In the mid-19th century, heavy canvas or linen feedsacks (sometimes spelled as “feed sacks”) replaced many barrels and tins for the storage and transport of flour, animal feed, and other bulk goods. The invention of the lockstitch sewing machine, patented by Elias Howe in 1846, made these bags practical for repeated use—the farmer’s name was often stamped on his bag so it could be filled back up. By the late 1800s, textile mills were producing strong, inexpensive cotton, which quickly usurped canvas as the preferred material for feedsacks.

Farmer’s wives took advantage of this new source of essentially free fabric by turning the empty cotton sacks into everything from dishrags to dresses. Some feed companies, alerted to this reuse of their bags, began to print their sacks in gaily colored patterns—since it usually took more than one bag to make a dress, the idea was to give the farmer an incentive to keep buying their products.

One of the many interesting attributes of late-19th and early-20th century feedsacks are the odd weights that were stamped on them. The weight of 196 pounds came from barrels, 98 pounds from half barrels, and so on. Sizes weren’t standardized—100, 50, 25, 10, 5, and 2—until 1943.

Nor were all feedsacks created equal. Those designed to hold sugar, flour, and salt, for example, had the tightest weave. At the other end of the spectrum was a fabric called osnaberg, which had a low thread count and was used primarily to bag animal feed.

At the outset of World War II, there were dozens of U.S. textile mills producing feedsack material, from Bemis Brothers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Percy Kent of Buffalo, New York. Particularly collectible are feedsacks with prints depicting Disney characters or scenes from “Gone with the Wind,” as well as sacks that had patterns on them to help a busy homemaker turn them into an apron or doll.

In fact, by 1942, an estimated three-million Americans wore at least one article of clothing made out of a feedsack, but by the end of the decade, cloths bags gave way to less-expensive paper.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

LACMA Luxury Textiles

LACMA Luxury Textiles

Textile collectors shouldn't miss this microsite from the LA County Museum of Art, a great reference on European an… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage 1940's Feedsack Hexagon QuiltVintage Authentic Cotton Daisy Feedsack On Red GridVintage Feedsack Flowers Blue Background Large SizeFloral & White Bows Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Crafts2 Vintage 100 Lb. Poultry Feed Sack Chicken Laying Mash Elson Co Magnolia Ohio Vintage Golden Loaf Bran Flour Cotton Sack Lake City Minnesota Graphic TextileVintage Flour Sack Primitive Dreikor's Bakery Holyoke Mass. 98 Lbs 43" X 19"3 Vintage Feed Sack Fabric - Blue, Green, Fruit Design Fabric Chicken Feed Vintage 30's-40's Feedsack Fabric Material Pink/blue/red/yellow/green 38'' X 43"2 Vintage Cotton Feedsacks Fantastic Cherry TreeBright Red And Blue Floral Vintage Original Cotton Feed Sack Small Design10 Vintage Feed Flour Grain Sacks Plain White Cotton Sewing Quilts Crafts Lot BBurlap Bags Lot Of 7 BagVintage Full Unopened Pink Floral Feedsack Flour Sack Fabric Xtra Nice2 Vintage Feedsack Halves: Yellow & Green With Little Ovals And FlowersOne Vintage Feedsack Blue W/ Tiny Yellow White Pink Flowers Pristine!!Vintage Hubbards Sunshine Advertising FeedsackOne Vintage Feedsack Red W/ Blue Flowers Clean!Lot Of 5 Vintage Cloth Advertising Feed & Seed Sacks & Other Corn MealVintage Feedsack Or Grain Sack-heavy With Red Center Stripe/still Sewn In SackVintage Feedsack Fabric Dot, Mini Dot FloralBest 56 Vintage Novelty Feedsack Fabric Quilt 1940s Scraps Flour Sack RemnantsVintage Funk Bros. Seed Sack, W/ Orig Tag, Bloomington, Il 15x28Vintage Cotton Print Feedsack Feed Sack Material Large LotVintage Feedsack Fabric, Gorgeous Purple, White Daisy W/red Centers, Pink Bows10 Vintage Feed Flour Grain Sacks Plain White Cotton Sewing Quilts Crafts LotaLot Of 3 Full Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Crafts Doll Clothes Blue 2 Vintage Cotton Feedsacks Colorful Floral With Swirling BackgroundFull Unopened Feedsack: Little Yellow Flowers On GreenVintage Cotton Feedsack Fabric Tiny Pink RosesVintage Cotton Feedsack Small White Floral On Red BackgroundVintage Cotton Feedsack Tiny Flowers On Red BackgroundLot--20 Vintage Feedsack Crazy Quilt BlocksVintage Feed Sack & Cotton Fabric Pieces Lot Quilting - 8 PatternsFull Vintage Feedsack: White Polka Dots On Medium BlueVtg Novelty Lots Of Bows Red Blue Yellow Feed Flour Sack Quilt Fabric CottonVtg Novelty Tiny Cherries On Rare Orange Feed Flour Sack Fabric Sewing Cotton2 Full Size Vintage Feedsacks: Navy W/ Pink & Blue Hearts, White BowsVintage Burlap Red Wing Linseed Oil Meal Feed Sack, Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.Vintage Burlap River Valley Farm Potatoes Sack, Peterson Bros Big Lake Becker MnVintage Lot Of 8 Floral Feedsacks/fabrics For QuiltsVintage Feedsack Flour Sack, Pink, With Purple & White Flowers, Green LeavesVtg Baby Rose Buds Silouetted On Green Feed Flour Sack Fabric Sewing CottonFloral Uncut Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Crafts Dollcloths Red BlueLot Of 4 Full Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Crafts Color Variety 7 Matching Red Striped Vintage Cotton Feed Sacks Will Make Great Quilt BacksBeautiful Feed Sack Lot .... Colorful, Clean & Nice4 Vtg Feedsack Flour Sack Grandmas Flower Garden Cheater Quilt ~ 45" X 36" (7)2 Vintage Cotton Feedsacks Round Red Spiral Designs On NavyVintage Hubbards Sunshine 100lb Cotton Feed Sack Mankato, Mn, Double Sided Nice!Vintage Farm Feed Sacks Chickens! ( 3) 100 Lb Size2 Vintage Wayne Chicken Feed Sacks Lg 100 Lb Faded Country Blue & Yellow Vtg Feed Flour Sack Cotton Quilt Fabric Pink & Aqua Bouquets On Darker Rosy Pink Daisies On Red Uncut Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Crafts DollclothsVtg Cotton Feedsack Fabric Lot ~ 4 Lg Pcs Pretty Pink Blue Flour Sacks 25 Vintage 1930-50s Feedsack Fabric~ballet+ Novelty+shell Buttons BonusVintage Print Feed Sack Fabric Flowers With Design On Red Background4 Vintage Feedsack Feed Flour Sack Green & Brown Squares & Ovals ~ 39" X 35" (6)Vintage Cotton Feedsack Little Purple And Yellow FlowersVintage Pioneer Dependable Hybrid 371 Sf Seed Corn Sack,16x31