
Livestock feed was sold in cotton print feed sacks in the 1950’s. I don’t know which company or companies came up with that idea, but it certainly was a terrific marketing strategy. I’ve heard people say that they grew up thinking that Purina Feed Company was the largest clothing manufacturer in the world.

Feed sacks & Feed sack Dresses
There were many very colorful and very beautiful patterns. They were used for clothes, curtains, dish towels, sheets, pillow cases, aprons, and I don’t know what all. Farm ladies made dresses and aprons from them. Every farm kid growing up then had shirts or dresses made from feed sacks, and we were proud of them. One of my favorite shirts as a kid started its life surrounding a hundred pounds of livestock feed. After all, how many kids got to go to a feed store to pick out a shirt or a dress? That was a real treat!
The retailers probably were not too happy with this development. The farm ladies selected the print they wanted, often needing a particular matching one to complete a garment. And, of course, the one they selected was on the bottom of the pile. I wonder how many times some of those stacks of 100-pound feed sacks had to be moved just to get the particular fabric pattern that a lady wanted.

Rainy Day on the Farm - Jeff Merrin
In the summer, feed stores are busiest on rainy days. I’ll bet some rainy days, they had to move and re-stack all their feed dozens of times. How they kept their patience in moving all those 100-pound sacks of feed is beyond me!

Feed Sack Dresses
Some time in the late 1950’s the sack dress became the big high fashion rage. What the fashion industry didn’t know was that farm ladies had been wearing sack dresses for years! And the sack dresses that they made were certainly much more attractive than the new high fashion ones.

The country music star Jeanne Pruett of “Satin Sheets” fame told a beautiful story about feed sack clothes. Her mother had made her a new dress for Christmas when she was 10 years old. It was very beautiful, made from a cream colored fabric with tiny yellow daisies on it, a fabric that began its life surrounding 100 pounds of feed. Jeanne was very proud of it and couldn’t wait to go back to school to show it off. But a boy from a neighboring farm had on a new shirt, another Christmas gift, made of the very same fabric. 

(One would think that any parent giving a boy a shirt with tiny yellow daisies on it had to be at least a half bubble off plumb - many patterns had stripes or checks and were much better suited to boys’ clothes. But it may well have been the only fabric they had.)
Feed Sack Clothing
It was obvious to everyone that both garments had been made from feed sacks. They were both teased unmercifully all day and spent much of the day in tears. When Jeanne got home, her mother asked her how the other kids liked her new dress. 

Feed Sack Dress
Jeanne, with amazing sensitivity and maturity, simply told her mother how pretty everyone thought it was. She never told her mother how badly she had been hurt. That was her Christmas gift to her mother. How ironic that Jeanne went from wearing feed sack dresses to become famous for singing the song “Satin Sheets!” She can now buy designer clothes and all the satin sheets she wants.
The Feed Sack Dress

The Dressmaker - Charles Webster Hawthorne - 1920

.....The thrifty farm wife quickly discovered that this cotton bag was a great source of utilitarian fabric to be used for dish cloths, diapers, nightgowns and other household uses. Manufacturers decided to take advantage of this and started offering sacks in various prints and solid colors as a marketing ploy to create loyalty. It would take three identical sacks to make a dress, for example, and the farmer just might be induced to buy more that way.
 It was not hard for the farmer to purchase his goods in feedsacks. The flour industry consumed the largest share of the feedsack market with more than 42 percent. Sugar was next with 17 percent followed by feed, seeds, rice, and fertilizer. These feedsacks came in different sizes, and the quality of the cloth varied with the item it carried. Sugar sacks, for example, were much finer in weave. By 1914, sacks came in 10, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 pound sizes, although these sizes varied by manufacturer. President Roosevelt standardized sizes in 1937. A 50 pound feedsack measured 34 x 38 inches. A 100 pound sack measured 39 x 46.

The First Stitch - Francis Day
From the manner in which a woman draws her 
thread at every stitch of her needlework, 
any other woman can surmise her thoughts.
Honore de Balzac

Coat of Many Colors
Written and recorded by Dolly Parton.
Reached #4 on the U.S. country singles charts.
Dolly Parton - 1971 
The Flour Sack
Buttons and patches and the cold wind blowing,
The days pass quickly when I am sewing.

Author Unknown
Young Girl Sewing - Jozef Israels
 Colleen B. Hubert
When girls' dresses were made from flour sacks...

In that long ago time when things were saved,
When roads were graveled and barrels were staved,
When worn-out clothing was used as rags,
And there were no plastic wrap or bags,
And the well and the pump were way out back,
A versatile item, was the flour sack.

Pillsbury's Best, Mother's and Gold Medal, too
Stamped their names proudly in purple and blue.
The string sewn on top was pulled and kept -
The flour emptied and spills were swept.
The bag was folded and stored in a sack
That durable, practical flour sack.

The sack could be filled with feathers and down,
For a pillow, or t'would make a nice sleeping gown.
It could carry a book and be a school bag,
Or become a mail sack slung over a nag.
It made a very convenient pack,
That adaptable, cotton flour sack.

Bleached and sewn, it was dutifully worn
As bibs, diapers, or kerchief adorned.
It was made into skirts, blouses and slips,
And Mom braided rugs from one hundred strips.
She made ruffled curtains for the house or shack
From that humble but treasured flour sack!

As a strainer for milk or apple juice,
To wave men in, it was a very good use;
As a sling for a sprained wrist or a break,
To help Mother roll up a jelly cake,
As a window shade or to stuff a crack,
We used a sturdy, common flour sack!

As dish towels, embroidered or not,
They covered up dough, helped pass pans so hot,
Tied up dishes for neighbors in need,
And for men out in the field to seed;
They dried dishes from pan, not rack
That absorbent, handy flour sack!

We polished and cleaned stove and table,
Scoured and scrubbed from cellar to gable,
We dusted the bureau and oak bed post,
Made costumes for October (a scary ghost),
And a parachute for a cat named Jack,
From that lowly, useful old flour sack!

So now my friends, when they ask you
As curious youngsters often do,
“Before plastic wrap, Elmer's Glue
And paper towels, what did you do?”
Tell them loudly and with pride don't lack,
“Grandmother had that wonderful flour sack!”

Full Feed Sack

The only place where housework comes 
before needlework is in the dictionary.
Mary Kurtz

 Satin Sheets
Reached #1 on the Country charts
and #28 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Spent three weeks at #1.
Jeanne Pruett - 1973

Women derive a pleasure, 
incomprehensible to the other sex, 
from the delicate toil of the needle.
Nathaniel Hawthorne 
The Scarlet Letter 

The Sewing Girl - Mabel Frances Laying

1 comment:

  1. I sure remember the feed sack but can not remember If I ever had one but with 5 kids to raise I very well may have one!!!JMC