Burlap's rough, uneven texture makes it a bit difficult to cut, especially when trying to cut it in a straight line. Instead of just settling for whatever you get after cutting, prepare the burlap in advance with a simple string-pulling technique that makes cutting straight lines a breeze.
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The Perfect Tools for the Job
Scissors -- clean, sharp scissors represent the ideal tool for cutting burlap, especially when making straight lines to ensure the material can be measured accurately. Craft knives and utility knives may also be used, but extra care must be taken to ensure the fabric does not ripple during cutting. A rotary cutter also cuts burlap well, especially for cuts across the fibers.
Simple Straight Lines
Cutting a straight line in the burlap helps ensure the material presents a uniform shape when beginning your project. Smooth the burlap over a flat work surface, and then determine where you'd like to make a straight cut, such as 3 inches from the edge. Measure the desired distance with measuring tape or a ruler, then tug on the fiber that travels along your desired cut line. Keep tugging until you've successfully removed one string. The burlap will bunch up quite a bit during the process -- bunching it up may even help make the string easier to remove. The removed string serves as the cutting mark for your scissors as you work.
Cutting the Burlap
If cutting with scissors, follow the missing-fiber line for a simple straight cut. To cut around a template or cut angled lines, use scissors or a rotary cutter. Place a self-healing cutting mat or a piece of corrugated cardboard beneath the burlap if using a rotary cutter to avoid cutting the surfaces beneath the burlap.
Down With Dust
Minimize those stray shavings and dust-like fine bits of burlap by wetting the material slightly before cutting it. A gentle mist from a spray bottle is plenty of moisture. Wipe your scissors or cutter dry after cutting the burlap to prevent rust. Burlap also leaves fuzz or stray ends everywhere when you cut it. Vacuum stray bits or sweep the up from the floor with a broom.