A Brief History of Hessian Jute Fabric
Hessian jute fabric, called burlap in the United States, has been produced in India and Pakistan for hundreds of years. It earned its common name (hessian or hessian jute) from its affiliation with soldiers of Hesse, a state in Germany.
These soldiers were commonly called Hessians, and because part of their uniforms included this type of fabric, people took to referring to the fabric by the same name as the soldiers. Thus, hessian was born.
As for the jute part of the fabric’s name, it derives from the jute plant, from which hessian jute is cultivated. Native to the Ganges River delta (which spans parts of India and Pakistan), jute has a cultivation history that dates back hundreds of years.
Early Uses for Hessian Jute Fibers
Prior to the production of hessian jute fabric from the fibers of jute plants, Indian and Pakistani farmers used the plant to produce paper and ropes. Farmers in the region typically grew the plant in small quantities and, while some poorer populations may have woven the fibers into fabric for clothing, it was not considered a major source of fabric.
English Exportation of Hessian Jute
In the late 18th century, demand for hessian jute exploded when representatives from the East India Company saw the potential to produce much more than paper and rope from jute plants. The company decided to export large quantities of jute fibers to England and Scotland, where Brits developed a process for turning the fibers into yarn and weaving it into the hessian jute we know today.
By the mid-19th century, jute mills had sprung up around India and Pakistan, and the industry continued to boom as producers discovered ways of making hessian jute of finer quality. Jute exports became economically important to India and the use of hessian jute rose in popularity around the world.
Hessian Jute Today
Today, hessian jute remains a popular fabric with dozens of common applications. In addition to its visible use as a shipping material for products such as coffee, hessian jute is commonly used to back carpeting, to prevent soil erosion under newly planted sod, and to protect trees from rodents or wind damage. In some cases, jute fibers are woven with other vegetable fibers to create nets, ropes, or other industrial and commercial products.
Hessian jute presently finds its way into the homes of people worldwide for many uses. Besides its practical uses, hessian jute maintains popularity among crafters, thanks in part to its relatively low price, its adaptability (it can be dyed a variety of colors), and its availability in dozens of widths.
Crafters use the fabric to create unique variations and colorful designs, while keeping their costs low. Bulk purchases are not abnormal, as crafters know the value of a fabric for its price, and hessian jute fits this category well.