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Jul 20, 2009 09:38 AM

Flour sacks - who knew?

I was just watching a sewing program which featured a collection of WWII-era flour, sugar, and feed sacks. Turns out that for resource conservation purposes, these were made in various colors and patterns, with ink that easily washed out. The idea was for housewives to unzip the simple chain stitching that formed the sack, and to use the laundered fabric for clothing and household items. These were tight-woven cottons, not burlap. Pattern booklets were included, Some had doll pieces printed on them, to be cut out, sewn, and stuffed, One had drawstrings sewn in, and became an apron when opened up; one was already hemmed and became a dishtowel; another became a tote bag. 60+ years later, these are ecologically-desirable ideas. I would think that a company would boost its sales and reputation if it replaced paper bags with cloth that could be turned into a tote or towel, even though doing so would up the cost of the pantry staple.

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  1. Wow! I have one of these, handed down from an aunt. To me it just looked like a cotton fabric about the size of a very large dish towel with a flour ad on it, but I bet it was one of these. The print and picture are very faded.
    Thanks for the history lesson. And I think you are right that in an age where it seems as if consumers are getting more attentive to their ecological footprint that something like this might sell.

    1. a lot of people have hand-me-down quilts, dolls, towels, etc made from seed & flour sacks in the midwest. some of the patterns were very pretty and the dyes were mix & match for quilters. more info:

      some of the patterns were so pretty that they are still being reproduced today:

      1. I was a WWII history geek growing up (still am, I guess) and made my grandmother tell me stories all the time about getting married, setting up house, and raising my aunt during the war. She still has (and uses) a few flour sack dish towels.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mpjmph

          Wow, I hadn't thought of these for a long time. I am old enough to remember the feed sacks looked pretty disco at the farm store, and all my granny's dish towels were made from flour sacks.

        2. Great history lesson, thank you!

          1. Wow, that's genius. I'm definitely in for a flour sack that turns into a dish towel or even one of those re-usable grocery bags!

            1 Reply
            1. re: AndrewK512

              I think you hit on something there... I wouldn't be surprised to see a flour sack that turns into a grocery bag in the near future.