What Is Hessian

What Is Hessian

Hessian, or burlap in the US, is a woven fabric usually made from skin of the jute plant or sisal fibres, or may be combined with other vegetable fibres to make rope, nets, and similar products. Gunny cloth is similar.

Hessian, a dense woven fabric, has been historically produced as a coarse fabric, but more recently it is being used in a refined state known simply as jute as an Eco-friendly material for bags, rugs, and other products.

The name "burlap" appears to be of unknown origin. The name "hessian" is attributed to the use of the fabric, initially, as part of the uniform of soldiers from the German state of Hesse who were called "Hessians."


Shipping and Construction

Hessian is often used to make sacks and bags to ship goods like coffee beans; these can be described as gunny sacks. It is breathable and thus resists condensation and associated spoilage of the contents. It is also durable enough to withstand rough handling in transit; these properties have also led to its use for temporary protection as wet covering to prevent rapid moisture loss in setting of cement and concrete by the construction industry. Hessian is also commonly used for making sandbags, empty hessian sacks that, when filled with sand, are used for flood mitigation when building temporary embankments against floodwaters or field fortifications.

Landscaping and Agriculture

Hessian is used to wrap the exposed roots of trees and shrubs when transplanting, and also for erosion control on steep slopes.


Due to its coarse texture, it is not commonly used in modern apparel. However, this roughness gave it a use in a religious context for mortification of the flesh, where individuals may wear an abrasive shirt called a cilice or "hairshirt" and in the wearing of "sackcloth" on Ash Wednesday. Owing to its durability, open weave, naturally non-shiny refraction, and fuzzy texture, Ghillie suits for 3D camouflage are often made of hessian. It was also a popular material for camouflage scrim on combat helmets of World War II. Until the advent of the plastic "leafy" multi-color net system following the Vietnam War, burlap scrim was also woven onto shrimp and fish netting to create large-scale military camouflage netting.


Hessian has been used by artists as an alternative to canvas as a stretched painting surface. In Horror fiction, it is commonly used as a mask. In film/TV In horror cinema, The Mysterious Prowler "The Phantom Killer" wore a Burlap Sack over his head in the cult classic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1977). In Friday the 13th Part II, Jason Voorhees, now as an adult murderer, worn a white Burlap sack with one eyehole & a rope to cover his hideously deformed face at his neck, it is similar to the Phantom Killer's hood, except it has two eyeholes, while Jason's has one eyehole.


In the 1968 song by Georgie Fame 'The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde' a line relates ~ "Reach for the sky, sweet talkin' Clyde would holler, while Bonnie loaded dollars into the Burlap bag"

Emergency Flood Response

Hessian bags are often deployed as sandbags as a temporary response to flooding. Because of their material they can either be reused or can be composted after use. Agencies like the State Emergency Service in Australia, and Technisches Hilfswerk in Germany often deploy the use of sandbags and are often found in the majority of their emergency response vehicles. Plastic bags have been used as a substitute but SES units have found hessian bags to be more versatile as they can be used in a variety of rescue applications, mainly as an edge protector for rope rescue operations, or to use as padding on slings used in Animal Rescue.


Hessian fabric is often used as smoker fuel in hive-tending because of its generous smoke content and ease of ignition.

There are no products to list in this category.