It was 1950 and Momma was in the kitchen wearing her feedback dress covered by her feedsack apron to keep the dress clean. She called for me to run to the store for her because she needed some more jar flats to finish her canning. So away I scurried, down the back side of the hill we lived on, across the highway, through the alley and across the main street to the general mercantile store. This store was run by Mom’s best friend and her husband which garnered some benefits for us.
As I dashed into the store and panted out my request for three dozen jar flats, Mom’s friend said she surely was glad I had come in because I needed to let Mom know that there was a new shipment of feed and her husband would be taking a truck-load of it to the dairy farm the next morning. This meant that Mom needed to get down to the store that afternoon or very, very early the next morning to choose which feed sacks she wanted. I picked out two bags just alike and said those were the ones I wanted. Then I rushed the flats back to the house and excitedly told Mom about the feed sacks and that I had chosen two just alike so I could have a new dress.
Imagine my amazement when Mom told me to get myself back down to the store and pick out three just alike for a dress for her! You see, there was approximately one square yard of fabric in each feed sack and while a dress for my little girl self could be made from two sacks, it took three yards to make a grown-up dress.
Mom’s friend would give us gobs of feed sacks earmarking the ones she wanted for her daughter’s dresses and giving Mom the rest to use for us. I learned to make my brother’s shirts from those feed sacks. Mom made my dresses, and her own, from printed feed sacks and if there was enough fabric I had bloomers to match, if not I had sugar sack panties trimmed with left-over pieces of print so they matched my dress.
Most of the time, the sugar sacks, and flour sacks were white with the name of the company printed on them. Mom worked diligently to get that printing off those white sacks so she could turn them into dish towels, pillow cases, and other useful items. I learned to embroider and to crochet by working on flour-sack pillow cases and tea towels.
There were funny stories about some of the sacks and the printing on them. Because in spite of the efforts of the women who used the sacks, the entire brand label didn’t always get removed. Some women said it didn’t seem worth the bother especially for making undergarments. So we heard some pretty funny stories about undies made with sacks that still had printing that showed. It was told that one young lady who was being courted stubbed her toe and fell before the young man could catch her. She was pretty embarrassed when her feller noticed her unmentionables were imprinted with ‘Southern Best’. Another story was about a woman who made her husband’s under drawers from a flour sack and left the words ‘self-rising’ on the cloth. He got a lot of teasing when folks noticed the drawers on the clothes line.
Yes, we wore feed sacks and were proud of our new dresses. You can still see some scraps of those feed sacks in my old quilts. When we didn’t make our clothes from feed sacks, we made them from Dan River dress lengths. But that is another story.
How old was I in 1950? I was 8 years old.
April 22, 2015
There is a good article about feed sacks at Collector’s Weekly: http://www.collectorsweekly.com/rugs-and-textiles/feedsack-fabric