While traveling through northern Minnesota recently, specifically the Iron Range, I picked up an issue of Hometown Focus dated September 3, 2021. I was drawn to and delighted by the article written by Betty Pond about using feed sacks for clothing and other household items.
I was born in 1939 and was raised on a farm in Alango Township in northern Minnesota. I was the oldest of seven children. My mother did not sew, so I taught myself and started by hemming flour sacks for dish towels, then curtains, as well as bed linens. I used four 100-pound flour sacks to make a sheet, and I would use one sack each for pillow cases. I would also embroider the sacks used as pillow cases.
The fabric was also suitable for making dolls for my younger sisters, as the dolls could be easily cleaned in the washing machine and were durable enough to take on the wear and tear of being played with daily.
My projects using sack cloth for clothing began in 1953 for my first home economics sewing project at the Alango School. I made a sleeveless blouse made of a chicken feed sack I had gotten from our neighbor, Joyce Luoma, who raised chickens. The design of the sack was bright pink flowers and teal leaves on white. I wore that blouse for years.
The tradition of making items from sack cloth continued into the 1970s with my eldest daughter, Bernadette, making a blouse out of an egg shell-white, 100-pound flour sack purchased from the Sturgeon Co-op in Angora, where my uncle Ronald was the manager. She designed the blouse to have the image of the fresh-baked loaf of bread on the front, with the words “Co-op enriched flour.” She received a blue ribbon for her entry on her 4-H exhibit at the St. Louis County Fair in Hibbing.
Years later, my husband and I moved to Macon, Missouri, in 1989 and took on the roles and responsibilities of being curators of the Macon County Flywheel and Collectibles Club Museum until retiring fully in 2018. We received donations of all kinds through the years, which we put on display, including items made of feed sack cloth. Two of the chicken feed sack designs we received and displayed stand out in my mind because of their vivid colors. One is of five-inch sunflowers on white, which is displayed on an ironing board in the museum. The other has a geometric pattern of purple and red squares on white, which is now hanging on a towel drying rack in the kitchen exhibit.
Twila Sarazine lives in Durham, North Carolina.