September 3, 2009

Did you ever wear cotton flour sack underwear made by your mom?





This posting is dedicated to all my neighbours who lived in Kung Ping Road or Brooke Drive in the 60's. They will remain always in my heart as VIPs of my childhood and in particular Ah Chuo Pak and Ah Chuo Moo the parents of Andrew Ting Boi Hua who were the kindest people I have ever known in my life!




My Miri Hainanese friend Ah Choon and I have great conversations and often reminisce about our childhood. And one of the stories we swapped not long ago was about our growing up years in the 50's when most frugal mothers and grandmothers would seek out cotton flour sacks to make underwear and sleepware for children!! Many mothers made rough quilts and sewed the pieces of flour sacks for the reverse side.

I remember my neighbours- the noodle makers (mien sien) - Ah Chuo Moo and Ah Chuo Pak - who used up more than 5 sacks of flour each day. Their children (some of whom are millionaires now) happily wore pajamas and shirts made out of these nice and really "tahan" or strong cotton materials. The cotton was so good that their pajamas never seemed to tear and could be handed down to a younger child!

Also one could buy these cotton sacks for 50 cents a piece from friendly sundry shop keepers.

I remember Ah Chuo moo wearing sarongs on hot days when taking her bath and then she would dry herself with a cotton towel made from several pieces of these cotton flour sacks stitched together. In those days it was common to take bath in an open space in our yards and we scooped the cold and refreshing rainwater collected in our large wooden tub or dragon jar. Our water bill then was about $2.00 at the most because of this supplementary supply from the gutters and roof.

I carried a bag fashioned from a flour sack for a long time and we had some nice pillows made from the cotton material. We used several of these cotton material over the years to strain our home made soy bean milk. Another neighbour sewed pieces of these sacks together to form a nice huge awning over her small kitchen and yard. At one time after Woodstock young people started to wear little jackets fashioned out of them so that they looked like hippies!! Those were the days when many Sibu people looked like John Lennon.

Indeed there were so many things we could make out of these versatile cotton sacks. Ah Choon remarked that even if we wish to have these cotton flour sacks today we cannot have them because the importers no longer use them. Instead they use raffia sacks. How we wish we could have them again.

This is a photo from Manila.


In the United States many women could still have the opportunity of buying some of these feedsacks from vintage stores.

Here is an interesting poem from the 1930's found on a very nice blog called "Crafter by Night". It is like the American version of my Sibu memories...... I hope she does not mind me borrowing it.......

1930 flour sacks
by Colleen B. Hubert

IN THAT LONG AGO TIME WHEN THINGS WERE SAVED,
WHEN ROADS WERE GRAVELED AND BARRELS WERE STAVED,
WHEN WORN-OUT CLOTHING WAS USED AS RAGS,
AND THERE WERE NO PLASTIC WRAP OR BAGS,
AND THE WELL AND THE PUMP WERE WAY OUT BACK,
A VERSATILE ITEM, WAS THE FLOUR SACK.
PILLSBURY’S BEST, MOTHER’S AND GOLD MEDAL, TOO
STAMPED THEIR NAMES PROUDLY IN PURPLE AND BLUE.

THE STRING SEWN ON TOP WAS PULLED AND KEPT;
THE FLOUR EMPTIED AND SPILLS WERE SWEPT.
THE BAG WAS FOLDED AND STORED IN A SACK
THAT DURABLE, PRACTICAL FLOUR SACK.

THE SACK COULD BE FILLED WITH FEATHERS AND DOWN,
FOR A PILLOW, OR T’WOULD MAKE A NICE SLEEPING GOWN.
IT COULD CARRY A BOOK AND BE A SCHOOL BAG,
OR BECOME A MAIL SACK SLUNG OVER A NAG.
IT MADE A VERY CONVENIENT PACK,
THAT ADAPTABLE, COTTON FLOUR SACK.

BLEACHED AND SEWN, IT WAS DUTIFULLY WORN
AS BIBS, DIAPERS, OR KERCHIEF ADORNED.
IT WAS MADE INTO SKIRTS, BLOUSES AND SLIPS.
AND MOM BRAIDED RUGS FROM ONE HUNDRED STRIPS
SHE MADE RUFFLED CURTAINS FOR THE HOUSE OR SHACK,
FROM THAT HUMBLE BUT TREASURED FLOUR SACK!

AS A STRAINER FOR MILK OR APPLE JUICE,
TO WAVE MEN IN, IT WAS A VERY GOOD USE,
AS A SLING FOR A SPRAINED WRIST OR A BREAK,
TO HELP MOTHER ROLL UP A JELLY CAKE,
AS A WINDOW SHADE OR TO STUFF A CRACK,
WE USED A STURDY, COMMON FLOUR SACK!

AS DISH TOWELS, EMBROIDERED OR NOT,
THEY COVERED UP DOUGH, HELPED PASS PANS SO HOT,
TIED UP DISHES FOR NEIGHBORS IN NEED,
AND FOR MEN OUT IN THE FIELD TO SEED.
THEY DRIED DISHES FROM PAN, NOT RACK
THAT ABSORBENT, HANDY FLOUR SACK!

WE POLISHED AND CLEANED STOVE AND TABLE,
SCOURED AND SCRUBBED FROM CELLAR TO GABLE,
WE DUSTED THE BUREAU AND OAK BED POST,
MADE COSTUMES FOR OCTOBER (A SCARY GHOST)
AND A PARACHUTE FOR A CAT NAMED JACK.
FROM THAT LOWLY, USEFUL OLD FLOUR SACK!

SO NOW MY FRIENDS, WHEN THEY ASK YOU
AS CURIOUS YOUNGSTERS OFTEN DO,
‘BEFORE PLASTIC WRAP, ELMERS GLUE
AND PAPER TOWELS, WHAT DID YOU DO?’
TELL THEM LOUDLY AND WITH PRIDE DON’T LACK,
‘GRANDMOTHER HAD THAT WONDERFUL FLOUR SACK!’

I think all over the world women in particular would have special memories of flour sacks. Thoughts of them just warm me up and help me value my old neighbours in Sibu even more!! Frugality and thriftiness are values we need to pass on to our next generation.

What stories would you have about cotton flour sacks?

4 comments:

  1. i'm pretty sure i've seen a few bags made out of flour sack material. i'm pretty sure i have one as well. i just need to remember where i put it.

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  2. Hi It is nice to read your comment.
    Is it the one with the blue lettering?
    the American feed sacks have beautiful floral prints and they can be purchased in vintage shops. Many famous photos of people wearing clothes with this type of material can also be seen in even museums!! They represent the culture of the 1930's America.

    Have a good weekend.

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  3. MOM made her sons under wear from flour sacks (Robin Hood),I'm these boxers were very nice to wear. February -6-2009

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, Where can I buy relica material. PLease let me know as I would love to make use of it.

    ReplyDelete