#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Homemade

Probably about three years ago, my mom and I attended a meeting of the Baldwin County Genealogical Society that was all about flour sack and feed sack cloth. This was something I knew about, because my mother had talked about it. Her grandmother, Mollie Pittman Stevens, made aprons and dishcloths out of flour sacks or feed sacks.

The presentation, by the way, was by Coletta Bailey, and if you ever have the chance to see it in person, please do. It’s so entertaining and informative. Here’s her Pinterest page.

During the presentation, Coletta showed many photos of the fabric prints used for feed sacks and flour sacks, and she passed around samples. It was a marketing tool used by the packing companies. They were buying brand loyalty by making the bags out of printed cloth. If a wife and mother wanted to make a dress, or matching shirts for the children, she needed plenty of cloth, and she’d make sure she – or her husband – got the right brand of flour or chicken feed so she’d get plenty of the same print for her project.

My mother recognized some of the prints Coletta showed that day. In some cases, she said her clothes were made out of a different color but the same pattern.

Grandma Stevens made a lot of my mom’s dresses as she grew up, and – according to my mom – she always made them a little too big. She said, “You’ll grow into it.” My mom, though, was slim and stayed slim, she says, until she had me. At that time, clothes on the rack didn’t come in the tiny size my mom needed, and she disliked wearing baggy clothes, so she learned to sew.

After I was born, she often made clothes for me. I also had secondhand clothes, because my mom knew how to make the small salary of an enlisted Navy man go far. Mom was also crafty, and after my dad retired, they had a second career selling their homemade items at arts and crafts shows.

I wanted what I didn’t have. Brand new store-bought clothes and store-bought stuff. Even today, if I’m in a fancy store and they have, for example, hand-painted glasses in the kitchenware section for a high price, I’m like, “Who would pay that for something that looks homemade?” But I can appreciate now that my mom needed to save money, and that I had clothes like no one else had, made just for me. I can appreciate that, because of my mom, I know how to sew (a bit) and crochet (even less, but I could make a scarf if I needed to), and use a bandsaw, and bake a cake. Not everyone has parents who have those skills, and my mom could do it all.

About Taminar

When I grow up, I want to make movies and write books. Now in my 50s, I wonder if I'll ever really accomplish the dreams of my youth. I have made two short films, one for a college film-making class, the other for an MTV-sponsored contest. I have written short plays that have been produced, and a few short stories and reviews that have been published. I also perform and direct for community theatre. My working life has included stints in local TV news, public relations, retail management and cashier, and for a couple of years, I made the rides go at Walt Disney World. I have two cats and a husband.
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2 Responses to #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Homemade

  1. Eilene Lyon says:

    Even if you’re not highly proficient, it’s good that your parents passed some handcraft skills down to you.

  2. Barb LaFara says:

    My mother tells a funny story about her flour sack clothing. Thanks for bringing back that memory for me.

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