Burlap Crafts

    by Jane Smith

    About the Author

    Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.


    Burlap is the North American name for cloth made from jute, hemp or flax fibers. Fiber for making burlap is grown all over Asia and Central America. Burlap is tough enough to be used as a building material, flexible enough for sculpture, and loose enough to grow crops when used as a weed barrier. These same qualities make it ideal for use in crafts.

    Burlap Craft Ideas

    Burlap is a versatile crafting material.

    Use loose weave burlap for carpet backing, and decorative floor coverings, or embroider with burlap yarn to make decorative wall hangings, table runners, napkins, and doilies. Also try to add shredded burlap to paper pulp to make a beautiful, flexible draping paper that resists tearing. Beautiful burlap jewelry can be created by weaving or braiding burlap yarns and adding jewelry findings, shells, and polymer clay or glass beads. A tight-weave burlap cloth is handy for decorative reusable shopping bags, embroidered with elaborate burlap yarn scenes, while Drape Hessian cloth soaked in fabric adhesive is a technique to create soft sculptures. For another project, mold burlap like paper mache to make bowls, lamp bases, platters, and sculpture or stretch fine-weave burlap on a frame, like canvas, and use to make textured mixed-media paintings and other fine art pieces. Burlap can even be used to make decorative ribbon and gift bows.


    Jute and flax grow in sandy, alluvial soil. Jute cultivation takes place throughout Asia, India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand. It requires heavy watering, so it does best in countries where monsoons provide the majority of the rains. It enhances soil rather than needing fertilizers, and post consumer burlap can be recycled through strip composting, paper making, or use as a road and earthworks stabilizer. Pegging a construction site with burlap helps grass grow back much more quickly, while preventing soil erosion and subsidence, the overly rapid settling of loose soil.


    Burlap has been used throughout history.

    Burlap has been used for everything from sacking and clothing, to ships' rigging and sails. It can be used for shelter, for adornment, for penance from one's sins or to mourn the departed. The Christian Bible records in Genesis that Jacob put on sackcloth and tore his clothes to mourn for his son, Joseph, when Joseph's brothers brought his torn, bloody coat as proof of his demise. Burlap saved the lives of many World War Two soldiers, being used to carry ammunition, leaving their hands free. Burlap has even been used by NASA in space, as a growth medium for lettuce and basil. Only perlite outperformed burlap as a nutrient medium for plant growth in space.


    Burlap's flexibility offers users a wide rangle of benefits.

    Take full advantage of burlap's flexibility. Use it to make dimensional art by soaking it in fabric stiffeners such as starch, acrylic adhesive, or wall sizing. Wrapped around an armature, burlap becomes the base of a free-form sculpture. Another benefit is burlap's texture. The looser weaves provide stability to woven or hooked rugs. Burlap overlays on walls create warmth and provide interest to an otherwise plain expanse of sheetrock. Burlap can also add texture by being chopped and added to paint or ink, and it can be laid over drying concrete or plaster to leave an impression. Burlap's versatility stretches as far as the user's imagination. It can be spread, molded, painted on, sewn through, woven, embroidered, and cut.


    Burlap may one day beat cotton as the most used natural fiber. It's far lower fertilizer needs make it a better choice for sustainable agriculture. Use of post-consumer burlap in compost means a constantly renewing product that increases soil fertility rather than depleting it.

    Photo Credits

    • http://www.eburlap.com/burlap_in_colors.htm, http://www.howtomakestars.com/images/gallery/burlap.jpg, http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=122387, http://blog.glimbit.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/12/lj-firstpuppet-armature.jpg,