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Burlap curtains can make an interesting and unusual window treatment. Their rustic and rough-spun look will complement a variety of informal settings, from recreation rooms to college dorms. Burlap looks best among other natural fibers and textures, but can also provide an interesting contrast when coordinated with smooth, modern designs and surfaces. Burlap's pluses include its relatively low cost and ability to provide filtered light. Potential cons in choosing burlap curtains include a limited range of color choices, fabric width, and potential shrinkage, as well as dustiness, and smell.
In settings such as a rustic farmhouse or mountain cabin, burlap's highly textured surface coordinates well with country-style furniture and natural materials. An exotic touch can be added to a family or recreation room by using burlap coffee sacks bearing their original stencil marks. Coarsely woven burlap allows some light to pass through it, making burlap curtains a good choice when they do not need to block all exterior light while providing privacy.
Since burlap is usually made with natural hemp or jute fibers produced with little or no pesticides, it is an eco-friendly window-covering option. Extremely durable burlap will last indefinitely and is resistant to tears. Burlap is also extremely economical, making it a good choice when decorating on a strict budget.
Due to their rough texture, burlap curtains tend to hold dust and can be somewhat difficult to clean. They can also shed a considerable amount of fiber. Burlap shrinks significantly during laundering and residual shrinkage should be factored in when sizing curtains. Burlap also lacks the soft textures and attractive drape of other textiles used in making curtains. Due to its lack of drape, burlap will be more attractive when used to cover smaller windows rather than in floor-to-ceiling treatments.
Burlap can be hard to find in attractive decorator colors and may require some special sizing for windows. In some settings, however, its natural, brownish color will coordinate attractively with other shades. As a natural fiber, burlap can be readily dyed in a wide range of shades. Depending on the type and color of dye used, the curtains may fade during sustained exposure to direct sunlight. Burlap is typically sold in widths that are narrower than traditional drapery fabrics. As a result, the process of assembling draperies can involve more sewing and seams.
While burlap is known for its ruggedness, burlap curtains can become brittle and stretched out over time. Some burlap specifically produced for decorating purposes is treated to minimize brittleness, fiber shedding, and sagging. Due to its earthy odor, burlap fabrics are also sometimes given a deodorization treatment.
I made burlap curtains for my kitchen window years ago and love them. The original scent was pretty yucky for the first few weeks, but went away. They do get dusty and since they can't be washed, I shake them out and vacuum them every few months or so.
The backsides have faded from the natural fiber color to a strange red/orange color, but the side I see is still good. Also, they don't have a "swooping" look when tied back, but look great bunched in the middle with wide ribbon.
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