Saturday, September 3, 2011
Vintage European grain sacks & American burlap produce bags. The new in thing in home-decorating.
Fabric sacks, like the kind traditionally used by European farmers up until the middle of the last century for carting grains to and from the mill, can be spotted all over the home this fall.
On pillows. On tables. On lampshades.
The two looks emerging include striped linen and printed burlap.
Historically, linen grain sacks were produced on the farm.
Family farmers would set aside land for growing hemp or flax. They would harvest it, soak it to loosen the fibers, clean and spin the fibers into thread and then weave the fabric (because in those times durable fabric was not readily available). From the rolls of fabric different textiles were created, including utilitarian grain sacks. The grain sacks were used for the harvesting of whatever they were growing.
They were really a kind of a workhorse. Imagine when the farmers were harvesting their wheat, they would put the whole wheat into the bag and bring it to the miller, and when the miller had ground their wheat ... the sack was returned to the rightful farmer. Grain sacks stopped being made around the 1930s.
The other popular style is made of machine-woven burlap, a coarse, twine-smelling sack printed with the logo and name of a farm, co-op or mill. Today, the front printed panels of burlap sacks are sought after for use in upholstery, decorative pillows, headboard covers, rugs, framing or displaying under a glass tabletop. It's really easy to layer burlap, linen and chunky cable knits to add a touch of Country style.
While these original textiles continue to be discovered in people's attics and basements, a number of reproductions have come onto the market. They can be found at Pottery Barn,Target,etc and VERY HIGH PRICED. (Example: pillow Pottery Barn $80.00---ooh-eeee)
To purists drawn to grain sacks for their history and beauty, there's no comparison to the real thing: the handwoven quality, from dense to a medium open weave, and texture, from velvet-soft to coarse.
Another idea is to mix or use cutter quilt pieces. This picture shows a mix of seed sacks and quilt. By the way "cutter" quilts are those that have problems like tears, stains and holes. Or how about quilt tops that are unfinished? This chair is normally on a roofed porch but photographs good in the yard.
We currently do not have any European grain sacks but we do have some good American burlap bags and quilt tops. The photos below show some of what we do currently have.