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The History and Origin of Burlap

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.

Prevent Burlap from Shedding – a Case Study

Here are some tips on how to prevent Burlap from shedding and the print from fading when sewing and crafting with Burlap Sacks.

One of the questions I most frequently get asked is how to wash Burlap and prevent shedding and fading of the print. So I thought I would do a little case study to explain the process.

Firstly, I never wash my Burlap sacks prior to sewing with them. Often they have been cut open and the loose threads will shed and go everywhere. If you are a clean freak, and just can’t possibly stand the thought of ‘dirty Burlap sacks’ in your craft room, then I recommend hand washing only. Put some detergent and warm water in a tub and then dunk each sack into the water. Swish it around and then rinse it under a tap to remove the detergent, and hang it on the line. If you wring it out, be prepared to iron, iron, iron to get it flat again. The great thing about Burlap is the loose weave so even if you don’t wring it out and just hang it on the line it should still dry in a couple of hours.

That said, let’s now assume you take my advice and don’t wash prior to sewing. Move straight on to making up your item and ensuring you secure all loose edges.

So I have taken the example of this cushion cover I made from a Burlap Sack. I sewed it up and then went ahead and washed it.

Before washing

Next step was to heat set the ink. The branding on the sacks is not designed to be permanent, and that is the roulette of sewing with Burlap. Some inks will bind really well to the Burlap and will be there forever, others will wash out. You need to accept this.

However, to give you ink the best chance of surviving the washing process, it is nest to heat set teh ink first. To this I covered the printed area with a sheet of baking paper and then using a hot iron, iron over the top of the baking paper for about 10 seconds on each spot.

Once you have heat set the inks, place the item into an old pillow case and secure the top with a rubber band. Put it in the washing machine on a cold cycle with detergent (no bleach).

When the wash is complete undo the rubber band and pull out your Burlap item. All it to dry flat and then iron it again to get it flat.

I found that my pillow case actual had no shedding. This is because all the raw edges were secured prior to washing. As you can see there are no loose fibres inside the pillow slip when I removed the Burlap.

The inside of the pillow case once I removed mu cushion cover

The ink did fade a bit, but I think that just adds to the worn vintage feel, see the before and after photos below (a bit more iron ing required for the after photo!).


So I hope this has helped ‘shed’ (excuse the pun) some more light on the process of washing Burlap!

I would love to hear any tips or experiences you have had washing Burlap.

Strawberry Basket the Prefect table centrepiece

Strawberry Burlap Basket

The boys have been begging me to go to the local Strawberry Farm to pick their own strawberries. We went last year and they had such a great time, they have been waiting patiently for strawberry season to start. 

This way!

So Sunday morning (the first picking weekend of the season) we headed off to Eumundi Strawberries for a spot of hunting and gathering.

The boys on the Hunt!

The boys were very proud of their loot and keen to show it off. Later that day we had been invited to an early dinner, so I thought the perfect thank you gift for our hostess would be a Burlap Basket of hand picked Strawberries.

Strawberry fields forever!

It took about 5 minutes to make, and once filled with the mornings gatherings looked simply stunning. We took it with us and presented to our hostess who put it in the center of the table for dinner. It looked splendid and what’s more provided a healthy treat for the kids after dinner (by the time we left the basket was empty!).

So a quick how to for the perfect hostess gift and table centerpiece:

1. Cut a rectangle of Burlap 16 inches by 8 inches.

Cut to size

2. Fold over each short end (right sides together) 1cm and stitch with a zigzag stitch to secure.

Fold over each short end and stitch in place

3. Fold rectangle in half and stitch down each side (leaving hemmed short side open). Be sure to use a zigzag stitch to minimise fraying later.

4. Now flatten out the side seam and stitch across the base on the diagonal (see photo for description), about 3 cm from corner at widest point. Again use a zigzag stitch and then again with a straight stitch inside zigzag closest to the bag centre. Cut off corner near zigzag line.

Sew across corners

Cut of the ends

5. Repeat step 4 on other side of bag.
6. Turn bag right side out.
7. Roll down top of bag twice.
8. Fill with strawberries! (Or any other home grown or hand picked fruit).

The perfect hostess gift and table centrepiece.

This makes a beautiful table centerpiece for a Sunday lunch – with the strawberries also functioning as dessert. It would also make a great Christmas center piece filled with cherries or plums too.

So easy, so cheap and so effective. You’ve gotta love Burlap!