It wasn’t long ago that I was singing the praises of burlap. Since then, I got the chance to work on an all burlap custom order. In the process, I learned a bit more about sewing with the stuff and discovered that it’s even more fab than I originally thought!
Burlap is not just an eco-friendly fabric option, it’s also inexpensive and sometimes even free! Many coffee shops receive bulk coffee orders in burlap sacks and are happy to give extras away. Here are some tips for sewing with burlap and an added eco-friendly bonus.
Sewing With Burlap
Since most burlap fiber is a fairly loose weave, once you cut it, you really need to get sewing as soon as possible. If you can’t sew the whole thing on the same day, you might consider at least basting the edges.
Instead of a wide stitch for basting, I had much better success sticking to my machine’s default stitch length, since it was more likely to grab the fibers.
The other thing to keep in mind when you’re working with burlap is that it sheds. It sheds like crazy. I usually cut while standing at the ironing board, and I ended up having to give it a once over with a lint remover to get the tiny fibers off of there. For the sake of time, I’d suggest cutting on a surface that’s easy to wipe down.
When you get down to the sewing, you’ll want to use a zig zag stitch rather than a straight stitch. Because of the weave, this will help your thread catch more of the fibers and make your finished product more sturdy.
Burlap is usually made from jute, a plant that requires few pesticides and little water to grow. It grows quickly and is awesome at absorbing CO2. But if you read the last Fab Fabrics about burlap, you knew all of that already.
So what was the awesome new thing I discovered? If your burlap scraps are undyed, you can toss them right into the compost bin! I was working with coffee bags, so I pitched the unused areas that had ink on them, but all of that solid brown, undyed fiber went straight into the compost. Since it’s dry, you can treat is like brown matter.
Pretty awesome, right?
Now what I’d like to know is how burlap interacts with dye. It might be fun to dye the fiber different colors before sewing. Has anyone tried that out?
[Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by myklroventine]