Anybody remember sugar bags? They were Hessian, contained 44lbs (20kg) of sugar and were widely recycled in pioneer and tougher times. They were useful hold-alls. Tied at the corners, with light rope, they made a Pikau or pack. Split open down one side, they made a rain hood and jacket.
The hard-wearing material also produced rough clothes, aprons and oven cloths. Sewn together, sugar bags made curtains and interior doors and screens. Along with larger wheat sacks, sugar bags might substitute for a mattress wire or even, stuffed with straw, make the mattress, too.
The softer cottons used by flour manufacturers for their bulk bags were popular materials for shirts and girls’ dresses. Tony Simpson took the image and called his history of life in the 1930s Great Depression, The Sugar Bag Years ( Reprinted by Penguin, Auckland, 1990)
Excerpts from Kiwiosities, a book by Gordon Ell on the traditions and folklore of New Zealand.