What is Burlap you might ask? If you have not heard of burlap perhaps you know about hessian or jute. They are all one and the same product made from the fibers of the jute plant. Burlap is made of strong natural fibers and this material is used for all sorts of sewing and craft projects. It is not really ideal for clothing as it can be rough on the skin and is quite stiff. Bags, coverings for shade, sacks, drapes, décor, and various craft ideas suit the ‘eco-friendly’ burlap.
What is Burlap?
Burlap is also commonly called hessian in many countries such as the US and Canada. It is a woven type of fabric made from the jute plant. You will normally find this fabric in a brown or natural color but it can also be dyed.
Learn more about fabric names with our comprehensive fabric glossary.
How is burlap made?
The stems of the jute plant are soaked and when they are soft, they are stripped, washed, and dried in the sunlight. The fibers from the plant are blended together and that fiber is made into yarn. The jute yarn is pressed to soften it and make it thinner. The thinner yarn is woven into burlap material.
Types of Burlap
The weave of this material can differ substantially. It may be thick and very open or more refined and a tighter weave. The jute fibers are rough on the skin and therefore burlap does not make comfortable clothing.
Jute fibers can be mixed with other fibers. It is very strong and can be dyed. Burlap has other blends known as Equinox faux burlap, a manufactured burlap, ideal for tableware. Polyester faux burlap is another blend of fibers and makes types of burlap useful in home décor.
Other types of burlap include laminated burlap that is waterproof and great for storage bags. Burlap can also be bituminized. This means it is infused with bitumen and can stand up to heavy outdoor use like camping mats.
Uses of Burlap
Burlap comes into its own in the garden and is used in home décor and crafts.
Here are some home uses of burlap around the home:
- Table mats
- Ribbon and bows
- Wall hangings
- Gift bags
Burlap is a real hit in the garden for:
- Plant protection
- Pot plant covers
- Shade covers
- Sacks for potatoes, coffee beans and other plant materials
What is Burlap - Sewing
Burlap is difficult to sew because it is a loose weave cloth. It will fray easily and it needs a heavy-duty needle to penetrate the thickness of the fabric.
If you will be sewing and cutting burlap regularly it is recommended that you use a filtering mask. In researching this article I did come across a few articles saying that the fibers are not healthy. Craftgossip article: Health Dangers of Burlap
Step 1 - Cutting
Knowing ahead of time that burlap frays easily makes the cutting step very important. The best thing to do is pull a thread through the fabric where you plan to cut. Then cut across the fabric on the marked line of the pulled thread. This will create a pathway to follow and lessen the chances of frayed edges.
Step 2 - Sewing
You will need a heavy-duty needle. Set your machine on a short-length stitch and sew a test piece of fabric to check all is well with the needle and the stitch. A short stitch length ensures you catch all the fibers. Use a walking foot to help stabilize the fabric as you sew.
Step 3 - Finishing
Burlap frays easily so you will have to zig-zag the edges or use a serger to finish the sides of the seam.
Step 4 - Cleaning Up
Give your machine a good clean after sewing. Burlap will leave fluff and threads in your machine. Further Reading: How to Clean a Sewing Machine
What is Burlap Care?
This fabric may look rough and ready, but it does like to be washed carefully.
Do not leave burlap in the water to soak. Hand wash and use cold water with a little detergent. Rinse the burlap well and dry flat. Do not scrub stains. Sponge out stains and leave to dry.
What is Burlap - In Conclusion
Burlap may appear to be a very rustic fabric, but it does like to be handled with care. The wide, open weave of burlap makes it an interesting textural fabric and a winner for various crafts and interior or exterior décor.