Once commodity bags were available in attractive colors and a wide variety of prints, it was no longer a “man’s job” to buy the chicken feed. Women now traveled to the feed store to choose from the “fabrics” they wanted for upcoming sewing projects. Savvy feed store employees stacked new shipments of feed sacks according to prints, making it easier to tell how many of a particular print was in stock and resulting in less work moving large sacks of feed when female customers desired a particular print. This shift in marketing was pivotal in the sales of commodity bags for more than three decades.
Other incentives sparked sales of commodity bags as well. Printed needlework and sewing patterns were common on the backs of plain white or off-white sacks, as were quilt patterns and dolls. Flour and sugar sacks might have recipes printed on paper labels on the backs of sacks. Later bags had border prints to look like pillowcases or curtains and some smaller sacks were even hemmed and included a drawstring, so that when the commodity bag string was removed, the purchaser would have a ready-made apron.
Booklets published by the Textile Bag Manufacturer’s Association as early as the 1920s, and later by the National Cotton Council, advocated the many uses of commodity bags. Commercial pattern companies such as Simplicity promoted their patterns in the booklets to demonstrate how a wide variety of products could be made from the range of sizes of commodity bags available.
Contests sponsored by the National Cotton Council encouraged sewing with commodity bags in the 1950s and 1960s. At state fairs around the country women could enter their commodity bag item in an array of categories for prizes ranging from one dollar to trips and household appliances.
Converting Commodity Bags:
Recycling Circa 1940
Exhibition Dates: April 2005 - June 2006
LSU Textile & Costume Museum
140 Human Ecology Building
Department of Textiles, Apparel Design, and Merchandising
College of Agriculture
Louisiana State University
Baton Rouge, LA 70803
Telephone: (225) 578-5992 and 578-2281
Fax (225) 578-2697