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Printing on Burlap - How to Create Burlap Subway Art

By Edited Jan 19, 2014 0 1

Burlap has been around a very long time.  It was used a lot for packaging potatoes and other root veggies to keep them safe and yet breathe to stop moisture causing rot.

But it also has an “artistic side” to it.  You can get lightweight burlap in most fabric stores by the yard.  It is affordable and great for projects, especially the latest creations called “Subway art”.

These are words that mean the most to you, such as words of inspiration, or holidays, or seasons or whatever theme you go with, and then simply stencilling them on the burlap in a right angled fashion in different sized letters.  This is very unique and a great way to decorate a wall on the cheap.

You can make very large ones using stencils, or you can make smaller framed versions using your computer printer.

The printer works well as it keeps the letter tight and filled and you can then print smaller sized words without worry of smearing or blurring.  But how?

How to Print on Burlap

Once you get the hang of this, you will want to create many more of them.  They are fun and a little bit addictive.

What you will need:

Burlap from the fabric store (lightweight approximately a foot wide is easier to work with but you can cut to size)

burlap printing
40" Wide X 1 Yard Long Natural Burlap
Amazon Price: $0.73 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 19, 2014)

Freezer Paper – This was and still is very popular way to wrap meat for the freezer, but it is great for these craft projects.  You can get this at discount grocery stores or online.  Make sure it says “freezer paper”.  This special paper has a shiny waxed side and a plain side.  That is the difference between this and waxed paper.   You don’t want to ruin your iron so make sure you use freezer paper.

Reynolds Freezer Paper
Amazon Price: $3.99 $3.50 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 19, 2014)

Paper Cutter – This is the easiest way to cut your burlap paper to size and be perfectly straight, make sure it has a sharp blade in it.

Fiskars 196920-1001 Portable Paper Trimmer, 12-Inch
Amazon Price: $27.59 $15.79 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 19, 2014)

Sharp scissors

Iron – For ironing on the freezer paper to the burlap

Computer Image



Work in a well-lit area and using a “heat proof” surface lay out some burlap and iron it to flatten it.  You may need to use steam for this part of the project, but then turn the steam off once the burlap is lying flat.

Taking a piece of printer paper roughly cut the burlap to size so you are not working with too big a piece.

Take your freezer paper and using your paper cutter, cut a piece slightly bigger than the printer paper.  This makes it easier to trim away afterwards.

Place the shiny side down over the burlap, and then take your hot dry iron and iron over the plain paper side of the freezer paper.  This will then adhere to the burlap.  Make sure and get it stuck to all parts of the material, this may take a minute or two. 

Take your “page” and now place it in the paper cutter and cut exactly 8.5 x 11 inches for a standard size piece of printer paper.  You will slice through the freezer paper and the burlap so make sure your blade is sharp in your cutter. 

This is the easiest way to make this a perfect size rather than using scissors. 

Run the iron over it again to make sure the edges are secure to the paper, and then inspect for any threads or bits and pieces stuck to the fabric or the paper side, you don’t want these getting in your printer. 

Printing on Burlap

Head over to your printer, and take any blank paper out of the feeder and then figure out how your printer uses the paper, so that you can place it with burlap side up or down as each make of printer is different.  You don’t want it printing on the paper side; you want to print on the burlap side.

Go into your computer and pick your image you have created.  Remember you can create your image free hand and then scan it into the computer; this is a great way to show off your very own subway art too!  You don’t have to create it on the computer; most good printers will scan very detailed drawings.

Choose the print size and settings; make sure to choose “black and white” for the best burlap wall art.

Watch it carefully, you may need to nudge it in to begin with, but once it starts printing you are good.  Make sure it will land in a tray or somewhere safe, you don’t want it bunching up or falling on the floor as the ink may be wet for a few minutes.

Let the ink dry for a few minutes.

Carefully peel off the freezer paper.  It should come off quickly once you grab a corner of it.

Burlap Printing

Video for Burlap Printing

This video shows you just how to accomplish the above steps.  The author (Maryann Caballero of Domestically-speaking.com) has created a beautiful framed sign for the wall using a black frame and decorative tacks to mount these cute little signs on foam core board. 

Print on Burlap and Create Many Works of Wall Art

You could make a few of these pieces and sew them together to create a larger wall hanging.  You could sew them together like quilts. 

If you would prefer to have something much bigger, then you could skip printing on the printer and use stencils and simply “pounce” the letters in black acrylic paint and put a dowel at the top and bottom.  Check out the video below for more ideas.

Subway Wall Art

One great tip:  If you want to create a straight edge with burlap to cut with scissors, such as for a wall hanging, then make a snip vertically and find one thread that runs up and down and simply pull it out, it will leave a slight gap and it will be a straight line for you to follow with your scissors.



Dec 17, 2013 4:58pm
I have never heard of this before. Can't wait to try it!
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