The History and Uses of Burlap


Tough and durable, burlap is known globally by many names (e.g. hessian or jute). The ancient people of India are credited with discovering the many uses of the jute plant. While the Indians used small amounts of the plant to make rope and paper, upon its discovery in the 1790s by English traders, the plant had not yet seen massive exportation. By 1793, Britain received 100 tons of the plant, and continued shipping the plant home for use.

The plant also made its way into Dundee, Scotland where the jute earned royal treatment, and by the 1830s, it was discovered how to make this tough material spin into yarn. Due to the hard-earned spinning discovery, Dundee Scotland was able to begin spinning large quantities of the material and he thrived.

Dundee housed five jute mills by 1869, containing 950 looms. By 1910, a stunning growth of jute processing had occurred, and mills skyrocketed to 38, operating 30,685 looms. Over one billion yards of cloth were produced that year, transforming into more than 450 million burlap bags. Before long, jute would make its way across a more global stage, heading out to America, Germany, Italy, and Russia. However, jute may only be found in parts of India and therefore, supplies the world.

While jute fibers do not typically make for popular clothing, burlap has been historically used to clothe German soldiers. Giving burlap its other referred name, Hessian, German soldiers from the state of Hesse, had uniforms commissioned from the sturdy material.

Today, jute provides for four main manufactured purposes. First and foremost, jute provides burlap. While burlap makes for a strong sack, another manufacturing purpose is sacking (NYP-Corp carries a large variety of burlap bags). Historically, sacks made from jute fiber have been used for carrying coffee beans, cement, and concrete. Interestingly, this strong fiber is also used for providing sandbags, used to build embankments, temporarily warding off flood waters. Burlap may also be manufactured for art work, the tough fibers stretched to make a type of canvas for painting. The inexpensive canvas may also be used to protect people from the elements, including rain and hail. Commonly, jute may also be woven into yarn or twine, making this plant’s fibers useful for a plethora of commodities.

The fiber of the jute plant makes for an excellent marketable item due to its versatility, strength, and resistance to wear and tear. With the expansive history of this useful plant, the jute industry will continue to thrive.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011 at 4:51 pm and is filed under Burlap.

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