From the 1800’s to around 1950,  food staples such as flour, sugar, cornmeal, and chicken feed were packaged in tightly woven 50 or 100 pound  cotton sacks.  During the American Great Depression, between 1929 and the late 1930’s, early 1940’s, everything was hard to come by.  Frugal housewives would re-use these cotton sacks and make them into clothing, toys, quilts, curtains, pillowcases, undergarment, and of course, dish towels.  The re-use of flour sack towels became wide spread, and the flour companies took advantage of this trend by printing the sacks with flower prints, pretty borders, and  doll and toy patterns to encourage housewives to buy their brand of flour.  Women would swap and sell the sacks to one another to obtain a particular print or pattern. 

In the mid to late 1950’s,  flour companies began using a cheaper method of  packaging, paper sacks, and with the growth of new prosperity in America, the re-use of flour sack towels  went by the wayside. 

Flour sack towels are making a comeback today.  They are not easy to find but can be purchased in some  dollar stores, drug and hardware stores.  It is a shame that they are not more readily available.  As a kitchen towel, flour sack towels are far superior to a terry dish towel most commonly seen today.  They are lint free, dry quickly, wash beautifully and can be used for a variety of household uses and craft projects.

About Farbric Painting Supplies:

My favorite brand of fabric paint is “Aunt Martha’s” ball point tube paints.  I have tried other brands but I like these best.  They are good quality paints, nice clean colors, and they dry  quickly so that you aren’t wasting your creativity time watching paint dry, which speeds up the process considerably. You can find these paints and fabric painting accessories for purchase on the internet.   Be sure to purchase some plastic tube holders when you get your paints.  These are a plastic sleeve that fits over the end of your tube of paint so that you are able to grip the tube without sqeezing it.  These are a must.  You don’t need a tube holder for each tube of paint.  You can work with 4 or 5 and just switch them to the paint tube you want to use.

You will also need a fabric painting hoop.  It looks and works just like an embroidery hoop, except the inside of the hoop is solid so that you have a surface to paint on top of.  The outer ring fits over the inner piece and holds the fabric taut and in place.

You  need blotter material to put between your painting surface (hoop base) and your fabric.  Places that sell fabric paints and accessories often sell these as well.  I think the are a little on the expensive side.  I have done some experimenting with other materials to use for blotters.  One thing that I have found that works really well is construction paper like you find in art or toy departments of stores.  Use light colors of paper so that you can easily see the pattern that you are painting over if you are working on a thin material like flour sack towels.   Actually, what works best is to use the commercial blotter with a piece of construction paper on top of it, then your fabric.  That way your expensive blotter paper will last indefinately, and you can throw the construction paper away when it gets too “painty”.

Cotton is a perfect farbric  for painting.   The higher the thread count of the farbric, the more easliy your paints will glide on.   However, even a coarser farbric such as flour sack towels are easy enough to paint.  Silk and rayon are also suitable for farbric painting.  Always wash your fabric before painting unless the fabric or item states that is is “ready to dye or paint”.   If your not sure, always wash first.  “Sizing” is used in finishing fabric, and if it is not pre washed, the sizing will keep your paint from adhering well to your fabric and paint will fade exessively when you launder your finished item.   Never use fabric softner or dryer sheets when prewashing or when laundering your painted items.   This will cause your paint to not adhere well to the fabric and will fade the paint.

The easiest way for most people to get a pattern onto fabric will be to use iron on transfer patterns.   You simply transfer the pattern to your fabric with a hot iron.  Then you simply “trace” over the pattern with your paints, and then you have a permenant image of the pattern.   You can find ready to use iron on transfers where ever embroidery or fabric painting supplies are sold.

If you are artistic,  you can draw your own designs for painting.   Once you have created the design you like,  simply make your own iron on transfer with tracing paper and a “transfer pencil”.  Aunt Martha’s brand supplies these as well.  Trace your design on to the tissue paper using the transfer pencil, then iron the design on to your fabric just as you would a premade iron on transfer pattern.

It’s good to have paint tube tip cleaning solvent and extra tips.   These will extend the life of your tube paints and make your projects more enjoyable to work on.

I love vintage/retro anything! But items can be difficult to find at an affordable price. I found an old Vogart embroidery transfer pattern on line, fell in love with the pattern, and wanted to use it for my own home decor. Since I dont have the skill or patients for emroidery, I invested in fabric painting supplies. 

At first my painting skills weren’t so great.   I even thought “Maybe I should go back to embroidery”   But with practice my painting skills and technique got better and my finished items began to look really great!  With the proper equipment, and practice,  anyone can fabric paint and create a lovely and unique  item.   If you think fabric painting would be something you would be interested in trying out,  please read my post called “Fabric Painting Basics” for more information.

Looking for Flour Sack Towels?   Here are two sources for plain and hand painted vintage style 100% cotton flour sack towels!


Vintage Dow Ebroidery Pattern Hand Painted 

Vintage Vogart Ebroidery Pattern Hand Painted