Feedsack secrets

Feedsack Patterns

Feedsack pattern pamphlets

What better way to persuade fashionable women in the 1920s through the 1950s to buy your product than to encase it in recyclable novelty and floral fabrics?  Flour, meal, sugar, and other grains and dried goods were and always will be a necessity, and in the olden days, were often bought in 25lb to 100lb sacks (we’re talking Costco status).  The larger sacks were generally used for farm animal feed and involved day trips to the feed store for the farmer and his wife so that she could pick out the feedsack fabric that caught her eye.  Along with a stylish dress pattern, naturally.

Farming Family Wearing Feedsack Fabric

Farming family wearing feedsack fabric

Although farmers were historically resourceful, the Great Depression caused an upsurge of frugality throughout the working class population as well.  Dipping wages, limited available quality fabric, and an increase in home sewing inspired companies across the nation to market their feed by sprucing up their sacks and promoting fabric recycling.  In turn, a widespread phenomenon of turning feedsacks into dresses, curtains, laundry bags, underwear, and quilts, amongst other things, took the middle class households by storm.  This clever marketing campaign and the use of increasingly ornate and artisan patterns resulted in the thrifty home-sewer vying for feedsack fabrics as if they were trading cards.  Adding to the demand was the fact that the largest feedsack was only approximately 36″ x 44″, thus making it imperative that a woman procure at least two, if not three, identical feedsack fabrics so that she could make a day dress proper for visiting family and friends.

Feedsack Dresses from the 1940s

Feedsack dresses from the 1940s

Feedsack Dress from National Museum of American History

Winner of 1959 'Cotton Bag Sewing Contest'

With the end of the 1950s, came the rise in employment and wages and the decrease in the cost of paper production.  Unfortunately, feed companies now found it more lucrative to case their product in paper, rather than cloth.  Thus, the popularity of feedsack clothing dwindled to nonexistence.  You can still find many vintage feedsacks in near pristine condition all over the internet in gorgeous and sometimes…interesting prints.

Feedsack Novelty Print
Feedsack novelty print

Though, keep in mind that feedsack fabric is not the frugal fabric it once was.  The average vintage full feedsack will run you around $10 – $40 these days, depending on the print, and remember, you need at least two to make a plain dress.  Oh rising economy, you are so bittersweet to us penny-pinching homemakers.

toujours. always. xo.


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