Grain Sacks. Oops, I Left Out the History Part!

Grain Sacks. Oops, I Left Out the History Part!

Yesterday I wrote about European grain sacks, but I really only showed you photos of how they’re being repurposed in today’s decor. I didn’t provide you with any background or history on them. So when I received a comment from my friend, Meesh over at I Dream of Chairs asking a few questions… Well you get the picture. I couldn’t keep her waiting for the answers!

So here goes, Meesh!

1.   I wonder what the texture is like?

Well, in the photos it’s hard to tell. What would your guess be?

Here’s what I learned.

The texutre is rough and ranges from loose to tight and neat, but after many washings with lots of fabric softener, you can tame the nubby fabric to feel a little softer to the touch. Of course the argument is that the texture is part of their appeal! But just to give you a little more insight, apparently these antique sacks are tough on scissors and sewing machines. Would you have guessed that? Of course when you think about it, this makes sense since the grain sacks were made to last for many years, as in decades of heavy use beyond how we’re seeing them used today. So naturally they would have to be strong!

2.   What are grain sacks made of? (not a Meesh question, but I thought she might ask LOL)

Source: Ebay

European grain sacks are made out of hemp fabric and very thick linen, and they range in colour from sun-bleached white, warm creams, to various shades of grey. They date back to the 1800s, the textiles were handwoven or homespun, and the sacks were stitched by hand. What’s so cool is the homespun fabric was actually handwoven from crops grown on the same family farm! Which leads into Meesh’s next question…

3.   Do you know of the significance of the stripe? Its colour or number of lines?


Source: Luma Direct

The striping is indeed very significant. As it was, farmers individualized their sacks with unique striping through colours and patterns. Some even initialed their sacks with the family monogram as a further way to make them identifiable. The stripes and monograms were generally stitched or stenciled on, but some wove their unique pattern of stripes into the linen instead.

Source: Acquired Objects Blog

And if you come across a German grain sack like these below, hang on tight because they are extremely rare as few survived the wars.

Source: Trouvais

You’ll find that German grain sacks are more commonly stenciled with the farmer’s name. And something to keep an eye out for are hand painted sacks as they predate the stenciled ones. You might also come across sacks that have been inscribed with the name of the farm and the date it was established, or taken over by a new owner. Oh, I also learned the German grain sacks are a lot softer than most of the others.

So what was the point to all  of this? 

Farmers wanted to be able to identify their own sacks when transporting sugar, flour and grain to the market. And when the grain came back from the mill, the unique markings ensured the sacks were returned to their rightful owner.

That’s pretty much it in a… grain sack!

Source: Pottery Barn

And who knew I’d come across a perfectly monogrammed grain sack cushion for SZInteriors?

Source: Le Grenier

It’s made from a vintage Hungarian grain sack, and if I wanted to make it mine, would cost me $85 plus shipping from Australia!

Thanks, Meesh for asking some great questions! 🙂

It’s about coming home… and home is a remarkable space that tells your story. Contact me if you need a little help!



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