Two MARvelous ideas for using burlap

Burlap — yes, hard-working burlap — has been inspiring designers for years, but not without the added creativity needed to shape beauty from this workmanlike fabric. I remember being a child and finding new and creative ways to use it. I stapled it on my walls in my bedroom and I even upholstered a headboard when I was in college. It was an inexpensive material to use and with the help of my staple gun I could do just about anything with it.
Today, I have a more sophisticated style and yet I’m unable to let go of this wonderful natural fabric as it gives me many nostalgic memories — not to mention great results. The two ideas I am sharing with you today are for your table. Used together or separately, these designed were inspired by wanting to show off the weave of the fabric.

But first, what’s your burlap IQ? Burlap is a product with a long history. Made from the jute plant, and now predominately made in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the large scale weaving of burlap fabric was invented in Scotland, not long after the first 100 pound shipment of jute arrived in England from India in 1793. The process was exported back to India in 1855. Originally burlap was used for curtains and sacks, but now has a wide range of uses, from the decorative to the utilitarian. With its resistance to condensation, its water permeability and ability to disintegrate over time (making it eco-friendly), burlap is a favorite fabric of gardeners — one of the most common uses being to protect plants during the winter. By 1970, the U.S. alone was importing over 200 thousand tons of burlap from India. After you get addicted to these fun projects the number will continue to rise!

What you will need:
  • Several yards of burlap fabric
  • Sharp scissors
  • A festive decorative stamp and inkpad
How to do it:

An interesting twist is that the same instructions can be used for two different projects: table runner or cocktail napkin.

  1. Using sharp scissors, cut each of the four sides of burlap to the designed shape (large square or long rectangle for a runner; 6-in squares for cocktail napkins). Make sure you cut in a straight clean line, with the weave.
  2. Focusing on one side at time, create the fringed edge. Remove the outermost thread that runs parallel to the edge of the fabric. Repeat, one thread at a time, until you create a fringe of the desired length. I like to remove anywhere from four to six threads.
  3. Repeat on the three remaining sides.
  4. Use your stamp and ink to create a decorative motif. For cocktail napkins I like to place one stamp in the center. For a runner I either create a border all the way along all edges, just down the center, or group some stamps in the corners. My stamps? I have a flower, a leaf, and — my favorite — a dog’s paw meant to symbolize miss Violet. Your options are endless
As a table runner:

Any fabric store will offer a verity of burlap fabrics to choose from as more and more designers are using this unlikely material. Measure your table and have burlap extend about 6-8 inches over the edge. Designer tip: Get an extra yard or two to leave yourself room for a “learning curve.”

I always have a traditional tablecloth underneath as this is all about adding texture and interest to your table. Because the color of the tablecloth will show through the weave of the burlap somewhat, you can choose to go with a matching color tablecloth or get bold and do a contrast.

As cocktail napkin:

You may only get one use out of them but the enjoyment of showing them off and saying you made them is well worth it. Perfect for a garden party. Unexpected and trendy. The best part is when your done you can simply throw them into your compost pile.

Feeling crafty now? This is a totally unexpected and a fun project to do and simple enough that the kids can help. The “how to” is the same however the only difference is the size. For added ease, use a traditional cocktail napkin as your template for size and always add an extra inch to each for the four sides for fringing.

Make it fun, make it playful and enjoy the uniqueness of this unexpected home project. Burlap may have never fallen on your “lap” while dinning before, but now you can enjoy this natural fabric in a new fun way that will have everyone talking about just how cleaver you are. And yes, you are clever, for two great reasons: 1. You read this, and 2. You’ve learned, had fun and showed it off.

And there you have it.