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Types of Burlap Fabric – Materials for DIY Projects

Source: Jeff Eaton, CC BY-SA, via Flickr

Burlap provides an inexpensive way to decorate a home or create a craft project. This coarsely-woven fabric is also known as hessian. Burlap fabric most commonly comes from India and surrounding regions. Many goods such as rice, potatoes and coffee are shipped in burlap bags. There is environmental value in reusing the biodegradable bags from exported goods in decorative projects.


Most burlap fabric today is made of jute. The material became a substitute for flax and hemp when the East India Company brought jute to Dundee, Scotland in 1793, where they figured out how to weave the material. Jute is still grown today for its sole use as a fiber. Recyled burlap rice bags and coffee bags are useful for crafts projects such as making messenger bags, tote bags or wallets.


Hemp has been used in the Middle East and China since 8000 BC. Burlap made from hemp fibers was later used for sails on ships, nets and carpets. Many early painters before the 1900s used hemp burlap as a canvas for their artwork. Some of the more well-known artists who used hemp burlap were Van Gogh and Rembrandt.


Burlap made from flax or linen is commonly referred to as “primitive linen” or “hairless linen.” The fabric is less coarse than hemp or jute burlap. It’s commonly used for rug hooking, which is the practice of hooking yarn or fabric through the burlap to create a design.

Sand Bag Homes

Burlap is used not only to decorate homes but to build them, too. Burlap bags filled with earth and sand can be stacked together to provide the structure and insulation for an earth friendly home.

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