In the following video interview, a news reporter chats with Spencer Wells, one of the keynote speakers for “Family History and DNA: Genetic Genealogy in 2013.” They talk about how the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project uses DNA to place us on a worldwide family tree. Spencer even helps the reporter take his own DNA cheek scraping on live TV.
Whether you’d love a teaser for the upcoming genetic genealogy conference or you’re just interested in DNA, check out this video:
Flour sack dresses show how resourceful housewives of the past “made do” with whatever was at hand. But they weren’t the only clever ones–see how savvy flour and feed companies responded to their customers’ desires for cuter sacking.
The History of Flour Sack Dresses
During the tough economic times of the Great Depression, housewives needed new ways to produce what their families needed, including clothing. So they looked around the house–and even the barn–for extra fabric they could turn into dresses, aprons, or shirts.
Female workers pose with sacks of flour in the grounds of a British mill during WWI. 1914. By Nicholls Horace [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. (Click to view.)
One answer? Feed and flour sacks. Back then, flour and animal feed came in large fabric bags, like the ones you see here in this World War I-era photo. Seamstresses had been using these muslin or burlap sacks since the 1890s to make common household items.
By the 1920s, these sacks had gotten a little cuter, some with gingham checked or striped patterns. So frugal housewives of the 1930s turned feed and flour sacks into everyday clothing for themselves and their families.
It didn’t take long for manufacturers of flour and feed to start printing their sacks with colors and patterns that women would want to buy. Some put patterns for dolls or stuffed animals on the bags. They even made it so you could wash out the ink so your new dress wouldn’t be a walking ad for Sunbonnet Sue flour! Newspapers and publishers also began printing patterns and ideas for getting the most out of the small yardage of a flour or feed sack.
Old photo of printed fabric flour sacks or ‘feedsacks’. Flickr Creative Commons photo, uploaded by gina pina. Click to view.
A fascinating article at OldPhotoArchive.com shows some great images of flour and feed sack dresses. And the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has an online article about a feed sack dress from 1959, because these didn’t go out of fashion when the Great Depression ended! According to that article, World War II caused a cotton fabric shortage. Feed and flour sack dresses again became popular.
After the war, women continued to make these dresses, encouraged even further by national sewing contests. Women even sold off their extra flour or feed sacks to others who wanted them.
Memories of Flour Sack Dresses
A woman named Denise posted a neat memory at the end of the Smithsonian article. She says:
Click to view my Facebook post about my grandma’s 1940s house dresses.
“I was born in 1951. For the first four-five years of my life, all my dresses were sewn by my paternal grandmother from feed sacks. She would layer the fabric two to three layers deep and cut the main dresses from the same pattern. She would then add different details to each dress. Some sleeveless, some with little puffy fifties sleeves, some with self collars, some with contrasting solid collars. We lived in rural north GA, but nonetheless I was teased by my parents’ friends about my feed-sack dresses. Oh how I longed for store-bought dresses. Now, oh how I long to have some of those wonderful little feed sack dresses! They weren’t thought of as precious at all, so no one ever thought to keep them!”
I think a lot of people have fond—or at least vivid—memories of old dresses like these. I do! I posted a photo of my grandma’s old house dresses from the 1930s and 1940s on Instagram. What a response from everyone there and on Facebook! My grandma’s house dresses weren’t made from flour sacks, but they’re from the same era.
Want to see some eye-candy vintage fabrics or date your own family heirloom clothing? Check out these books:
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Are you heading to NGS this week along with us and thousands of others? Download the NGS appif you haven’t already.This free, multi-event app will work for all current and future conferences of the National Genealogical Society (U.S.).
According to conference organizers, the NGS 2015 app can “help you make the most of your trip to St. Charles before, during and after the conference.” They recommend attendees begin using it now “so you can plan and improve your conference experience.” But the app will continue to be viable in the future as they add additional events to it.
The Dashboard to keep you organized with up-to-the-minute information
About the NGS 2015 Family History Conference to keep all conference information in one place
Alerts of important real-time communications from NGS
It’s National Volunteer Week in the United States. What better time to put out a call for help? Volunteers are desperately needed to help index the biggest Italian records project yet: Italian civil registration records. At current rates, it won’t be fully indexed for another 100 years.
“FamilySearch’s Italian Ancestors Project is arguably the most genealogically significant initiative ever for Italy and all Italian descendants,” explains Paul Nauta from FamilySearch. “Over 115 million historic birth, marriage, and death records from every state of Italy are being digitally preserved and published online.
“Online volunteers are needed to index these records to make every name easily searchable online for free—over 500 million names from the birth, marriage, and death records, 1802 to 1944. With the current base of volunteers, it will take over 100 years to complete. With more online volunteers helping, the initiative could be completed in as little as 10 years.”
Watch a short video about indexing these records below, or keep reading below for other opportunities to pitch in during National Volunteer Week:
Click to read Genealogy Gems posts on volunteering by: