Tag Archives: History

10 Fun Facts about Burlap

Today, I thought I would share with you some little know but interesting facts about Burlap.
  1.   It originated from India which it was used for rope and paper production
  2.  The English brought it to Britain where the Scottish first spun it into yarn
  3. Bangladesh and India are the worlds largest producers of Burlap, closely followed by China, Myanmar, Brazil and Thailand
  4. Burlap was traditionally used as backing for carpet and linoleum
  5. Burlap is resistant to condensation and that is why it is used as shipping sacks for produce
  6. Burlap’s durable qualities make it suitable for varied uses such as erosion protection, sandbags, seedling protection and weed matting
  7. Burlap is often used in the furniture industry to give support inside couches and chairs
  8. Burlap was commonly used to camouflage helmets in World War II
  9.  Burlap is often used as a mask in Horror movies
  10.  Burlap is now very popular in interior design.

I would love to hear any quirky facts about Burlap that you may know. Please leave me a comment if you know if any other Burlap trivia.

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.

Burlap Shearers Moccasins

The Petting Zoo

I was surprised to learn recently of Burlap being used for shoes. Whilst still at the local country show held in Brisbane – the Ekka, we went to the Petting Zoo for the boys to feed and cuddle the Baby Animals. Upon exiting the petting zoo we ended up at a stage decorated with Burlap sacks, so of course it immediately caught my eye!

Shearing Presentation Stage


We noticed the presentation was about to start so we decided to sit down and rest out feet for a while. The presentation was about wool and the shearing industry. A shearer came on stage and demonstrated how to shear a sheep and prepare the fleece for bailing. The children were quite enthralled with the whole process.

But what I found most interesting was that shearers wear a special type of footwear called a ‘Shearer’s Moccasin’. These are made out of soft leather and help the shearer to slide across the ‘boards’ of the shearing shed floor. In days gone by, shearers would make these themselves out of burlap sacks. They would cut up the wool bales and make them into moccasins so they could move around the shed floor easier. I am constantly surprised the history and versatility of the humble Burlap Sack. So many uses and so little credit!

Explaining the History of Shearers Moccasins


P.S. If any of you happen to have a photo of any old Shearer’s moccasin’s made from Burlap I would love to see it.