Floral Flour bags

When they realized women were using sacks to make clothes for their kids, flour mills started using flowered fabric.

In times gone by, amidst widespread poverty, the flour mills realised that some women were using sacks to make clothes for their children. In response, the flour mills started using flowered fabric.

Quite a few women in and around the United States welcomed the use of this flowered fabric. Households everywhere began reusing this cloth by tearing it from the seam, and stitching it up again to make dish rags, diapers, and quite a lot more.

As the flowered fabric movement, let’s call it that, began to gain momentum, the cloth bag manufacturers began printing a large variety of designs, patterns, and colours on the fabric. The previously dull bags of off-white were transformed into colourful sacs, with patterns ranging from plain old ducks swimming about, to a collage of banjos, sombreros, and palm trees.

Banjos, Sombreros, and palm trees.
Banjos, Sombreros, and palm trees.
Four mills added funny, and bright patterns to their bags to make it more appealing to children.
Four mills added funny, and bright patterns to their bags to make it more appealing to children.
Flower patterns on a flour mill bag.
Flower patterns on a flour mill bag.

The fabric that was used to make the flour bags then wasn’t plastic-ey or rough on the skin. It was thick, and warm, making it ideal for tough, yet colourful looking clothes (and kids).

The manufacturers even gave instructions on how to remove the ink.
The manufacturers even gave instructions on how to remove the ink.

Over time, the popularity of these cloth bags from the flour mills began growing so much, it was estimated that around 3.5 million women and children were accustomed to wearing clothes made out of the flour bags by then. The movement was fueled by both ingenuity and scarcity (mother of all inventions eh?) as it flourished during the world war II period.

A family of 7, with children wearing the colourful patterns seen on flour bags.
A family of 7, with children wearing the colourful patterns seen on flour bags.

People back then certainly knew how to reuse, recycle, and not be wasteful. What happened to us? The answer: a crisis of abundance. Industrial processes grew more efficient due to micro specialisations.

Instead of a single person making an entire watch, twenty people worked on different aspects of the same, and this made the whole process much more efficient. A decade after World War II, suddenly we had more than we needed. Stitching flour bags into clothes was replaced by going to the shopping mall and buying them. Time became more valuable than money.

Today, this tradition of reusing flour bags has mostly died out with the exception of the Amish, who continue to make clothes by reusing their flour bags.

The flour mills were kind enough to help families in the United States make colourful clothes for children during a time of uncertainty.

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