there is a time & a place for burlap

Marian ParsonsFurniture Makeovers, upholstery52 Comments

Remember when we were all collectively wooed by burlap?  It’s cheap.  It’s neutral.  It brings lots of texture to the space.  And, did I mention that it’s cheap?

So, burlap was everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  Curtains, wreaths, dust ruffles, pillows, upholstery, table linens…  burlap wasn’t off limits for anything home decor.  It still isn’t, really.  If you run a search for burlap on Pinterest, the ideas are ample.

I must admit that my curiosity was piqued, but I could never bring myself to fully hop on the bandwagon.  I put my toe in with some burlap ribbon and a cousin to burlap, upholstery webbing, but that’s about as far as I would go.

I may have been a bit unfair to burlap, because all burlaps are not equal, but my mind was already fixed.

Before I started working on the tufted sofa, I had a vision for it.  Hemp sheets on the front, so it’s soft and durable, and burlap on the back.  I liked the idea of the play of contrasting textures and complimenting neutrals, but was I really going to use burlap on a piece of upholstery?  Not just to support the finished fabric, but as the finished fabric?

In order to buy into that vision fully, I needed to find the right burlap.  I wanted to find one with a tighter weave that felt a bit more substantial than typical burlap.


After a bunch of online browsing, I ended up purchasing Sagless Burlap for $5.60/yard and I’m really happy with the choice.  It does have a tight weave and can be pulled for upholstery.


Now, it does still fray and shed and smell “earthy”, just like plain ‘ole burlap, but I’m okay with that, since I’m just using it on the backside of the sofa.  I wouldn’t use it for where people are sitting, but I really like it as the back.

The sofa is really coming along!


Remember the braided jute trim I shared in my first post about the sofa?


I am going to use that and pair it was some upholstery tacks my friend, Traer, gave me.  She bought a huge lot of upholstery supplies at an auction and generously shared some with me.


I think they will look amazing with the braided jute trim I selected to use as gimp. mms-4544

I wish I had a source to share for the trim, but I think I picked it up at HomeGoods or Hobby Lobby or TJ Maxx or some random place and I don’t remember where.  I haven’t been able to find it online.

It looks like we might have another snow day tomorrow, so the sofa will have to wait a little bit more.  She’s been pretty patient so far, even though she’s the high maintenance sort…


If you’d like to catch up on how far this sofa has come, you can do so here…

part 1 | stripping & painting the frame

part 2 | making fabric covered buttons

part 3 | troubles with tufting

part 4 | tufting success

part 5 | burlap backing

part 6 | braided jute trim & tacks

part 7 | tufted sofa reveal

there is a time & a place for burlap

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52 Comments on “there is a time & a place for burlap”

  1. OOOh great choice using the burlap on the back. If anyone knows how to get rid of that smell that burlap always possesses please share !
    Thanks and hoping the snow is pretty and not hazardous on the roads.

  2. When I saw the picture of the burlap on the tufted sofa I smiled. Your vision was perfect! It is a stunnaaaa! Can’t wait to see her all finished up!

  3. Killer. Love it. I have asthma so I couldn’t use it but I love the look. I have to run thru the rug department at Ikea because of the jute etc.

    Can you wash burlap first and maybe hang it outdoors in the sun to dry? Maybe that would get rid of the smell if you used fabric softener.

    1. Probably shouldn’t wash burlap because it’s actually made from plants/grass. Folding and crinkling it breaks the fibers. In the Philippines where I live part of the year, they make burlap and call it “jute.” Vacuuming it regularly could help, though. It’s good that you know, Jan, what you can handle and what to avoid.

      Love the progress on the tufted sofa!


  4. Love the color and the look but am not a burlap fan. Yes the smell and itchiness are too much for me. That said, the texture and color on your sofa is amazing! Good eye!

  5. Oh my goodness it will be gorgeous! I love, love, love the combinations you’ve shown us so far… can’t wait to see them all together on the finished “diva”!

  6. OH MY GOSH! it’s so beautiful! I never was a burlap lover either, but this is just beyond perfect with the white. I could just die over how pretty it looks together! I so totally want that sofa….


