Tips: sewing with burlap


Burlap is great and cheap, it gives a dramatic natural feel to any sewing project. But this is not the easiest material to work with. After several projects involving burlap, I collected a few tips for sewing with 100% jute burlap.

Prepare: wash or no wash?

It is recommended to wash fabric before sewing to prevent any future shrinkage or misshape but I always skip this step with burlap. But I know that some pre wash burlap, like  Kristen at Ella Calire Life Inspired: it seems to help with getting rid of the smell.

However, I never skip the ironing phase, and with burlap you will want to do a lot of ironing. I use a medium setting and add some steam now and then.

Cut a straight line

It is tricky to cut a straight line as burlap fibres move around a lot. The best way to do is to make a 2 cm cut at the bottom of the fabric. Then catch the vertical thread that should get out of the cut and pull pull pull. You’ll get out the thread from the full length of the burlap and this leaves you with a straight line that you can use as a guide to cut the fabric.

Cut a shape

Cutting a specific shape is even trickier because tracing on burlap is close to impossible. What you need to do is add a more shape friendly fabric on top of your burlap. I use fusible interfacing: it is perfect to keep the burlap straight AND allows you to draw whatever shape you want. You can then get rid of the interfacing before or after you stitch, or even leave it there. You can also leave the interfacing only where you will stitch. It all depends on the design of the project.


Whether you are hand or machine stitching, you will need to catch as many as possible of the burlap fibers in your stitch. Ideal stitches are short or zig zag ones. It is also a good idea to double stitch or stitch twice the same seam.

If you have any other tips, I would like to hear from you!

9 thoughts on “Tips: sewing with burlap

  1. I’m trying to make wine bags made of burlap and my bobin keeps getting knotted up. Any suggestions? I made a sample bag using cotton fabric and the machine worked fine….only has the problem on the burlap fabric. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Debbie. I don’t know your machine but I would suggest this:
      1) Try and play with the thread tension, it is often the solution ;
      2) Try with a stronger thread ;
      3) Add iron fusible interfacing where you want to seam as it should help the burlap to behave itself. When you’re done stitching, you can remove the interfacing if needed.
      I hope this helps.

    1. Hey Jean, I don’t use a serger so I wouldn’t be able to answer your question. I imagine it should be possible though.

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