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Valuing vintage fabric (flour sacks)

usersuz | Posted in Quilting and Home Decor on

I stumbled on 14 feed sacks at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago. Four of them had been opened up, ten were intact, all in good to excellent condition, apparently saved over the years by some dear old lady who was going to make something out of them and never did. Mostly florals, no fading, 5 red/pink, 5 blue and 4 purple, a few duplicates. These sacks will yield at least one square yard of material each and could be no older than 1950’s. What a great find, I figure at least two quilts out of the stack. I intend to sell them as a lot, but have gotten a wide range of possible prices. Has anybody out there ever purchased feed/flour sacks and if so, how much did you pay for good condition items?


  1. JanF | | #1

    Would u mind explaining "flower sacks"? Ive seen numerous references to them - which amused me to start with 'cos all I could visualise were the old hessian type outer sacks we used to buy feed in for animals, or the plain, strongly woven, cotton type sacks which I can't imagine anyone would want to make something else out of!!! I must be missing something - are they old, cotton-type cambricky fabrics used to make some kind of "twee" carrier?

    Edited 6/25/2007 8:50 am ET by JanF
    Oh spit I always do things a..e about face! Logged off and put flower sacks into google - so i then get lots of info - obviously a decorated fabric in USA!! I now know what some look like - but historically - what gives??

    Edited 6/25/2007 8:53 am ET by JanF

    1. usersuz | | #2

      Between the late 1800's up to the 1950's, manufacturers would ship their flour (and sugar, grain, etc.) in 100% cotton sacks that were decorated prints which could be used as kitchen towels, clothing and, where the keenest interest lies today, quilt fabric. Many vintage quilts were pieced from flour sacking, and of course, since it is no longer produced (only reproduction fabrics), they are valuable. I just don't know how valuable yet, as different years, weaves, patterns vary in price. My research so far turns up a range from $10 to $98 per sack, with intact items (still sacks, not opened up or cut) bringing more $. Quilters who are fond of antique fabrics would like to have them to make a new-old quilt.

      1. Stillsewing | | #3

        Talking about flour sacks, my aunt had a restaurant and used a lot of flour. She saved the empty sacks for my mother who used them extensively, mostly for bedding and it as comfortable as best quality Egyptian cotton and twice as hard wearing. I still have lots of pillow cases in regular use and as a further bonus they really retain their 'whiteness". I suggest that any of these bags should be treasured and used as they are quality!!Mary

      2. JanF | | #4

        thanks to u and "Stillsewing" for your replies - I genuinely did not know anything about these - gives me another bit of info to talk to my class about - the younger ones love hearing about stuff like this - 'specially if from USA - 'cos of course they all think u sit sewing in quilting bees etc!
        Harrison ford in The Witness has a lot to answer for!
        (he can answer to me any day - always reminds me of my hubby - but I think its all in my mind really!)
        I'm off now to put together some info for school on flour bags!
        thanks Jan

        1. B | | #5


          I remember getting 100 pounds of  flour in (sometimes) pretty flower-printed cotton sacks.  My grandma would ask my uncle to pick out a "pretty" print!  Not that he knew much about prints!  Sometimes we would accumulate the same print which was nice for making sheets, pillow cases, covering old quilts, etc. for the bachelor uncle farmers.  I used to sew scraps on the old treadle Singer; not that I made anything worthwhile, but I am sure the practice was worthwhile anyway.  So I was admiring fabric back then, and now even more so.  After learning to sew in Home Ec, I rarely used flour sacks, but did make a halter top to wear at home.


          1. JanF | | #6

            I have to admit - the idea of patterned fabric around sacks etc. as a presentational "freebie" seems such a good idea to me. We never had anything like this at all over here - mind u - possibly we have never had to buy stuff in such large quantities!
            I thought I might do alittle research over here to see if anything similar was ever done - but I suspect the "captains of industry " here thought it would bea waste of their money!

          2. B | | #7

            Flour was really the "staff of life" on the farm.  For 6 people, we made 16 loaves of bread at a time about every 4-5 days.  That was eaten for about 5 meals a day: cream & bread often for breakfast, bread & jelly for forenoon lunch, bread with noon dinner, sandwiches for afternoon lunch (sometimes brought out to the fields), & bread with supper.  The preacher would come out to visit my grandparents and brag about my bread, so my grandma would send a couple loaves home with him.  I have records of my baking and sewing in h.s. days as that was required for school & 4-H.  (Can't find them right now but they are around.)  Cake flour was used for cakes, but cookies (lots of them), buns, took lots of flour.  We also bought 3-pound packages of butter about twice a week, used it for sandwiches and baking (also used some lard).

            Anyway, lots of flour sacks!




