Hessian is one of my favourite ‘specialty’ fabric as it has such great texture. When you mix up your fabrics using some rough, some shiny, some flat, some luscious, you get a lot of visual contrast, dimension and complexity.
Generally working with the specialty fabric is not that much harder than working with cottons, but some may need some extra love to get them to behave. Hessian does need a little bit of preparation to get it to be nice. It is, fundamentally an industrial fabric, not designed for fine sewing and textile art projects but that does not mean we can not use it. I want to discuss some of the issues.
- It is grubby, flakes and smells. Yes, it does all of those things. However it also washes easily, can easily be ironed and softens once washed. Washing it can be a challenge. If you have a large amount, you need a big container to soak it in. Don’t put it in your washing machine. If you have small pieces, the movement of washing it might result in a lot of fraying and unravelling. See below about fraying. I have largely fixed this problem for you with the hand dyed hessian. The process of scouring, dyeing and rinsing the dyed hessian has removed almost all of the excess fibre, has cleaned out all the rubbish and significantly softened the hand of the fabric. I have also cut off the frayed bits and put them in my stash.
- It frays. Yes, it can do that too. You can hem the hessian, including a blind or rolled hem or you can stitch the edges to stabilise them. If you have an overlocker (serger) use this or just do solid zigzag around the edges a couple of times.
- It is itchy and prickly. Once it is washed, this is largely resolved, but don’t use hessian in a bed quilt or baby toys for obvious reasons.
- It is hard to cut straight. Although this does not bother me that much personally, I understand that you might not be comfortable with unevenness. This is easily resolve by finding the first straight strand or thread that reaches from each ends of the hessian. Slowly pull that out and you will have a clear, straight channel to trim the hessian back to.
Despite some of these negatives, hessian is well worth including in your textile and mixed media work. In small amounts it can really change the visual impact of a piece. It is also a fabulous textural background that leaves scope for pretty much any project direction. It irons well and can be used with any double sided web such as Vliesofix etc.
I have 20 different colours in hand dyed hessian and todays special is for you to buy six but only pay for five. I also have a small number of scap bags available on the website.
This photo shows 18 of the 20 colours.
Like most things, there are heaps of ideas and photos on the web. Google working with Hessian or Burlap and you will find heaps. There is also a number of boards on Pinterest. Here is one example. https://www.pinterest.com/glhaygirl/working-with-burlap/