Burlap Fabric

Burlap Fabric
Burlap is a natural fiber made from the jute plant or sisal fibers, and traditionally used to make rope and nets. It is weather resistant, strong, and over time, biodegradable making it a great eco-conscious product.

Modern uses finds burlap woven into wide widths and used in landscaping to minimize soil erosion, to protect root balls of trees or shrubs when transplanting, to protect freshly laid cement, in sandbags to minimize flooding, in the rug making industry, as sacking for a variety of products like coffee, tobacco or dried beans, for military camouflage netting, for tending beehives, and so many other uses.

Sewers and crafters buy burlap by the yard or wound ribbon-like onto a spool available in varying widths. Unlike other woven natural fabrics like wool, cotton, linen, or canvas, using burlap in sewing or crafting has some getting used to due to its loosely woven characteristics.

Cutting burlap – the best way to accurately (or semi-accurately) cut burlap is to first draw out a single thread along the path the scissors will cut. This will allow for a more accurate cut and allow the burlap to be manipulated without raveling. Still, after cutting it may be prudent to use a Fray-Check like product on the cut edges or machine zigzag stitch the edges. Note: It is best to wash raw cut burlap by hand in cold water if washing seems necessary. Machine washing may cause the loosely woven not-yet-sewn fibers to unravel. Hang out to dry.

Sewing burlap – use a serged seam if possible, if not a machine zigzag or multi-stitch zigzag and short stitch length is best to be able to catch all the loosely woven fibers. Cotton or a cotton-blend thread is recommended. A roller, walking foot or wide presser foot will help to keep the burlap edges even when stitching. Use a sharp or universal machine needle when sewing on burlap fabric.

Burlap lends itself to a variety of techniques for personalization:

Stenciling/Stamping – create a stencil using any desired font and print onto sturdy card stock or manila file folder cut to computer paper size – 8 1/2 by 11 inches. Cut out using an X-Acto or any craft knife. Place the burlap fabric on a hard smooth surface for best results. If stamping a design or word phrase, any permanent ink stamp pad used for paper crafting can be used to stamp onto burlap fabric. Just be sure to dry iron the backside of the design to set the stamped design firmly.

Drawing/Painting - using a word processing program and a desired font (a flowing calligraphy style is charming) a word or sentiment can be printed onto regular computer paper, enlarging as necessary to the desired size. Position the printed paper underneath the burlap fabric, then using a permanent marker trace over the letters which should be easy to make out under the fabric. Or using white or colored acrylic paint simply paint over the letters using a flat angled artist’s brush. A dry-brush technique (blot excess paint onto a paper towel) is best to prevent paint from bleeding outside of lines). Frame to hang on the wall. Or, sew a triangular pennant type garland with each pennant supporting a letter - great to drape over a window or on the mantel.

Printing - Using an inkjet printer, printing directly onto burlap fabric is possible as well. Iron freezer paper (shiny side down), onto the burlap fabric backside then cut accurately to 8 and 1/2 by 11 inches - computer paper size - that will allow the reinforced burlap to pass through the printer. Some printers may balk at heavily textured burlap so best to test first.

Burlap fabric allows for a shabby chic, rustic ambiance for so many crafting and sewing projects:

Burlap bubble wreaths are trendy DIY favorites – using a wire wreath frame, wide burlap ribbon and some additional wire a bubble wreath comes together quickly. Decorate with felt hearts for Valentine’s Day, then change to four-leaf green clovers for St. Patrick’s Day, add silk flowers for spring, country flags for patriotic remembrance, fall mums or sunflowers for autumn and bright red faux poinsettia leaves for Christmas holidays.

Burlap message board/organizer – wrap foam core or cork board with burlap, use coarse twine to randomly crisscross over the burlap and add clothespins to the twine to clip pictures or messages to. Alternatively fold the burlap fabric into several deep parallel folds to form pockets and then staple to the back. Great to hold mail, documents or pictures.

Burlap fabric used in home decor looks great accented with white lace, adorned with frayed denim roses, sewn as Christmas stockings, as an easy to sew cottage window valance, or simply used as a matte background for framed pictures.

Many seasonal charming ideas using burlap fabric can be found online.

Sew happy, sew inspired.

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This content was written by Cheryl Ellex. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Cheryl Ellex for details.