Fabrics 101: Embroidering on Burlap
Fabrics 101: Embroidering on Burlap
you're a fan of rustic, warm,
homespun looks, here's something you
have to try ... embroidering on
burlap! Also known as hessian, this
rough woven fabric is made of
vegetable fibers known as jute. It's
often made into sacks to ship coffee
beans and other foods around the
world ... and you may even have a
few of these basic bags in your
possession. With a bit of special
treatment, this fabric can be a fun
surface for cozy-yet-worldly
embroidery. Read on for tips and
Choosing Your Materials
FABRIC: Burlap is available in
many fabric stores -- we found ours near
the "utility fabrics" such as
interfacing, and plain canvas. If you
have actual burlap sacks, feel free to
use those, too! Burlap in general is a
very rough, loosely woven fabric. If you
can find some on the finer, tighter side,
it will probably display embroidery
better than the coarse kind.
DESIGN: Solid, stitch-filled
designs will work best with burlap.
Avoid redwork or similar running-stitch
designs, and designs with thin areas of
stitching, as these will easily
"disappear" into burlap's very rough
country style designs work well with
the look, but let your imagination run
wild and try out all kinds of
NEEDLE: Use a 75/11 sharp
sewing needle to make sure the
design stitches out as neatly as
STABILIZER: Use a medium-weight cutaway stabilizer, attached
with temporary spray adhesive to the
back of your burlap fabric. This is
absolutely necessary because of burlap's
extremely coarse, loose weave. Depending
on how loosely woven your particular
fabric is, the stabilizer may show
through a bit. Be prepared for this and
plan ways to deal with it, such as
backing your project with a
light-colored fabric. Tear-away
stabilizer will not provide the
necessary support to keep the embroidery
looking nice. Also, use a
water-soluble topping such as Sulky
Solvy over the top of the fabric while
embroidering -- this will help keep the
stitches from "sinking in" to the fabric
and becoming less neat and visible.
Spray a piece of medium weight cutaway
stabilizer with temporary spray
adhesive, and smooth the fabric on top.
Lay a piece of water-soluble topping
over the top, and tightly hoop the whole
FINISHING: Tear away as much of the
water-soluble topping as possible, then
dab some water on the remaining bits to
because of burlap's loose weave, you may
be able to see the cutaway stabilizer
through the little holes in the fabric.
You might want to make this work with
your project by using a light-colored
fabric behind the burlap, or not
trimming the stabilizer and leaving it
behind the whole burlap fabric piece.
another design we tried stitching on
burlap. It has some thin areas of satin
stitching for the letters and the tree.
This design turned out better than we
expected -- the cutaway stabilizer and
water-soluble topping get the credit for
close-up of the lettering. As you can
see, some of these areas of stitching
are almost as small as a single "thread"
in the burlap weave. This is why the
stabilizer and topping are so important
to keep the stitches where they should
close-up of a tiny bit of running stitch
in the first design. It sinks into the
fabric so you can barely see it unless
you're looking at it very closely. That's
fine for this design -- just keep in
mind that embroidery will show up best
on burlap if it's mostly solid.
Santa stocking in the Stitchers
Showcase is made mainly out of burlap.
Victorian Santa Claus design
combines with the rough, homespun fabric
to make a pretty and nostalgic look.
there is to it! Enjoy creating warm and
rustic looks by embroidering on burlap.
Stitching tips for burlap:
sharp needle. An embroidery needle
may also be used.
solid, stitch-filled designs. Avoid light designs (they will get
lost in the weave of the burlap).