The Mighty Wheat Bag

The Mighty Wheat Bag

From Tarpaulin to Cushion

The wheat bag was a very handy, useful and versatile object around the farm and the homestead, gone out of fashion now since wheat is bulk-handled, but back in the years 1900 to 1950, wheat was put in 3 bushel Indian jute bags, 3 feet long and 1 foot 10 inches wide. Filled with grain, hand stitched and stacked in piles at railway stations ready to be transported south to flour mills, or ships for export. The bag size was governed by weight - the weight that a man could lift!

When the grain was stripped and fed into the grain box on the header/harvester, it could be fed into bags hooked to the mouth opening in the box - this latter was done by hand, so the bag was dumped and filled to the right level. The bags are left in groups in the paddock for the bag sewers to stitch them up, using jute twine and large bag needles, with a bag filler to ram the bags quite full. As you began stitching, you formed an "ear" (handy for the wheat lumper), and then stitched across firmly, about 22 stitches was the standard - no grain could escape; finishing off with another "ear", and a knot. Most bag sewers carried a small leather guard in the palm of their sewing hand to push the needle through if the bags were tough, if they had been put out in the sun for long enough. The bags came in bundles of 50 or 100, circled with baling iron.

But people found many uses for the wheat bag, mostly once-used, damaged or holed by mice - not surprising of course as early farmers and pioneers were very inventive, resourceful and were alert to making use of whatever was at hand.

  1. As tarpaulins or covers for combines, headers, wheat stacks etc.
  2. As verandah blinds around the house for protection from wind, sun or rain - the bags were split down the sides, opened out and then could be joined with other bags.
  3. Bed covers or blankets.
  4. "Cocky" worn by folk during rain and also worn by wheat lumpers to protect their head and shoulders - one corner pushes into the other corner, forming a peaked cap and skirt over the shoulders. 
  5. Shoulder bag. Worn around the shoulders (as for "Cocky") and done up in front with a wool bale clip.
  6. Saddle blanket, placed under the riding saddle on a horse, in place of a flannel saddle blanket.
  7. As a guard placed over the frost prone plants or small trees.
  8. As a room divider to replace a curtain to give privacy in the bedroom.
  9. A Ram Apron. Placed on a ram, which the farmer did not want servicing the ewes.
  10. A door mat, for muddy shoes.
  11. Horse's Fly Veil. Placed across the eyes on the winkers or bridle, firmly fixed in position usually with some threads removed so the horse could see.
  12. Seat padding or cushion. Very useful on iron plough seats & other hard places.
  13. Placed on a barbwire fence on the spot where people stop over.
  14. Rubbish bins - hang the bag on the fence and fill with empty bottles or tins etc.
  15. Opened out and stitched, makes an excellent house rug.

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