What Is Burlap?

Burlap, also known as Hessian fabric is woven out of the skin of the jute plant. It's a dense and coarse woven fabric that is useful in various contexts such as gardening, landscaping, crafting, and shipping. 

Jute fabric is an eco-friendly material that can be used to construct bags, totes, rugs and more. 

Historically, hessian was initially exported from India for many of the same reasons we use it today, such as backing for linoleum, rugs, carpet and as sacks for grains and vegetables.  

Uses of Burlap

Despite being a very coarse material, burlap fabric is incredibly useful as it's highly durable and breathable. Some of the most common uses for burlap material include:

Gardens & Landscaping

Jute or burlap fabric is commonly used in gardening and landscaping contexts as it's an all-natural, biodegradable textile. This means it can be used to wrap the roots of trees and plants for transplanting or selling. The burlap provides a breathable and moisture-resistant protective wrap that will keep from damaging the roots and limits the risk of mould or rot due to excess moisture. 

Additionally, burlap is a common choice for protecting trees, shrubs and other foliage from extreme weather like snow, high winds, excess sun, etc. This is especially helpful for young plants as they are not yet strong enough for extreme weather and more prone to damage from things such as high winds.

During emergencies such as hurricanes, sandbags made from burlap are constructed and placed to help minimize flooding in high-risk areas. 

Shipping Materials

Perhaps one of the most common places for you to see burlap is shipping and transporting materials such as burlap sacks and burlap bags. 

The natural fibers and breathability make this fabric ideal for transporting a variety of items, especially agricultural items that require moisture control. Some of the most common products to be transported in Hessian jute bags (aka. gunny sacks) include:

  • coffee beans
  • wool fibre 
  • tobacco
  • flour
  • rice and grains
  • vegetables such as potatoes

Home decor, Crafting & Apparel

Burlap in home decor and crafting has become increasingly popular. The coarse cloth is sturdy, holds its shape well, and can be recycled in future DIY projects or in your home recycle bin. 

Some of the most common home decor, crafting and DIY projects you'll find using burlap are: 

  • seasonal wreaths 
  • curtains
  • ribbons and bows for wrapping, Christmas tree decor, accessories, etc. 
  • eco-friendly gift bags
  • table runners and place settings
  • garland and bunting
  • a decorative addition to ornaments, jars, cushions, and more.

The options are truly endless for how you can use burlap to decorate your home or in your next crafting project. Its a great way to recycle any burlap you get from produce or other food bags - incorporating it into your DIY projects. 

As for apparel, while burlap may be seen in some accessories such as hair bows or headbands, burlap is not typically used for clothing. This is because the coarse texture of the fabric can cause chaffing, itching and overall discomfort, making it a poor choice for everyday clothing.