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    

Lot 25 Large Pcs Vtg. Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing All Differen PatternsSmall Geometric On Yellow Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Vintage Feed Sack Flour Sack Cotton Quilt Fabric /7 Pcs./ 2 Lbs.Vintage Grain Sack Salt Sack Fabric Authentic Floral On Pink Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton FabricPink Green Floral On Yellow Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton Fabric Tiny Floral Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Fabric Brown GreenVtg Feedsack Fabric ~ Over 2 Lbs Of Imperfect Feedsack Scraps - Great For RepairLot Vtg Feed Sack Cotton Material Fabric Quilt Scraps Asst Sizes ColorsVintage Bright Blue Red White Green Pink Flowers Feedsack FabricLot Vintage Feedsack Cotton Quilt Squares & Dresden Plates Over 500 PiecesHuge Lot Vintage Feedsack Fabric, 500 + Squares 2 1/2 - 6" Florals, Novelty Floral On Navy Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton FabricLot 40 Pieces Vtg. Feedsack Cotton Fabri 6"x3" All Different PatternsVintage Feed Sack Feedsack Lovely FloralLot 35 Pieces Vtg. Feedsack Cotton Fabri 6"x4" All Different PatternsPolka Dots On Blue Vtg Feedsack Cotton Fabric Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Juvenile Novelty Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton Fabric Horses & Teepees Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Crafts Cotton FabricVintage Feed Sack Feedsack Pink W/ Green Floral FramesColman Colman's Flour 100 Lb Feed Sack Feed Bag Fabric 2 Full Vtg Feedsacks Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton Fabric Light Pink SackformNovelty Full Vtg Feedsacks Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Bows W. Lollipops Floral Full Novelty Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Fabric BlueVintage Yellow, Red, Blue & White Fruit On Blue Background Opened Feed Sack Lot Of 5 Vintage Feed Sacks Cream Muslin Cotton Fabric ~ Quilting ~ Craft Vgc.Vintage Feedsack Feed Sack Swet Floral Lambs & Flowers Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Fabric NoveltyVintage Feed Sack Feedsack Cute Floral W/stripes SasHuge Lot Vintage Cotton Fabric Feedsack Quilt Squares 1940's 8 Pounds100 Lb Cloth Chicken Feed Sack Early Country Farm Sign Advertisment Owensboro KyFloral On Green Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Crafts Cotton Fabric6 Pc Lot Vintage Feed Sacks - 5 Un-stitched ( Lot # 21)Southern Belle Unopened Vintage Fabric Feed Sack Feedsack Novelty Blue FiguralVintage Feedsack Full Size Purple Orange Flowers Doilie PrintVtg 1940s 50s Feed Sack Cotton Bow-tie Patchwork Quilt Project 80x82 Mach SewnSmall Blue Floral Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Dollclothes Cotton Fabric2 Pieces Of Vintage Feed Sack Material Each 44”x37” Blue Tulips - Fs5253Two 20 Blue Bird Flour Sacks, Flour Not Included, Cortez, Co, UnusedVintage Feedsack Feed Sack Great Floral PatternLarge White And Purple Flower Print, Vintage Unopened Cotton Feedsack 22 X 37Vintage Feedsack Fabric - 8 Piece Printed AssortmentVintage Feedsack Feed Sack Pretty Floral Vintage Feedsack Feed Sack Floral PatternVintage Chartreuse Green Coral Gold White Black Dots Flowerpots Feedsack Bag10 Large Vintage Opened Cotton Feedsack Fabric 100% CottonVintage Feed Sack Feedsack Pretty Floral UnopenedVtg Purple Violets Flowers On Yellow Background Opened Partial Feed SackRanchero Burlap Potato Sack Cowboy & Horse Nice Graphics 100#Vintage White Flowers On Green & White Background Opened Feed Sack Vintage Feedsack Fabric, White And Gray Flowers On Red Background (opened)Lot Of 12 Butterfly Applique Vintage Feedsack Quilt Top Blocks Crafts PatternVintage Bright Pink Flowers Feedsack Fabric Actual Sack BagVintage Feedsack Feed Flour Sack Lots Of Pink Daffodils Teal Tulips UnopenedLot Of 3 Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton Fabric Blue GreenVintage Feedsack Feed Sack Pretty PrintLot Of 2 Identical Full Vtg Feedsack Quilt Sewing Doll Clothes Cotton FabricLot 10 Vintage White Sugar Sacks Feed Flour Cotton Quilt Fabric Material MuslinVintage Feed Sack Feedsack Great PatternVintage Feedsack Feed Sack Lovey Roses