Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Flour/Feed Sack Fabric a Brief History

The Flour or Feed Sack dress is something that I had heard of a few times, but had never given much thought to until recently. Once I made up my mind to make one for Megan for Challenge #1 in the 2014 Historical Sew Fortnightly I wanted to research as much as possible. Now my imagination is filled with the images of wives and daughters pestering their husbands and fathers to purchase the right fabric sack with the flour/maza/grain needed for the family.

I own horses so I have an idea of how big a 50lb sack of feed is, it's difficult for me to imagine a time when a family would buy that much and more flour for their home though. I also kind of wish I could buy my horses grain in cotton fabric bags. It would be sticky, but so worth it!

The use of cotton for flour and feed sacks actually goes back much further than I thought. I had imagined Great Depression/WWII. But in my research I found that the practice of using feed sack cotton for clothing dates back to the 1800's. Basically as soon as mills began producing the cotton at a less expensive rate than either barrels or canvas it was used. It was in the mid 1920's that the feed sack companies realized that they had a market for printed cotton sacks rather than just the white. Prior to that the bags were white with the company label printed in vegetable ink so it could be washed out. My mother says that in cases where the label couldn't be removed it was used for underwear. Which leads my mind to a cute corset idea...

During and after WWII the use of cotton feed sacks was considered patriotic. There were shortages of just about everything including fabric. So advertisements like these below were meant to gain attention.

Feed sack fabric did carry a stigma in some ways and in some places as well. It represented rural life often from the south, people who were too poor to be able to buy pre-made clothing or buy bolt fabric. And as with many of these things it is now in high demand. Collectors buy the fabric, the dresses, towels, and quilts that were made with flour sack fabric. There are gowns in museums that may be silk on the outside, but the lining is made of flour sacks. It's all quite interesting. I don't think I'll become a collector or a quilter but it is going to be a fun project to make my own daughter a dress with it's own history to honor the women who made due with what was available to them AND really drove changes within an industry to meet their demands.

My fabric actually arrived last night so I am hoping to start the project over the holiday. Must be careful not to finish it too early because of the timeline for the challenges. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Challenge #1 Make Do & Mend: Planning Phase

I am so very excited to be participating in the Historical Sew Fortnightly for 2014. Last year was a bust for me sewing wise and so I am wanting to get a good start for 2014. 
The first challenge is Make, Do, Mend and I racked my brains on what I could do for it. I have plenty of garments that are going to need fixes here and there but I just couldn't get excited about doing a blog or taking pictures of a few fixed seams and such. 
Then a picture started going around on Facebook of a Men's shirt being cut and sewn into a little girl's dress. Aha! I thought, perfect! So I started to pester my hubby about donating one of his shirts for me to cut down into a little dress for Megan. As I waited for a shirt I began researching the potential historical techniques for this project. I didn't get very far before I ran into an article about flour sack dresses. 
And finally inspiration struck. So I went shopping so that I can make my daughter a flour sack dress as my first project, in honor of the women who made do during The Great Depression up to and beyond WWII, including the women in my own family.

First I would need a 1930's/40's pattern. This is the one I decided upon. 

 I love how this time period has little girls being all legs. 
I am planning on making the dress from the top left as of right now.

Next I trolled EBay and Etsy to find authentic Vintage Flour Sack Fabric.

This is the one I finally decided upon. I couldn't believe how many patterns were available!

My next entry will be on a little bit of the history of the Sack Cloth Dress.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

2013 Another Lost Year

I remember feeling so optimistic about how much I was going to get done in 2013. My little girl was born in October of 2012 and I apparently had amnesia about how babies rarely allow their mommies to accomplish much of anything. Especially working mommies who are already gone most of the day. 

I lovingly set up my sewing area, sorted my fabric stash, and began to plan my new creations...
It is now November and I have completed exactly two items and have started one more. I haven't so much as opened this blog for months. 
I just got the announcement for the Sew Fortnightly for 2014 with The Dreamstress and I have decided that I am going to participate! Maybe I'll only make small items and maybe not grand ball gowns, but sewing was my one creative outlet and I miss it! 
For what it's worth here are the two projects that I actually did complete in 2013:

I made just the Ionar/Jacket in this picture. He actually drafted his own pattern and sent it to me to use. The gold cord was couched and the embroidery done all by hand. This gentleman wanted to get as close to authentic as possible. I think his look nailed it based on the few references that we have on 16th century Irish fashion I started the work in late 2011, then set it aside. Completed it in time for his event in 2013 but was woefully behind even still. But it turned out wonderfully!

My motley little family at the Easter Bonnet Promenade earlier this year. The skirt is what was completed on a fairly elaborate outfit that I had planned for the event.
I used Truly Victorian Pattern TV297 1898 flared Skirt and the linen and trim both came from my stash. 
I'll have to see what challenges will come up in 2014 that will allow me to complete the Swiss waist, blouse, and jacket that were all planned for this ensemble. 
I am excited for the year to come and now Megan will be able to be a little doll for me to dress up. :)