What to look for in a Flour Sack Tea Towel

June 20, 2010

The term “Flour Sack Towel” comes from a towel made from fabric that is used as packaging to hold flour.

Majority of the US population lived outside the city before world war two. This meant they did not have the convenience of retail stores; cities had bakeries, meat markets, and general mercantile stores. Either you baked your own bread to save money or going to the store every few days was not a good option. Generally most flour mills sold the flour in larger quantity than the 5 and 10 pound sizes we see now in stores. The best packaging was a sacking cloth made of 100% cotton. A sacking cloth is different than a linen material with a fairly tight weave or a muslin with a more loose weave. Linen can tear, if you are tossing bags of flour around in the warehouse, in bags of linen you could spill your flour. And muslin does not hold the flour as well as the tight weave of a sacking material.
Flour sack material is made in a different process than other materials. Most people think flour sacks are made from bolts of fabric like you see at fabric stores.The problem is you will not get as tight of a weave if you make your flour sack bags this way. A true flour sack towel is cut and hemmed when the fabric is still in its raw state. After the raw material is cut and sewn it then goes on to be finished into a flour sacking material. Manufacturing the towel in this order produces a more uniform and tighter weave towel. You can tell a quality flour sack towel a couple ways. One is hold it up to a light or window, you should only see vague light and not much more through the towel. If you can see the outline of the window and more, you have a very thin flour sack towel. The other way, a true flour sack towel will not have a sheen or a finish to it. It should have a flat cotton look to it. A true flour sack will be off white, some have a yellow tinge to them. A quality flour sack towel will have some weight to it. Some flour sack towels have a uniform edge and some do not. Some are hemmed on four sides and some on two sides. The hemming should not be a issue if you are going to use the towel in the kitchen. If you plan on putting embroidery on the towel you might want to consider a towel with hems on four sides. There is one more advantage to a flour sack towel. You cannot find a more earth friendly product. Not only is the cotton 100% natural, if you do throw it away it will decompose. Flour sack towels are a inexpensive way to dry dishes, use as napkins, and many other uses. Next time you see flour sack towels at your grocery store or online pick some up and try them yourself.