I’ve been looking forward to this letter since I started this series! Feedsack Fabrics! You can see all the previous posts from A to E by clicking here. I really do love vintage fabrics. So one day I was checking out the vintage fabrics at a thrift store and came across some bagged up scraps that looked familiar. From my own research I was pretty sure I had come across some feedsack fabric scraps. (This post contains affiliate links)
What Are Feedsack Fabrics and Why Are They So Popular?
I think part of the popularity of feedsacks (besides the cute designs) is the connection to history, to frugality and to a simpler way of life. Housewives and farmers’ wives had long recognized the value of a feedsack. Since the late 1800s, these enterprising women had been repurposing the plain cotton sacks that held flour, sugar and other bulk products….into diapers, dishtowels and more.
Smart manufacturers took note of this and began to print the feedsacks in colors and patterns. It was a hit! All through the Depression and WWII, clothing and home furnishings were made from these colorful and varied fabrics. Feedsacks were used to make clothing, toys, curtains, accessories, and when garments and items had worn out…the scraps were used in quilts.
Since several feedsacks were required to make, say a dress, a farmer would be sure to choose his sacks carefully. Buying, selling and trading of sacks happened often among the housewives themselves. Farmers who had an excess of sacks (from chicken feed, for example) could sell them back to the store or to peddlers who would in turn sell them to women eager to have them.
Manufacturers of the sacks were right there…feeding the frenzy and taking advantage of it. They hired designers and competed with each other to make new designs. National sewing contests showed off the new designs. Manufacturers printed some with borders that were perfect for pillowcases. Some feedsacks had patterns for toys and small items printed right on the sack. They even started making the fabric available by the yard.
Also helping out were magazines and pattern companies. They printed small leaflets and articles on what to make from feedsacks and how to make them. You can see an example here:
Sewing With Cotton Bags (reprint)
So all of that to say…feedsack fabrics were popular and prolific. The interest in them has continued. Which is why we want to talk about them today! Quilters and seamstresses collect the fabric still. Some collect the fabric…full feedsacks and scraps…just for the sake of collecting. So what do we need to know?
How To Identify Feedsack Fabric?
This can be kind of tricky but once you see one or two, you’ll start to catch on. Plus there are some resources that can help, which I’ll get to in a minute.
A lot of the pieces I’ve come across (such as in the bags I mentioned earlier) have a courser weave…but that is not always the case. As mentioned..food like flour and sugar would require a sack with a tighter weave.
One main identifier is the fact that feedsacks were sewn shut. So on a full feedsack there would be one edge where the seam was picked out and there will be fairly large stitch holes. Sometimes on a scrap piece you can see these holes as well. This piece below shows the stitch holes fairly clearly.
Full feed sacks roughly measure 36″ x 44″.
Here are a couple tips for delving deeper into this area if vintage fabrics interest you:
*Go on Pinterest or Flickr or Etsy and search “Feedsack Fabrics”. You’ll see the multitude of designs and start to get a feel of what you’ll be looking for.
*Join the Facebook group Feedsack Friends. After I found my stash, I joined that group and received lots of great help. (Psst..I even sold a few pieces straight away to people in the group). Many talented creators and collectors in that group.
*A few of the members of that group have written books that are available on Amazon. Here are a couple.
Vintage Feed Sacks ~ Fabric from the Farm
Feedsack Secrets – Fashion from Hard Times
What to Keep in Mind for Selling
Feedsacks and feedsack fabric can be sold on Etsy or Ebay. (any selling site, really, where it fits the requirements). Another option is through Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Sites. You can search for B/S/T groups for fabric or sewing or quilting. Here are a couple:
Feedsacks-Treasures from the Past
Vintage Fabric Buy Sell Trade!!
We Sew Retro Buy Sell & Trade
You’ll want to mention whether your feedsack is whole. Give measurements and show pictures of the stitch holes. Obviously, if you are just selling a piece, give those measurements as well. Full feedsacks will sell for the most money and can many times be sold individually. Scraps can be lotted up..either in one large lot or smaller lots by color. Sorting by color will help quilters who are looking for certain colorways.
Feedsack BOLO Alert!! Some of the most sought after feedsacks are cross collectibles. There are DISNEY themed feedsacks such as Cinderella, Davy Crockett, Mickey Mouse and Alice in Wonderland. Movies such as Gone with the Wind were also portrayed. Also popular were nursery rhyme themed sacks with characters like Little Bo Peep and Humpty Dumpty.
In addition to the themed sacks mentioned above, any type novelty print feedsack will be more sought after and will fetch higher prices. Cats, dogs, farm animals, scenery, landscapes…are all ones to pay special attention to. I’ve seen full novelty feed sacks sell for over $100.
The popularity of feed sack prints of course has meant that there are reprints and repros. If you find a piece of fabric with a promising print, be sure to check the selvedge (the edge of the fabric). If you see a modern company printed there, it’s a repro. May still be sellable…just don’t claim it’s vintage. My baggies of scraps had a few repros like this:
So next time you’re at that auction or estate sale…check out the fabrics in Grandma’s quilt…those very well could be feed sack scraps. Better yet…see if her fabric stash is still there and find yourself some feedsack fabric!
Thanks for joining me for the letter F in our Selling Vintage A to Z series. Stay tuned for the next letter. To be informed of new posts in the series plus other tips, tricks and BOLOs please sign up for our newsletter!