Over the past few months, I have shared with you wood cutting boards; copper; your porch, garden and home-work spaces; lampshades; and wine-bottle jugs and labels. All are popular for farmhouse/French country-style living.

This week, we're going to talk about refreshing your home with easy textile items such as pillows and aprons. So, which textiles are we talking about for farmhouse/French country style? We're talking about feed-sack fabric and vintage striped ticking fabric.

Whether you're making farmhouse-style pillows, a rustic farm tablecloth, or reupholstering a chair, feed-sack and ticking fabric will surely inspire you. Vintage-style farmhouse/French country decor never looked so appealing with the repurposed furniture I've seen.

Feed-sack fabric

After 1846, old canvas feed-sack bags were used to carry flour, sugar, grain salt and more. Up to the 1890s, canvas sacks were very popular. They were also reusable, as the farmer would bring an empty sack stamped with his mark or brand to the mill to be refilled. The bags also include the size and location of the mill.

Soon came color-printed feed-sack patterned fabric, when manufacturers decided to take advantage of the invention of the sewing machine and women's interest in prints and solid colors. It would take three identical sacks to make a dress. Needlecraft magazines from the 1920s and pattern companies began to take notice of feed-sack popularity and publish patterns for them.

At the height of feed-sack production, there were dozens of mills in operation, continuing production through the 1960s. Then came the reproduction fabrics.


Ticking is a wonderful sturdy fabric that was once produced to hold the feathers of old mattresses and pillows. It originated in Nimes, France, which was also the birthplace of the widely known fabric denim ("de Nimes"). Ticking was also advertised in several 1920s women's magazines.

Today, new colors and patterns allow the fabric to be made into more items that fit into today's decor. Striped pillow ticking that once was only available in a gray and off-white is now available in several other color combinations.

Where to find

Sarah Kieffer, of Sarah's Uniques and Jim's “Man”tiques in St. Charles, said: “All my old feed-sack aprons are priced at $6 apiece, and the feed-sack material is priced between $6 and about $15. Some ticking items will be available as we open the shop to display more.”

Brenda Jannsen, of Treasures Under Sugar Loaf in Winona, said: “We have in the feed-sack fabric clothespin holders at $12.50, to fat quarters priced at $3 each, a skirt at $29, to a cute child's dress at $18. Some pillow ticking is also available in the mall price, up to $10.”

Joan Thilges, of New Generations of Harmony, said: “We have many dozens of items made from old sacks for sale. Aprons typically range from $4 to $11, while towels and small tablecloths between $4 and $14. We have an adorable little girl's dress for $4.50, quilt blocks for $2.50, quilt tops for $25 to $79, and an awesome bow-tie quilt at $110.”

Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at life@postbulletin.com.