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Flour Sack Tea Towels

Curated Submission
Brunkild, Manitoba
1930 - 1940
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
82 x 42
Materials & techniques
Cotton, flour sacks; Embroidery
Gift of Janis Kaminsky
Manitoba Crafts Museum and Library 3174.00, 3174.01, 3174.02, 3174.03, 3174.04, 3174.05
Life was difficult during the Depression and many rural communities were hit particularly hard. Farmers struggled to put food on the table, and buying new clothing or household goods was simply not an option. Reusing and recycling articles became imperative, though some things eventually needed to be replaced. Fabric could be prohibitively expensive, and women were forced to devise innovative sources for material. Flour and animal feed typically came in large sacks, which were quickly put to use making shirts, dresses, and table linens. In response to this popular trend, some manufacturers began printing patterns on their sacks, and even changed the sacks’ designs regularly in an effort to increase sales.
This set of tea towels was made from bags of Five Roses flour and Ogilvie oats. While neither of these companies used patterned material, they clearly intended their sacks to be reused. Instructions for removing the colouring are printed directly on the Ogilvie bag; it seems a water-soluble ink was used, to make removal easier. These towels were made by Helene Kaminsky of Brunkild, Manitoba, during the 1930s. After bleaching the sacks, she skillfully embroidered them with a variety of motifs. Some of them appear to have been sewn with a specific purpose in mind: one towel reads “GLASSES,” and another features a crossed fork and spoon. Others are decorated with a donkey carrying fruit, a girl selling flowers, and cacti growing in a window box.
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