What is Burlap?

Ever wondered what burlap really is?

bur·lap ˈbərlap/ noun: burlap

In some parts of the world, a plant called “jute” gives off fibres that can be woven into cloth. This cloth is usually what we cal “burlap”. India is usually credited with the discovery of the uses of jute and burlap, having used it for hundreds of years as a solid rope making structure.

It was then taken to Europe once the British traders landed in India and that is when its global popularity grew, aided further by improved technology in the 1830s which enabled it to be made into cloth.

There may be other types of plants that have fibres that can be woven into burlap cloth:

  • Jute
  • Hemp
  • Flax

All three above have one thing in common, their fibres are rough and coarse, and as a result, the cloth that is woven from these plant tends to be equally rough and coarse.

Key Features of Burlap Cloth

As most burlap is made for “rough” use, it does not get the niceties of normally woven and processed cloth. As a result it has:

  • A beige color that is natural unless dyed
  • The cloth is woven with large patterns
  • It is strong and resilient
  • It is biodegradable
  • It is fairly cheap to produce

Common uses of Burlap

Over the years many people have attempted to popularise this product for consumer use – most attempts at making it popular for cheap clothing have however, failed.

This is mostly because the material is too coarse to be in constant contact with skin. Some of the most popular uses of burlap include:

  • sacks for vegetable transport
  • linoleum floor covering.
  • carpet undersides
  • wall panels
  • tote bags
  • table cloths
  • making yarn and twine

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