what is jute? – information sheet no 1


Information sheets are an idea I have had for a while – these will, hopefully, be a resource for all readers. This is the first of a library of i/sheets that you can consult at any time. I do not intend to write them all – if you have an idea for one and would like to submit it, please use the form on the ‘contact me’ page.  There is no planned timetable for posting these, they will appear – as and when – a good subject comes along!


hessian sacking

hessian sacking

spun jute for weaving and twine

spun jute for weaving

I have been buying in quite a lot of jute, in one form or another.  There is hessian, cones of spun jute for weaving, and garden ties, shopping bags and laundry/storage baskets – all currently listed across the 4 sites you will find underneath my photo on the right hand side. (Clicking on these 3 photos will also take you to my sites.) I just accepted the notion that it is a cheap, reliably strong material from which certain products were made. I didn’t even pause to wonder where it grew and what it was – maybe you were always better informed than I was – but I doubt if everyone knows much about jute and where it comes from.

jute laundry basket

jute laundry basket

It is always described as Eco Friendly by my suppliers, and I can trust their descriptions, because they provide proof of where the items come from and even pictures of the people that make them. But – come to think of it – I can’t remember them doing a piece on jute! So the first place I went to for information was Wikipedia – easy as that!  They even had pictures! “Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fiber that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced from plants in the genus Corchorus. ……..”Jute” is the name of the plant or fiber that is used to make burlap, Hessian or gunny cloth……..Jute is one of the most affordable natural fibers and is second only to cotton in amount produced and variety of uses of vegetable fibers. Jute fibers are composed primarily of the plant materials cellulose and lignin……. The fibers are off-white to brown, and 1–4 metres (3–13 feet) long. Jute is also called “the golden fiber” for its color and high cash value. Another search for pictures led me to this blog, written in 2012, so rather than paraphrase it, I’m just copying most of it from:

Jute Harvesting and Basic Processing

jute rope

jute rope

Jute is a natural fibre that is mainly grown across West Bengal in India and in Bangladesh with some also grown in, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Thailand and China. The jute is taken from the stem and the skin of the stem, which is called the ribbon.  It is a crop that has been used for centuries and there is evidence that the Chinese were using jute fibres as the basis for early paper. The industry really began to develop with the building of large scale mills during the time of the British East India Company.  The jute was initially exported to the UK and to Dundee in particular, where there was a well-established flax industry. Initially the fibre could only be processed by hand but it was discovered that whale oil allowed to be processed by machine.  The jute industry went through a boom time and the factory owners in Dundee became known as the Jute Barons.  This is yet another example of the value being added to the product outside of the “colonies” for the greater good of the colonial powers.  Following the decline and fall of the British Empire and the discovery and mass production of artificial fibres the mills began to close.  The industry has been in decline for some years, and although the demand for natural fibres has improved things, the increase has not been as great as hoped. Jute is known as the “golden fibre” in Bangladesh and is an important source of income for the farmers. I took these photographs during my recent trip to northern Bangladesh, around Saidpur. It was the end of the growing season and the harvest was just beginning. The jute is harvested and then allowed to soak for a few days in water before the fibres can be stripped off and left to dry. It is then transported, often by bicycle rickshaw, to collection points before being taken to the mills where it is processed and turned into the familiar fibres found in sacks, carpet backing and bags. Jute can also be processed into finer, more delicate yarns which occasionally are turned into clothes. Jute awaiting harvest Jute being harvested The jute is then bundled and left to soak in water.  Here it’s soaking next to a partially flooded Hindu graveyard After the jute has soaked for a few days, the fibres can then be stripped from the stems The fibres are then dried, often on the side of the road before being taken to the collection points and then the mills And going back to Wikipedia

  • Jute fiber is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly.

    coffee sacks made of jute

    coffee sacks made of jute

  • Jute has low pesticide and fertilizer needs.
  • It is a natural fiber with golden and silky shine and hence called The Golden Fiber.
  • It is the cheapest vegetable fiber procured from the bast or skin of the plant’s stem.
  • It is the second most important vegetable fiber after cotton, in terms of usage, global consumption, production, and availability.

Jute has loads of uses – and the leaves are eaten in many of the producing countries These are the 2011 production figures for the various countries that produce jute:

Top ten jute producers — 2011[8]
Country Production (Tonnes)
 India 1,924,326
 Bangladesh 1,523,315
 People’s Republic of China 43,500
 Uzbekistan 18,930
   Nepal 14,418
 Vietnam 8,304
 Burma 2,508
 Zimbabwe 2,298
 Thailand 2,184
 Egypt 2,100
 World 3,583,235

14 responses »

  1. Recently, I bought some jute yarn and wove several rugs and shopping bags. The pictures are in the gallery on my weaving site, The Artful Weaver. Burlap is made from jute fiber. Jute is an interesting fiber, hypoallergenic and doesn’t hold molds or dirt.


    • Thanks for your comment Judith, I noticed the shopping bags when I was looking at your site a while back – I didn’t realise it also had the properties you mentioned!

      Your Show & Tell page is still attracting attention!


  2. Hey, I am sadia. Debbie send me your link 🙂 What I’d tell? I never watched jute manufacturing, but I use jute bags, mats and handicrafts, and they are awesome! recently, jute fiber is mixed with polyesters and other fibers to make various things, which makes it more user friendly and persistent..

    And let me share you one thing, We have recently done with the whole genome sequencing of two jute variety, which may lead us to play more with the fiber genetically 🙂

    Here I found some links to order things, but um definitely not sure about them 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

    • hallo sadia, thank you so much for leaving your comment. Is the genetic sequencing something you have been involved in, or is this just something you have heard about? I’m not sure that such natural plants should be changed, but if science has progressed that far, there is not much I can do about it!

      The links you have sent are fascinating! Just to let you know, that I found your comment in the spam list which would have been deleted if I hadn’t checked it. Any comment with more than 2 links is automatically assumed to be spam!

      All the best – Debbie sent me a link to your site, and I put a few ‘likes’ on it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you so much julz for stopping by my blog ! I didn’t know about the link thing! it’s so helpful 🙂
        No, I wasn’t in that project.but let me tell you that, if we know the genome sequence, we can identify the disease prone parts, so can help building better plants. they also sequenced a fungus which affect jute most. another thing is, our water bodies have changed a lot these days, due to global warming and all that..so if we build better plants they could’ve survived themselves..
        here’s a link about the genome project http://www.jutegenome.org/

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is so thrilling to see two diverse wordpress bloggers connecting up about JUTE! of all things~
        what a fascinating world we live in and thanks to the wordpress platform for supporting people all across the world to connect 🙂


        • thanks for your introduction – smile

          yes the power of the internet can work in wondrous ways – we have you in China, Sadia in Bangladesh & me inthe UK, as well as the USA and Australia, just in this little comment thread!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow Julz, this was very interesting. I am going to send this site to a Bangladeshi friend who blogs.
    Thanks for this great info – I had never stopped to think where hessian came from!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hi Debbie, please do send it around, it would be great to have a perspective from someone in Bangladesh – if he/she would like to contribute some information that would be great!


  4. Well that was so interesting. I had no idea WHAT jute actually was even though I’ve used it for lots of projects. Those pictures of it growing were awesome. Great info sheet.


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