Around 1925, cotton had replaced wooden barrels as a method of transporting large quantities of grain, feed and food. Times were lean, and it wasn't long before women began reusing the fabric for quilts, aprons and other needs, despite often embarrassing logos...who wanted an image of scratching chickens on their children's clothes? Around this time, enterprising manufacturers of feed stuffs and food stuffs caught on...when women did the shopping, they would often pick their staple foods based on the design of the fabric. It wasn't long before hundreds of colorful prints were being produced for sugar, beans, rice and cornmeal packages and frugal homemakers were saving them, trading them and quilting them. Many were surprisingly modern, others today seem retro. The 1950's prosperity and the use of paper and plastic sacks marked the end of the decorative cotton fabrics. My mother has quilted her whole life, and the top image here is a detail of a quilt she made using feed sack fabrics. Since a new frugality has been forced upon us, isn't it time for the decorative cloth sacks time to return?
Vintage Feed Sacks are affordable but hoarded by contemporary quilters. The best source to learn about them is the Schiffer Book "Vintage Feed Sacks: Fabric From the Farm by Susan Miller. Schiffer publishes an astounding variety of guide books for collectors, you will often see their inventory in large antique malls and even better at shows, where the friendly staff will be happy to share them with you. I've used Schiffer books all my life, and always stop in on the way out of antique shows to chat, browse and usually buy.