Embroidery on Burlap Tutorial: Easy Peasy

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Embroidered burlap flags are all the rage, so I decided I urgently needed one for my house. 

I’d embroidered on burlap in the past when making Christmas coasters, but this was my first foray into using large pieces of burlap. 

With a little troubleshooting, I perfected my embroidery on burlap and made the perfect burlap flag. Here’s how to embroider on burlap with an embroidery machine!

how to machine embroider on burlap

Necessary Supplies

Here’s what I used when machine embroidering on burlap. 

Choosing Good-Quality Burlap

As your machine embroiders, the stitches need to be able to “catch” on the burlap if you want the stitch integrity to remain after the stabilizer is gone.

As such, choose a more densely woven burlap. Burlap with huge gaping holes won’t work.

My burlap was a heavy-weight jute burlap from Hobby Lobby, but there are a lot of options that will work!

Best Stabilizer for Burlap

score the top layer of the sticky stabilizer

The best stabilizer for burlap in my experience was sticky, self-adhesive tear-away stabilizer.

The adhesive held the burlap threads in place, keeping them from moving during the stitching process. It also made floating the burlap super simple. 

The issue with wash-away stabilizer or regular tear-away and a temporary fabric adhesive was the adhesive here didn’t hold the burlap well enough. This caused distortion of the fibers during stitching.

And, while sticky cut-away stabilizer might have given a better stitch-out, the residual stabilizer remains on the back after stitching. I just didn’t like the show-through. 

I also found adding a film-like water-soluble topping over the burlap gave a better end product. The stitches sunk less into the burlap and sticky stabilizer. 

Embroidery on Burlap – Tutorial

1. Marking the Design

One great feature of burlap is it already has perpendicular fibers that make lining up the burlap very easy. 

Because of this simplicity, you really only need to mark the center of where you want the design to go.

how to mark burlap for embroidery

While I usually mark with a water-soluble marking pen or chalk wheel, placement stickers do the trick for this project!

I make them myself by using color coding labels and a pen. More info here: how to make and embroidery placement stickers.

2. Floating the Burlap

how to float burlap for embroidery

Hooping burlap will put creases in it and distort the weave. It’s best to float the burlap, which means placing it over a hooped piece of stabilizer.

In this case of embroidering on burlap, first, hoop a piece of sticky self-adhesive stabilizer. Then, use a pin to score off the paper-backed top of the stabilizer.

Place the piece of burlap over the stabilizer and press it down, smoothing out any wrinkles. Make sure that the burlap’s fibers are perpendicular to each other and match up with the hoop well. The placement sticker will need to be in the center of the hoop. 

3. Setting Up the Machine

Next, place the hoop into your embroidery machine.

Load your design and line up the center of the needle with the center of your marked burlap.

water-soluble topping for burlap

Then, place a layer of water-soluble topper over the burlap. You can secure it with the slightest amount of Odif 505 spray or a little bit of water around the edges if desired. 

getting ready to embroider on burlap

Lower your presser foot, press start, and watch your machine embroider on the burlap!

4. Tidying Up

Once your machine is done stitching, remove the stabilizer from the hoop.

tear away stabilizer

Tear away the residual stabilizer from the design very carefully! You don’t want to distort the fibers. 

Trim any jump stitches.

peel of water-soluble topping

Then, tear away the water-soluble topping from the front of the burlap. Any residual topping can be removed with a dab of water. 

Burlap can also make a mess when sewing, serging, or embroidering. Thus, make sure to give your machine a good inspection and cleaning after this embroidery project!

Making the Embroidered Burlap Flag

My embroidered burlap flag has withstood several rainstorms, and it even survived the biggest freeze Texas has seen in over 100 years! So far, so good.

Here’s a quick tutorial on how I made the banner. 

To make the bottom, I folded a piece of quilting cotton wrong sides together and serged the raw edge to the right side of the banner. I pressed the seam away from the burlap.

To make it a little more stable, I added some hot glue to the intersection to keep the burlap from fraying where it was serged. 

how to add a ruffle to a burlap flag

Then, I serged along the other 3 edges to keep the burlap from fraying. I avoided using my sewing machine. I really didn’t want to have a messy clean-up there. 

serging the raw edges

And, behold the wonders of hem tape! This worked perfectly to permanently fold back the sides of the fabric to pretty things up. 

the back appearance of the burlap flag using hem tape on burlap

I then folded the top down and used more hem tape. For the big overlap on the corners, I used hot glue. 

my embroidered burlap sign DIY

All that was left was to place a dowel through the top and tie on some ribbon! 

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