burlap art

Jenny Bartoy is a mama of two little boys in Seattle, Washington and a former project manager with a passion for sewing, drawing and crafting.  She blogs about her handmade projects on Stumbles & Stitches, a creative conversation with her friend Angel. Jenny sells fabric art and other handmade items in her new Etsy shop.
Hello Whipup.net readers! I’m so excited to be here and share a favorite project of mine: burlap art. I love repurposing materials, it’s such a fun and eco-conscious way to create. For this project, I used part of a burlap coffee sack as my canvas and small fabric scraps to create my picture. Inspired by nature, this design features two birdies calling to each other through the woods at sunset.
You can often find used burlap coffee sacks on Craigslist and Ebay, or if you’re lucky, through a local coffee shop where they roast their own beans. While stamped and distressed coffee sacks look pretty cool as a background, other perfect materials can be linen from thrifted curtains, canvas from a painter’s drop cloth, a vintage napkin… The possibilities are endless when repurposing!
The finished size of this fabric art is 9 x 9 inches. For this project, you will need the following materials:
  • Printed template [link to “Calling Birdies Template” PDF]
  • Background: burlap or other fabric, 15 x 15 inches (includes extra material to wrap around stretcher bars)
  • Lining (if using burlap): muslin, 15 x 15 inches
  • Trees: one piece of fabric, 10 x 7 inches
  • Birdies and leaves: dozen small fabric scraps
  • Fusible web appliqué paper (double-sided iron-on adhesive)
  • Thread, needle, scissors, pen, sewing machine
  • Canvas stretcher bars, 9 x 9 inches
  • Nails/hammer or staples/staple gun
1. Let’s start by prepping your fabric. If using burlap for your background, you’ll want to line it with a square of muslin.  Pin your two layers together and stitch all the way around. I do a straight stitch, then a zigzag stitch around that. Burlap has a way of coming undone if you don’t secure its edges!
I’m using the inside of a coffee sack here, where the ink has seeped through from the stamping.  The letters are backwards, but I like that it’s a more subtle print than the bold black characters on the front of the sack.
2. Select your fabric scraps for the trees, birdies and leaves. For my version, I imagined these birdies at sunset, so I chose scraps in warm colors like yellow, orange, red and purple. To contrast and create an impression of shadows, I selected a grey solid for my trees and white/beige checks for my birdies.
Choose a color scheme that speaks to you! You could do sunset, or autumn or spring, or even completely neutral on a colorful background. Iron your fabric scraps onto fusible web (please follow manufacturer’s instructions).
3. Print out my template at 100% on 8.5 x 11 inch letter size paper [link to “Calling Birdies Template” PDF]. Cut out the shapes and trace them onto the paper side of the fusible web, on the back of the fabric scraps you’ve prepped. You’ll need to trace 3 tree trunks (draw them backwards!), 2 birdies (one in each direction) and 12 leaves.
Cut out your fabric shapes. I like to cut an excess of leaves from a variety of scraps, then play with the color arrangement until I’m happy.
4. Place your fabric shapes onto the background fabric. You can follow my template, or change it up! Face the birds away from each other, move the leaves around…  Remember to keep all the pieces within a central 9 x 9 inch space, your finished project size.
At this point, I like to snap a digital picture of my layout. It allows me to see it from a different perspective and notice what may need to be tweaked. It also helps me remember exactly where I placed each piece before the next step.
5. Remove the birdies and leaves, set them aside. Peel the paper backing from the trees and fuse them onto the background fabric (please follow manufacturer’s instructions for fusible web).
6. Stitch around the trees with your sewing machine, or a needle and thread. Your thread color choice depends on whether you want the stitches to contrast or blend into your appliqué.  I used dark grey thread on everything to create overall cohesion.
I outlined each appliqué piece with a straight stitch, roughly 1/8 inch in from the edge – it adds texture to the finished project. Since the fusible web is adhering your pieces to the background fabric, you can skip this step if you prefer. Or you can zigzag stitch around the appliqué, try a blanket stitch, or go crazy with embroidery floss and a needle. Have fun with it, it all contributes to the finished artwork!
7. It’s time to add the birdies and leaves! Follow the same steps as for the trees. When you’re done top-stitching, add legs for the birdies by stitching 2 little sticks under each bird’s belly. You can either machine-stitch or embroider them.
8. Carefully press your fabric art one last time, cut off any errant threads and make sure you’re satisfied with the overall look and details – it’s your last chance! Then it’s time to attach your fabric art onto the canvas stretchers.
I recommend googling the proper technique for attaching fabric onto stretcher bars. My method is to lay the fabric art face down on a clean flat surface, then center the stretcher bars on top. Begin by folding over each edge of the fabric art one at a time, and sticking a nail/staple in the middle of the bar. Taking turns with each side, gently pull the fabric taut and secure it evenly around the canvas with nails/staples. Finish by neatly folding the corners in and nailing/stapling those down.
Ta-da!  You are done!
Thank you Kathreen for inviting me to post on WhipUp! I hope you’ve all enjoyed this tutorial. I can’t wait to see what you make and hope you’ll come share it with me over on Stumbles & Stitches. My talented friend and blog-mate Angel is working on her own version of this project and will be showing it off too!
Note: The template shared here is for personal use only. Please do not sell it or any projects made from it. If you share your project online, please credit the design to Jenny Bartoy of Stumbles & Stitches. Thanks in advance and happy stitching!