Preparing Burlap for Sewing and Crafting

When I got my first delivery of Burlap coffee sacks, I was so excited to get sewing straight away, that I thought I must prewash and press my fabric, as I do for every other fabric, and get sewing. So I enthusiastically threw all the sacks in the washing machine and pressed ‘start’. An hour later I went to retrieve my new fabrics and found a spun web of burlap fibres and the twisted remnants of my prior sacks. For weeks I was still retrieving fibres from the washing machine with each wash. So learn from my experience and never put your burlap sacks in the washing machine.It is very important to wash the sacks prior to using them for craft and sewing projects. Burlap bags may contain remnants of their original contents, dirt, dust and most concerning remnants of pesticides and fertilisers that may have come in contact with the sacks. So when you first get your burlap sacks hand wash them delicately in warm soapy water, rinse in cold water and then hang out to dry. Once dry, iron the sacks and fold and store until ready to use.If you then use the sacks for a sewing project, during which you secure all the loose ends and cut edges, it is perfectly fine to put your finished item in the washing machine. As long as you’ve secured all the loose threads there will be no opportunity for the Burlap to fray. For example if you make a cushion cover this would be perfectly ok to put in the washing machine. It is just raw cut burlap pieces that should not be put in a washing machine as it will fray very easily. This characteristic does have a good side, and can be used to your advantage on certain projects, and will become a trait of Burlap that you love. But in the meantime to prevent destroying your washing machine only wash finished burlap pieces with no raw edges in it.

10 thoughts on “Preparing Burlap for Sewing and Crafting”

  1. Hi Susan, Thanks for your comment – yes the colours running can be a problem. Salt will prevent the colours from running, however, because the sacks are stamped with regular ink, as opposed to a fabric paint, over time with frequent washing the stamps will all eventually run and/or come off. You can slow this process by 1. Heat setting the ink that is there prior to washing for the first time- lay an old tea towel over the sack and press on a high heat setting. 2. Washing in salted water as you suggested. 3. Minimise the number of washes over the life of the item. 4. Embrace the 'washed out petina' that comes with a recycled and well used item!

  2. HI Cicia, This is one of the questions I get most frequently, so I have decided to dedicate a special post to it next week so stay tuned. But to briefly answer your question, the secret is only to wash your project once your finished – and that means there are no raw edges. If you need to wash the sacks prior to sewing, only hand wash gently. Washing in a washing machine will only make the problem worse. Usually after the first wash the shedding settles down. Hope this helps.

  3. This was a perfect little post! I had my sack in the washer ready to go and thought I should check the internet before washing it. Good thing I did!

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