  7. Love, love, love the contrast and texture created by the different fabrics – and the tufting is fantastic. Well done! Can’t wait to see the finished piece.

  8. LOVING how this is coming our, Marian. Just gorgeous. I need to work up to be brave enough to try upholstery. I have a french chair that is crying to be redone. 😉

  9. Absolutely LOVE the combination!! You have such an eye! Thank you for the inspiration…I have a chair I bought from a friend that needs to be redone and I think I’m going to use something similar to reupholster it! I love your blog and SO appreciate you sharing your ideas with us!

  10. I was sitting at the table at a bridal shower on Sunday and noticed “stuff” all over my black pants. I’m looking all over the place trying to figure out where it came from when … there it was … the burlap runner on the table! Between that and the purple glitter underlay ribbon … what a mess!

  11. i love the burlap and I’ve already bookmarked the page for future purchases. Now to go through the furniture stash to find something I can use this on!

  12. Love the way you always blend home-y, a little rustic, with elegant lines & items. No one does this like you. 🙂

  13. I like the classic but rustic vibe with this sofa. For the life of me, I don’t understand why people put burlap pillows in places where it might touch someone, like on a sofa–too scratchy. The back of the sofa, though, is a good idea. You get the look, but not the discomfort. Thanks for sharing your source of sag-less burlap with us.

  14. Every update on this sofa gets better! Can’t wait to see it finished and in my living room…wishful thinking.

  15. Coming along wonderfully and it will be a beauty. I am learning,thanks Marian. Spring is suppose to come early but my question is how early, lol!

  16. Hi
    Did you know if you spray the burlap with water & vinegar mixture it will take away the earthy smell!!! Just an FYI from an advid admirer ?

    1. Love the look but not not my favorite for such a beautiful sofa styled sofa
      Seems to be too trendy which I personally avoid, I stick to proven clean basic proven looks which always seem in style
      But good job and I do like the trim
      Thx for sharing your vision

  17. Marian, the way you envision pieces of furniture that you re-do is always surprising to me. And this sofa is not the least example! What?! Burlap?? Burlap on this elegant sofa? Marian, are you okay? Have you taken your temperature? Where on EARTH do you come up with these ideas?? But, I’ll be darned, it looks great! Unique should be your middle name, my dear. Is it that I’m 70-something and you’re 30-something that makes you more fearless to do those off-beat things? Well, if it is, then I am SO grateful I found you to help me stretch my thinking and hatch more unconventional ideas. Thanks, lady! And brava! on that beast of a sofa!

  18. Great job! Do you ever order slipcover fabric online? I am looking to slipcover my ottoman and would like to find a good reliable online site.

    Any information will be appreciated!

    Thank you,


  19. Marian, now I’m enthused. Adding the burlap really makes it look so much more interesting. Can’t wait to see it finished.

  20. Oh Marian, you are so talented and creative. I really need you to come to my house. I bought your book a couple of years ago and faithfully read your blogs, but my home decor is just a mess with such random themes here.

  21. Eons ago, my mother made me a jumper out of a fabric called ‘homespun”. When the burlap craze started, I couldn’t get past the smell and scratchy feel either but I like the rustic look of some of the projects and my mind went back to that old jumper. So her is an online source I have used that sells a very nice quality 100% cotton homespun.
    Lots of additional color choices and some stripes and checks too.
    While not upholstery grade it certainly is inexpensive enough to be underlined for additional strength if needed.

  22. This is going to be GORGEOUS! love your choices and your vision and I can’t wait to see the final result!

  23. You have hit this one out of the park!!!!! It is going to look great – love the burlap, the braided trim and tacks.

  24. Perfect inspiration for a pair of frenchy chairs that I have started…and will work on tonight!
    Thank you!!

  25. It *almost* looks like a rustic linen … and I really like it. I am not a fan of the earthy smell and the crazy shedding of burlap. I know that there are many who are actually allergic to burlap and it’s not good for my asthmatic daughter, so I’ll stick to using it to wrap my rose bushes!

  26. Wow! I saw this trimmed out on instagram this morning… Just gorgeous!
    You really do make it look easy, I feel like I want to try a chair sometime…yikes!!
    I really need this piece for my bedroom 😉

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