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Problem: Burlap is messy.
Solution: As you start to handle burlap, you immediately discover that the jute fibers get fuzz everywhere. It helps to work with burlap outside. Cleanup will be easier, and the mess has less potential to disturb allergies. If you have to work inside, cover your work surface beforehand and be prepared to vacuum and dust the area afterward. To cut back on fuzz, use a spray bottle to mist water onto the burlap before cutting it. Avoid using nice scissors, as the fuzz can clog up the screw and make slicing difficult.
Design detail: Keep the mess out of your home and designate burlap as outdoor decor only. A strip of burlap down the center of a table makes for a chic table runner. And no worries if food spills; the fabric can easily be replaced.
Problem: Burlap smells.
Solution: The jute fibers will always retain some of their scent, but you can lessen it with a little work. Try washing the burlap. (Because of the loose weave, machine washing can damage it. Ideally, you should spot wash it by hand and then let it dry outside in the sun.) Once indoors, spritz it occasionally with some Febreze or perfume to give it a more pleasing aroma.
Design detail: Add it as a key detail in just a few places. For example, wrap scrap burlap around your indoor plants to cover up unattractive plastic pots. Not only will you have a chic new container, but the material acts as a great insulator for plants during cold weather.
Problem: It's too flimsy for the project I’m attempting.
Solution: Burlap is durable, but it lacks the built-in stiffness that might be necessary for certain projects. Despite the loosely woven fibers, it is possible to stiffen it up. Mist spray starch from the craft or grocery store over the burlap before ironing it. Spray one side, let the starch sink in for 10 to 20 seconds, iron and then repeat on the opposite side. Another alternative is fabric stiffener, which should make the burlap even more rigid and firm.
Design detail: Turn burlap into a work of art. The typography on this vintage cocoa bean sack makes a graphic statement in a room rich with eclectic details. Cut the sack down to size and spray it with starch to make it easier for framing. The starch should prevent the fabric from future sagging.
Problem: It is hard to cut it in a straight line.
Solution: Burlap is actually one of the easiest fabrics to cut in a straight line; you just have to know the trick. First, measure out the length you need. Locate the end of a thread at the point where you'd like to cut the burlap. Gently pull the thread, slowly working it out of the fabric. Sometimes the thread can snap. If it does, just find the broken piece and continue to gently pull.