Pop a pillow inside one and use it as a chic sofa cushion, use them as laundry bags, or cut them up and sew sturdy tote bags or table runners. You can even use them to cover armchairs if you have enough sacks and know a good upholsterer. Hard-wearing, practical, and often adorned with a smart stripe and the initials of the original owner, grain sacks are completely irresistible to the average Vintage Addict.
At the moment, the high street shops are littered with faux grain sack accessories. Think ‘linen-look’ cushions with ‘vintage-style’ (shudder) vaguely-trade-y slogans such as: ‘MILLING COMPANY’ or ‘METALWORKS’, often with the somewhat ironic addition of the word: ‘AUTHENTIC’ underneath. The industrial trend is in full swing, my friends.
While most of us aren’t lucky enough to live in a lofty former factory or an airy warehouse apartment, achieving a reassuringly industrial feel at home is easy enough – but don’t bother with modern ‘grain-sack-inspired’ reproductions. It’s cheaper – and much more interesting – to shop for the real thing at an antiques market.
You can always find vintage grain sacks at Ardingly. Stacks of sacks in fact – heaped high – and they only cost around a fiver each. When you consider that ‘vintage grain sack cushions’ can fetch up to £95 each in a London ‘boutique’, cutting out the middle men and getting out your sewing machine is, quite frankly, a no brainer.
I’ve been on the hunt for a really nice sack for ages, to fill with a foam seat pad and pop on my garden bench. After a long search and many months of rifling through beguiling pile after pile as irritated dealers frantically folded and re-folded in my wake, I finally found ‘the one’.
Made from stiff hessian instead of soft linen, it’s practical for outdoor use, although this also means, I confess, it was a bloody nightmare to sew up. It has smart, black stripes and the initials ‘OL’ printed on one side. It’s in great condition and, when I turned it inside out to sew up the end, flaky pieces of ancient sweet chestnut husk fell onto the floor. Now, that’s ‘authentic’.