          3. JanF | | #9

            I still bake my own bread - occassionally! Was given a bread maker - and its great - but i used to make it from scratch when kids were little. However - my husband is a bread "pleb"!! he's happiest with shop made sliced stuff - albeit wholemeal - and as it appears from tests that I am sensitive to wheat - Ive stopped eating bread - just hanker after it when i see some lovely fresh stuff on sale - or being eaten!
            I'm trying to see if I can make a successful loaf - that tastes great without using wheat. I like oats - but hate rye - so not particularly inspired at the moment!
            If anyone knows a succesful method of making great bread without using wheat flour - Id love to know!!

          4. User avater
            Becky-book | | #11

            Wheat-less bread  ... I have a daughter (now grown) who is wheat sensitive.

            Oat meal can be 'buzzed' in a blender to make a tolerable flour consistency.  Quick bread recipe (not yeast rise) sometimes works with no wheat.  Potato flakes (instant type) help give the batter some stick togetherness.  I made a lot of flops trying to make bread for her; she finally said "That's OK mom, I don't want a Sandwich anyway".


          5. JanF | | #12

            Thanks for this i might try it - but I will need to buy oatmeal I presume - I only have rolled oats for porridge in the house at the mo!
            Ive seen lots of recipes for oat bread - but it is never just oats - usually got wheat somewhere!
            Anyway - i'm still on the trail!

          6. MaryinColorado | | #17

            I just read your post.  I don't know if I still have the recipes, but will search.  My son had many food allergies when he was little.  I made wheat free bread, muffins, etc.  I think I used tapioca flour, spelt, oat, cornmeal, etc.  I think there was even one with soy or some vegetable instead of the flour.  Maybe potatoes or soy.  The rice didn't work out well for me.  The problem is getting them to rise nicely.  It took alot of practice.  There might be some recipes in a gluten free cookbook. 

            He had alot of allergy shots and eventually was able to eat a "normal" diet, whatever that is these days!  Mary

          7. JanF | | #18

            That would be kind of you Mary - still trying to be wheat free - and also on goats milk - which seems to be helping - but I do miss bread!
            Thanks - jan

          8. MaryinColorado | | #19

            I remember feeling sorry for my son when he was in elementary school.  All the other kids had sandwiches or ate the cafeteria food, pizza, etc.  He had rice cakes or crackers from the health food store, real fruit, etc. and couldn't go to birthday parties at McDonald's like everyone else.  He took it in stride though. 

            I'd probably lose alot of weight if I gave up bread products!  I did give up dairy a few years ago, it helped tremendously with stomach alements.  I use soy or goat yogurts and drinks now.  I miss real cream in my coffee though.  I come from the Dairy State of Wisconsin so it was very hard to give up dairy products.  Plus, it is hidden in so many foods.  Mary

          9. fiberfan | | #20

            I have had some success with  Bob's Red Mill bread mixes.  I have to avoid wheat and severely limit rice - this can be a challenge.  Glutino makes a cinnamon raisin bread that is okay. 

            I have a very good buckwheat pancake/waffle recipe.  The recipe also works with teff or corn flour.  FYI, Buckwheat is a fruit seed (same food family as rhubarb) and not a grain.  Both buckwheat and teff have distinctive flavors which some people don't like.  I use pancakes for bread because they are so easy to make.


          10. JanF | | #21

            Thank you very much - Ive never heard of teff(now been on a website - so can try some - that's if i can source it here)and Ive assumed buckwheat was wheat - u live n learn! Thank you.
            At the moment I am bread free.....virtually!
            I do love a good sandwich though so occassionally I indulge - but i know about it afterwards, so now i can try healthfood stockist locally - I'll see how i get on - if u think on and u dont think others on gatherings might bea bit iffy about this not being about sewing - I would appreciate ur recipe for the bread using buckwheat!
            Thanks again jan

          11. Ralphetta | | #10

            My grandmother had floral sacks that her chicken feed came in, so it was feed sacks as well as flour sacks.

          12. Stillsewing | | #13

            Our flour sacks were always white but the name of the miller was usually printed on, so you usually had to avoid this part when using the material as it did not wash off.
            Floral bags sound fun though.

          13. Ralphetta | | #14

            Although i was very, very young at the time, I remember them as being "blah" and not very pretty.  I have vague memories of all-over flowers in weak colors and not being very anxious for my mother to make me anything out of them. (I was opinionated even as a kid!)

          14. Tycho | | #15

            When I was about 6, my mother made shorts for my sister and me from a feed sack printed with toy giraffes on a yellow background. This print was great for kids' clothes, maybe not for anything else.

          15. Ralphetta | | #16

            I would remember if my grandma had anything as exciting as giraffes, you lucky kid!

  2. Pattiann42 | | #8

    Great find!  I remember my grandmother making a dress for me when I was about 5 years old and that would have been.....................1947....ouch!  If you do the math, that make me a vintage spicegirl!

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