Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When Life Gives You Burlap

 Everyone has some rough patches in their life - just like burlap.  Some days are satin, some days are burlap.  Know what I mean?  Burlap is a rough fabric, unpleasant to feel, it ravels apart, just like life.  When you work with it, little fibers fly everywhere, they get up your nose and in your eyes, irritating them both.  BUT, it is a very utilitarian fabric used for many purposes.  It is breathable, can get wet over and over and dry out to be used again.  Know what that feels like? Have you had days like that?   I sure have.

Burlap is used to make bags for carrying, for shipping goods like potatoes and coffee, to cover the roots of trees for planting, to cover cement so it doesn't dry out too fast, and to make sandbags to use when rivers threaten to overflow their banks and floods cities and towns.  Burlap is strong and resilient, just like we can be when needed.

Burlap is made mostly in India and Bangladesh from the covering of jute and hemp plants.  No one seems to know the origin of the word burlap.  Burlap is a term used in the United States and Canada for what is known as Hessian cloth to the rest of the world.  The term Hessian cloth comes from the fact that Hessian soldier's uniforms were made from what we call burlap.  Oh, those poor men.  I cannot imagine the misery of wearing this cloth.  I have used it in costuming and it is not pleasant for the costumer or the wearer of said costume.  My first memory of burlap is bulletin boards covered with it in school.

Burlap is inexpensive and that is why it is so useful for many, many things.  Today, burlap is the darling of the craft world.  You will see it made into so many things.  While working on this project yesterday my thought was ---- When life gives you burlap - CREATE!  We don't have to settle for the rough patches, for the irritations, for the unpleasantness.  If we put our hearts and minds to work, we can make truly beautiful things from the "burlap" in our lives.  Yes, we can and that is what I did yesterday.  I had some burlap to use and I made fall pumpkins.  As I worked on them, the more beautiful they became.  I did not fight the burlap, I let it show me where it wanted to go and what it wanted to become.  I cleared my mind and let the creation happen.  We can do that with out lives.  Accept things for what they are, don't fight it, go with the flow and the result can be something totally unexpected and beautiful.

So, here is how I made these pumpkins.  I had a yard of natural burlap and I wanted some fall pumpkins to use around the house.  Many years of sewing experience help and I was going to sew them when I realized that most people don't sew.  To make it easier, I hot glued them together so anyone could make a pumpkin if they so desired.  Here is how I did it.

First, I doubled the burlap and cut out a pumpkin shape the size I wanted.  Make it bigger than you want the finished pumpkin to be because the seams will make the finished product smaller than what you started with.
Next, I cut sections through both pieces that look like the sections of a pumpkin.  You can draw them if you like, I just cut.

Then, I separates the two pieces leaving them in the order they were cut.  Now you can make 2 pumpkins.  You will be working with an inside curve and an outside curve.  No, we are not talking baseball, but a sewing term.  Think of a smile and a frown.  The frown is the outside curve, the smile is the inside curve.  You are going to glue the sections together in this manner.  You may think they won't fit, but be patient and ease the two pieces together, gluing a little at a time and working the pieces together.

I started at what would be the top of the pumpkin and worked in about 4 inch sections.  Place a bead of hot glue about 1/2 inch down on the left piece, or inside curve.  Ease the outside curve to fit.  Let your glue sit just for a few seconds so it is not too hot.  Remember, burlap is porous and the glue will come through the fabric and burn your fingers.  Keep a bowl of cold water handy to dip your fingers in should you burn yourself.

When you finish, the pumpkin will look like this.
Then, you need to stretch it and pin it to a flat piece of burlap.  This will be the back of the pumpkin.  Cut it about 1/2 inch bigger than the seamed piece.
Now, hot glue the edges together about 1/2 inch in working your way around the pumpkin.  Leave an opening big enough for your fist to fit through at the top and bottom.

For the standing pumpkins (mine are 10x12 finished), you will need to weight them for them to stand so you will cut a gusset (another sewing term) about the size and shape of a big baked potato.  If you are making smaller pumpkins, cut the gusset a size that will fit.  Then, you are going to glue them to the opening on the bottom of the pumpkin.
It will look like a puppet's mouth.  Now, paint the pumpkin.  I used orange acrylic paint and a sponge brush.  I literally just scrubbed some paint roughly between each section of seams and on the back and bottom.  I didn't want it to look too perfect, but with more character.  The paint dries quickly.

While the paint dried, I made the stem by cutting a piece of burlap and rolling it, gluing the seam down and the top of the piece.  I made it about 4 inches long.  Then, I twisted some wire around a paint brush handle and glued it to the "stem."

Now, it's time to "stuff" the pumpkin.  First, I filled a quart sized ziplock bag about 1/3 full with dried beans for weight.  You could use rice also.
Be sure and let all the air out of the bag and then zip it shut.  Put the bag in the top opening of the pumpkin and let it drop to the bottom.  For stuffing, I used plastic bags.  Do you have mountains of them that you save from the store and never know what to do with them?  Well, they make great stuffing for projects like this.  Just wad them up one at a time and push them into the pumpkin until it is full to the top.

Now, you are going to glue the stem on and glue the opening shut.  Time to decorate the pumpkin.

I got the berries and the raffia at the Dollar Tree.  I cut some raffia and tied a knot in it and glued it to the top of the pumpkin.  Then, I pulled a leaf off the berry bush and hot glued it over the raffia.  Next, I pulled some of the berries off and glued them to the leaves.  Done.

Here are some of the sitting pumpkins.

I also made a hanging pumpkin for out back gate that is 14x16.  For this, you don't need to make the gusset on the bottom and use only plastic bags to stuff it.  No beans necessary.  Just glue all the way around leaving an opening at the top to stuff it.  I made a hanger for the back with some floral wire.
This is very light weight so it doesn't take much of a hanger.  Here is how it looks on the gate.

And that was my day of creating with burlap.  I didn't know where I was going (just like life), but I stopped and got quiet and the ideas began to flow.  The answer came.  I went from a piece of burlap to these gorgeous pumpkins that made me so very happy.  I love the texture of them, the color, the seams, the fact that they represent fall and all things beautiful.  They can be used again and again.  They are burlap, not satin, but they are beautiful just like every life on this earth.  They irritated my eyes and nose, covered me with fibers and made a mess, but the result was so worth it.  Everyone should work with some burlap.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

When life gives you burlap, you can make something beautiful from it.  donna