There's some cool history behind flour sack towels. In the 1800’s, food suppliers began to package their flour, sugar, corn meal, chicken feed, and other foods into tightly woven cotton sacks to cut down the use of bulky wooden barrels. Since there were truckloads of cotton sacks not being used, people began to recycle them. They were cut up into smaller squares and used for wiping counters, windows, and other household chores. From 1929 to the early 1940’s, America went through the Great Depression. Resources were difficult to come by and times were tough, so women became inventive and re-purposed things that came into their homes. They began to use the cotton flour sacks to make their own clothing, toys, quilts, curtains, pillowcases, cloth diapers, dish towels, undergarments, and more. The manufacturers realized their consumers were using their packaging in this way, and they understood the economic hardships, so they started printing a large variety of different patterns and designs onto the cotton. They even used washable ink for their label, so buyers could wash off the logo and essentially use the fabric for anything and everything. Women made beautiful dresses for themselves, clothing for their children, and even clothes for their husbands. During the Great Depression, 3.5 million women and children wore flour sack clothing. It just became a way of life. Some of the most classic patterns we use today, were created during those times.
In the 1950’s, manufactures found it easier and cheaper to use paper sack packaging instead of cotton, so the use of flour sacks decreased. Eventually, flour sack towels became a vintage item found in homes all over the world that remind us of simpler times. Vintage flour sack towels have always been a staple in cleaning and cooking, but they’re making a big comeback because they are so useful, lint free, natural, absorbent, and are much more superior than the terry dish towel. While these sacks got America through some of the toughest times, they also taught us how to become resourceful in the things found around our homes.
Hanging a flour sack towel in your home, especially one that has a meaningful design or message on it, can be a reminder of those that walked before us who were great examples of hard work, adaptability, and simplicity.