Faux Grain Sack Footstool

My latest obsession…antique grain sacks! Yes, I’m talking about common everyday, feedsacks!  For any number of projects, one-of-a-kind grain sacks (or feedsacks) may be used as fabric for upholstery, slipcovers, pillows, sachets, table runners, framed art and much more! I love the idea of repurposing something that was used in a utilitarian way years ago. 
The cost of grain sacks vary greatly depending on a number of things: place of origin, condition, fabric and color. American grains sacks tend to be the least expensive and obviously more available here in the U.S. Grain sacks may be made of cotton in various ‘weights’ from thin to thick – muslin and cotton duck, burlap, hemp and premier linen. The thin grain sacks are typically more graphic and the graphics are often dyed and/or woven into the fabric.  The downside to these is that the dye fades (not color fast) and sometimes runs off entirely…especially red, when you wash them! After all, they were used as grain sacks. 

Heavier grain sacks can be tough on scissors and the sewing machine, but is hard-wearing and more desirable for upholstery. The natural flax color make them easy to color-coordinate in the home too. Wonderfully  monogrammed and stenciled grain sacks – that is, the more graphics, since many were used for advertising – are highly sought after and are generally more expensive. Some are often patched from wear and dated making them one-of-a-kind find!

I must confess, I would love to have an antique grain sack, but I simply can’t afford (or justify) the purchase of such a beauty! Dream on. If your budget allows, there are many resources to purchase grain sacks on the web in addition to many decorating ‘uses’.

I thought I’d play a little, and try to make a faux grain sack covered footstool. I found a plain, sturdy footstool for $6 at the flea market. It had a solid plank wood ‘top’ and turned legs. I began by cleaning and sanding the footstool to prepare it for painting.

I decided to paint my footstool for this project. I used an acrylic, satin black enamel…assuming black goes with everything. I applied two coats and sanded lightly between each coat for better paint adhesion. I carefully sanded the final coat to allow a bit of wear to show through…ya know, the prim, antique look. Finally, I finished the footstool with a coat of tinted wax.

Now, for the ‘upholstered’ grain sack top…I used a piece of cotton duck material (leftovers from when I painted floor cloths!). I cut the fabric several inches larger than the base I wanted to cover – allowing for the foam and batting. I ironed the cotton to remove any wrinkles before painting on my black stripes, using black acrylic paint and masking tape.

I decided to use a ‘free’ sheep (what else?) graphic from The Graphics Fairy. I applied it to an iron-on transfer (available at any craft store) which I centered between the faux ‘stripes’, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

I hand-painted the classic ‘wreath’ around the sheep graphic, but you could also use a decorative stencil. I’m still undecided if I want to add a monogram or date to my faux grain sack???

Here’s the finished ‘AFTER’ footstool (with or without monogram…hmmmm?)

It was a fun and affordable project. I have another grain sack footstool in the works – this one decidedly more French! Then, a few large faux grain sack pillows perhaps with more graphics as I become more brave in this endeavor?! 

Have a happy weekend!

5 thoughts on “Faux Grain Sack Footstool

  1. What a creative Idea and beautiful. Are you sure you want to put your feet on it? I just washed an old burlap grain sack this week to see what I could do with it. You got my brain thinking. Wish we had a few more flea markets around here. We are so Rural! We are kindred spirits.

  2. did you paint the stripes onto the fabric yourself? if so how did you do it (keeping lines straight, type of paint, etc)? I love the grain sack stripe fabric, but way to expensive….

    • Yes, I painted the stripes onto the fabric with an acrylic water base craft paint (since the foot stool is not likely to go thru the wash often). You could also use a fabric paint found at craft stores. I carefully measured and placed low tack masking tape onto the fabric and applied the paint carefully with a fine paint brush; you could also dry brush it on as you would work a stencil. Allow each stripe to dry before painting the next one, as you will be probably covering the stripe with tape when you paint the next one, etc. It was an easy, inexpensive project compared to the expensive grain sack fabric.

  3. Thanks for the information. I think I might give it a try. It looks like the stripes have sort of a faded kinda look. Like the real thing. Is there a certain paint technique that you did to get that look? And one last question, I have seen the cotton duck fabric in the fabric stores, but it always seems stiff. does it just need washing to soften it up?

    Thanks so much 🙂

    • Hi Alison! If you adore gain sacks (as I do) but don’t have the budget for the real deal, this is a great alternative! I used leftover cotton duck from floor cloth projects that I had on hand. You may also consider painter’s floor drop cloths (Lowe’s) as another option to fabric/craft stores. You may pre-wash fabric (a gentle wash with no fabric softener, etc that could affect the paint adhesion), especially for a pillow cover, but I like the weight of the duck for a footstool. Some vintage linen towels may also be faux grain sack painted for pillows, table runners, etc. I use a dry brush technique. A stencil paint brush works well, but I also used an artist’s brush. Don’t use any water. Dab a little paint on your brush (less is more) and work it into the brush, working excess onto a paper towel or paper plate. You’ll be amazed how much paint is still on your brush. Then apply to your fabric. If using a stencil brush, apply in circular motion. If not dark enough, repeat process with more paint ’til you get the worn/faded effect you’re after. Hope this helps!

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