Burlap is a fabric with a rich history. Whilst it is unknown where the name Burlap came from, Hessian, as it is otherwise known, is said to have originated from Germany. The soldiers from a state in Germany called Hesse wore uniforms made from Burlap. And as such were known as Hessians – hence where the name Hessian came from.
Burlap is made from the fibers of the jute plant. Originating from India, where it was used for rope, it was the English that brought the plants back to Britain in the late 1700’s. It was in Scotland where it was first spun into yarn.
Soon India were running their own looms and produced Burlap cloth themselves and exported it to the rest of the world. More recently Pakistan and Bangladesh have also become major producers and exporters of Burlap.
In World War II Burlap was a popular material for camouflage on helmets. Burlap has also worked its way into popular culture with many artists using Hessian as a substitute for canvas, and it’s presence in many horror films as a mask.
You can see the humble Burlap sack is not so humble; it has a very rich history and evolved to become a significant part of our everyday life. These days Burlap is more readily known for it’s role as a protective sack for transportation of raw produce and it’s every growing presence in the interior design world.
So next time you see a piece of Burlap, spare a thought for it’s ancestors who have played such a critical role in our history.