Feed sacks had many uses
July 12, 2011
Our family chose chicken feed and flour by the print on the sacks they came in. There were huge piles of sacks, according to a small girl’s memory. My mother once made a dress for me of yellow honey bee print material. It was pretty and I used scraps to make a dress for Marietta, my doll. I wore that dress in a group picture taken with Great Grandmother. Another dress was a pink print. Some seemed wild, but I chose subdued printed sacks.
Sacks were sewed into shirts for younger brothers. They wore them happily as we didn’t have a choice. New sack clothes that covered us comfortably were fine as were remakes. We didn’t worry about style. We enjoyed the soft cotton material. Our parents came home bringing surprise feed sacks they chose and that was acceptable too. We were glad for their judgment.
Once a seed company put together a style show of clothes made from sacks. I was the only skinny kid that a skimpy little sundress fit. It had bare shoulders with straps. I was not comfortable wearing that outfit. A neighbor laughingly commented to my mother that he could sense by the look on my face I was uneasy wearing the bright sun-dress. Others I wore and modeled with pleasure, but they didn’t make the impression the skimpy sundress did.
My button collection was sewed on pages made from salt sacks that my mother bleached and took stitches out then hemmed. I sewed over 3,000 different buttons in that old book. Buttons were a fun way to relate to other people and enjoy collecting.
Sacks made useful sheets and pillow cases too. It took four big, usually white, sacks for a sheet. I saw one not long ago among my parents’ possessions. They were good sheets and worked fine. Gene’s baby diapers were white flour sacks bleached and hemmed. Aunt Cora grabbed a flour sack diaper to wipe dishes at our house the afternoon after Grandpa’s funeral. That incident provided laughter before all the dishes were rewashed, scalded and wiped again with clean sack dish towels. I have fond memories of the feed sacks which were used for dish towels, baby diapers, my button book pages, straining milk into the separator and for our bed sheets.
String from those cloth sacks was wrapped into a large ball for a multitude of uses. This was a project to get little ones involved with the family work. Our parents’ ingenuity impressed me then and it impresses me more when I realize how they managed with what they had and made a good life for us. Our mother was full of adages like, “Waste not want not” which are still true today. We lived by adages as we made use of what we had, like using every scrap of material, feed sacks and string.