There was a time when dry goods like flour, rice and chicken feed were sold almost exclusively in sturdy, tightly woven cotton sacks. Enterprising (or frugal) consumers often reused sacks in their original forms for storage, carrying goods, as hand-stuffed pillows, and more. It was so popular to make clothing and linens from the bag's fabric from that some producers even printed them with decorative floral patterns.
Though actual flour sacks are difficult to come by these days (save for a few small-scale producers, like the Nora Mill Granary of Helen, Georgia) "flour sack" kitchen towels, made out of roughly the same material, are commonly available, inexpensive, and well-suited to a multitude of household applications.
The bags generally have immense dimensions; most that I’ve encountered have measured at least 2 1/2 square feet. The absorbent towels are excellent for mopping up spills and drying dishes, which they leave virtually lint-free, and because they are so thin, the towels dry quickly.
Since they are un-dyed, tightly woven, and lacking in lint, they are also a better choice than other common kitchen towels for covering resting bread doughs or delicate sheets of pastry and pasta dough. They even work well as flour-clinging, moisture-wicking liners for baking breads in baskets and on stones.
In their out-of-the-package state, they also make a fine, durable substitute for cheesecloth, act as casual (easily bleached) table napkins, or can be used as bibs for lobster bakes and such. Decorated with embroidery or stamped with fabric-fast paints or inks, they make attractive hostess gifts, window valances, basket liners, and more. And with some simple sewing, the towels can be easily turned into pocketed rolls for safely storing silverware, crafty table cloths, or washable dust covers for small kitchen appliances.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.